Nearly 1,500 cyclists ready to line up for America’s longest, one-day sanctioned bicycle race from Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming
Layton, Utah — The 35th annual LoToJa Classic is set for September 9 with 1,500 cyclists registered to race or ride from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Ridden in one day, the 206-mile course (332 kilometers) begins at Logan’s Sunrise Cyclery and ends nearby the spectacular 13,776 foot-high Grand Teton at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
But before seeing the grandeur of the Teton Range and Jackson Hole, cyclists from the U.S. and three foreign countries will experience picturesque county and state roads in northeastern Utah, southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming. Along the way they’ll pass through pastoral Cache Valley, Utah; Preston and Montpelier, Idaho; and the Wyoming communities of Afton, Alpine and Hoback Junction before reaching Jackson Hole.
Plus, cyclists will climb and descend three tough mountain passes totaling nearly 10,000 vertical feet. The first climb of the day to Strawberry Summit is almost 21 miles long. As an added challenge, cyclists will also face about 2 miles of road construction from Evans Road to South Park Loop Road as they near Jackson Hole.
“I’m really excited about this year,” said LoToJa Race Director Brent Chambers. “It’s our 35th anniversary, and event day promises to be remarkable — rain, snow or shine. And if the conditions are right, both the men and women’s course records may fall. I’m always awed by how fast LoToJa’s top men and women riders tackle the 206-mile course.”
Cameron Hoffman of Clearfield, Utah, set the current men’s record of 8:45:38 in 2014. His average speed was over 23 mph. Melinda MacFarlane of Salt Lake City, Utah, holds the current women’s record of 9:35:00. She set it in 2013 with an average speed of approximately 21 mph.
Most of the other cyclists usually take 10 to 13 hours to cross the finish line — with some gritting it out trying to cross the line before the 8:30 p.m. cut-off time. Yet despite the long time in the saddle, many return every year. For 2017, cyclists are coming from 37 states, some as far away as New York, Chambers said. He also noted this year’s LoToJa again attracted cyclists from other countries, like from Canada and the United Kingdom.
In addition to the spectacular scenery and fall colors, LoToJa’s cachet and mystique are two big reasons why so many cyclists return every year.
“It’s more than an item to check off from the bucket list — it’s a life-changer,” Chambers said. “Whether you’re a seasoned racer or a first-timer, finishing LoToJa generates a feeling of personal accomplishment that lasts a lifetime.”
LoToJa began in 1983 by two Logan cyclists who wanted to create an enduring bicycle race modeled after European professional cycling’s legendary grand monuments of Milan-Sam Remo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of Lombardy. All of those one-day classics are held on the European continent and each is more than a century old.
In LoToJa’s first year, seven cyclists competed and crossed the finish line near downtown Jackson. The winner was Bob VanSlyke of Logan who finished the 186-mile course in 9 hours. Since then, LoToJa has become one of America’s premier amateur cycling races. It has also become a major fundraiser for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, Autism Spectrum Disorder Connections, and other medical research foundations. To date, sponsors and participants have contributed almost $2 million for these causes. In addition, LoToJa sponsors local fund-raising groups that assist the event.
LoToJa again features multiple categories for USA Cycling license holders, plus a cyclosportive class, which consists of non-licensed cyclists who are either competing against riders within their age group, or are just riding for fun. A relay race, and categories for tandem riders, are also held.
According to Chambers, LoToJa is the longest one-day bicycle race in America that is sanctioned by USA Cycling, the sport’s governing body. The age of cyclists range from 13 to 79, and the average rider will burn up to 15,000 calories on race day — about a dozen large cheeseburgers with fries.
This year’s race will include over 700 volunteers, along with nearly 150 Ham radio operators from the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club. They provide uninterrupted communication throughout LoToJa’s mountainous and remote terrain.
Chambers stressed LoToJa wouldn’t be possible without its legion of loyal volunteers and the cooperation and assistance it receives from businesses, civic leaders, public safety officials and community volunteers.
He also emphasized LoToJa’s top goal is to have a safe race for all cyclists, support crews, and volunteers. Motorists traveling LoToJa’s course on Sept. 9 are asked to use caution when approaching cyclists. Groups consisting of up to dozens of riders may be encountered. Motorists are urged to pass carefully and to leave a safe distance between their vehicle, cyclists and other traffic.
To further increase safety on race day, the Idaho Transportation Department will restrict eastbound traffic on state Route 36 north of Preston between Riverdale and Ovid from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastbound traffic on US-89 between Montpelier and the Wyoming state line will also be restricted from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Chambers explained the temporary travel restrictions were started a few years ago because SR-36 and US-89 are filled with eastbound LoToJa cyclists. Motorists are asked to use caution while traveling on these two roadways during LoToJa, and to anticipate encountering groups of cyclists. Cautious passing is advised to ensure safety for everyone.
Chambers defined “cautious passing” as slowing down, giving plenty of space (at least three feet) between the vehicle and cyclist(s), and patiently waiting for oncoming vehicle traffic to clear before pulling around a cyclist or group of cyclists.
LoToJa cyclists, plus their support crews, well-wishers, event staff and volunteers, represent an entourage of approximately 4,000 people. Several of the communities through which LoToJa passes organize roadside fundraisers to capitalize on the influx of visitors. The host cities of Logan and Jackson also enjoy a welcomed economic boost from the race, specifically restaurants and hotels.
It is estimated more than 19,000 cyclists have pedaled over 4 million miles during LoToJa since the race began in 1983. Last year’s oldest male cyclist to finish was 74 years old and the oldest female was 63.
The youngest boy and girl finishers are 13 years old. The average age of a LoToJa participant is 45.
LoToJa’s route and additional information about the race are available at lotoja.com.