By David Bern
Layton, Utah, September 2, 2013 — At dawn on Sept. 7, 2013 over 1,500 bicyclists from across the U.S. and five foreign countries will pedal away from Sunrise Cyclery in Logan, UT for a one-day, 206-mile journey to Jackson Hole, WY in the 31st Annual LoToJa Classic.
Held every year since 1983, the popular, one-day bicycle race has cyclists ride through some of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming’s most challenging, yet spectacular terrain. They climb three mountain passes within the first 110 miles that total nearly 10,000 vertical feet before crossing the finish line at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort within sight of the iconic Grand Teton.
Just how fast do the cyclists cover the 206-mile course in one day? The current record is 8:57:19 set last year by Leon Bergant of Layton, UT. His average speed was nearly 23 mph. The current women’s course record of 9:44:57 is held by Jenn Halladay of Kuna, ID. She set that record in 2010, and her average speed was approximately 21 mph.
Most of the other cyclists usually cross the finish after 10 to 12 hours. Despite LoToJa’s enormous challenge to a cyclist’s fitness and courage, many return year after year. At registration time each spring, up to 4,000 applications are received—but less than 2,000 can be accepted because of permit requirements.
“With fall colors already starting to dot the mountainsides, the 2013 LoToJa is ready to give cyclists, support crews and spectators a memorable experience,” said Race Director Brent Chambers of Epic Events, Layton, UT. “Except for a few construction areas, the 206-mile course is in great condition. If race day has good weather and a prevailing tail-wind, it will be interesting to see if new course records for men and women racers will be set.”
Chambers added that cyclists are coming from more than 40 states, some as far away as Hawaii and Massachusetts. From outside the U.S., riders are coming from Australia, Singapore, Great Britain, and Belgium. But the majority are from Utah and other western states.
“LoToJa’s cycling terrain and scenery are legendary—that’s what cyclists hear about and want to experience,” said Chambers’ about the event’s allure. “They want to see that Grand Teton at the end of the day. That’s the big reward.”
The LoToJa began in 1983 by two Logan cyclists who wanted to create a bicycle race that resembled the difficulty of a one-day European classic like Paris-Roubaix, the de Ronde Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) or Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
In that first year, seven cyclists competed and crossed the finish line in Jackson. Since then, LoToJa has become one of America’s premier amateur cycling races. It has also become a major fund-raiser for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, Autism Spectrum Disorder Connections, and other medical research foundations. To date, sponsors and participants have raised nearly $1 million for these causes. In addition, LoToJa sponsors local fund-raising groups that assist the event.
This year’s race again serves multiple categories for USA Cycling license holders. It also provides a new “Cyclosportive” or grand fondo 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, will also be held.
The 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 15 to 71 (12 to 83 in the relay category), and the average rider will burn up to 15,000 calories on race day—about a dozen large cheeseburgers with fries.
The LoToJa’s 206-mile course utilizes county and state roads that pass through three states, plus dozens of counties, cities and towns including Logan, UT, Preston, ID, Montpelier, ID, Afton, WY, Alpine, WY, and Jackson, WY.
“Because of LoToJa’s size and 206-mile course, it wouldn’t be possible to put on without the cooperation and assistance it receives from businesses, civic leaders, public safety officials and community volunteers,” said Chambers.
This year’s race will have over 450 volunteers. Due to the mountainous and remote terrain, more than 150 volunteer ham radio operators from the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club provide race communication.
A safe race for all cyclists, support crews and volunteers is LoToJa’s top goal, added Chambers. Motorists traveling LoToJa’s course on September 7 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 Department of Transportation will restrict eastbound traffic on Highway 36 north of Preston between Riverdale and Ovid from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. East-bound traffic on Highway 89 between Montpelier and the Wyoming state line will also be restricted from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“The temporary travel restrictions, used in previous years, are implemented because both highways are filled with eastbound LoToJa cyclists,” said Chambers. “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.”
The cyclists who compete in the event, plus their support crews, well-wishers, event staff and volunteers, result in an entourage of approximately 4,500 people. Several of the communities through which LoToJa passes organize roadside fund-raisers 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 motels.
The route and additional information about the race are available at www.lotojaclassic.com.
Editor's Note: We will feature a complete race report in our Fall/Winter 2013 issue.