Famous 203-mile bicycle race from Logan, Utah, to Jackson, Wyoming, attracts cyclists from across America and foreign lands.
LAYTON, Utah — Like mayflies on the wing drawn to light, Wyoming’s Grand Teton will again be a beacon in early September for bicyclists who want to know just how much pain they can endure.
On September 9 more than 1,500 U.S. and international cyclists will pedal 203 miles from Logan, Utah, to Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the 41st annual LoToJa Classic.
Held every year since 1983, LoToJa’s finish line rewards participants with a poignant view of the 13,776 foot-high Grand Teton after riding 203 miles in a day. The event is one of the most iconic and popular point-to-point bicycle road races in America.
“We’re ready to put on another memorable LoToJa, to give cyclists a day on the bike they’ll always remember,” said Brent Chambers, the event’s race director for the past 25 years. “We’re counting on a spectacular day with ideal weather, and leaves starting to turn with fall colors.”
This year’s race will feature USA Cycling licensed racers, cyclosportive cyclists, relay teams and tandem riders from 38 states, Canada, Great Britain, and Germany. They will start at dawn at Sunrise Cyclery in Logan and ride on roads over flat, rolling, and mountainous terrain through northeastern Utah, southeastern Idaho, and western Wyoming.
The fastest licensed racers reach the finish line at the ski resort around mid-afternoon. The current men’s record is 8:18:29 and the women’s is 9:35:00. But most cyclists take 10 to 13 hours to complete the course.
The fastest licensed riders win cash and/or merchandise. All who complete LoToJa earn a finisher’s medal that commemorates their accomplishment. For many, though, the biggest prize is seeing the Grand Teton and the Teton Range after a long, hard day on the bike.
But seeing “The Grand” is only part of LoToJa’s many visual gifts. The race’s vistas and course both inspire and challenge cyclists’ physical and mental stamina.
The course features three mountain passes that total 35 miles and almost 10,000 vertical feet of climbing. Cyclists also roll through Utah’s Cache Valley; Idaho’s Preston and Montpelier; and Wyoming’s Afton, Thayne, Etna, and Alpine in Star Valley. After Alpine, cyclists ride 47 miles up Snake River Canyon and past Hoback Junction to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
LoToJa is recognized as the longest, one-day USA Cycling sanctioned road race in America. In its 41st consecutive year, LoToJa is part of a respected league of USAC-sanctioned races that have withstood the test of time, like the 78-year-old Tour of Somerville in New Jersey and the 51-year-old Iron Horse Classic in Durango, Colorado.
LoToJa’s prestige is fueled by its popularity. Several thousand riders from across the U.S. and other nations register online every April, but less than 2,000 are accepted to keep safety at a premium. LoToJa’s distance, scenery, and finish in Jackson Hole — with Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park nearby — are all part of its allure.
The event’s commitment to raise funds for worthy causes is also a big draw. Over the years LoToJa has evolved into a major fundraiser for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and other health-related organizations. More than $2.7 million has been contributed to Huntsman alone by cyclists and sponsors.
LoToJa began in 1983 by two Logan cyclists. They wanted to create a tough and long one-day road race modeled after European professional cycling’s five grand monuments like Paris-Roubaix and Ronde van Vlaanderen. Logan-Jackson was born, and given the acronym, LoToJa.
In that 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 nine hours. The race’s distance increased to over 200 miles when the finish line was moved to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in 1986.
Since then, LoToJa has grown to feature multiple categories for USAC license holders, plus non-licensed cyclosportive cyclists who are either competing against riders within their age group or are just riding for fun. There are also multiple categories for relay and tandem riders.
To further increase cyclists’ safety, the Idaho Transportation Department will restrict eastbound vehicle traffic on state Route 36 north of Preston between Riverdale and Ovid from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. Eastbound traffic on US-89 between Montpelier and the Wyoming state line will also be restricted from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Motorists traveling on LoToJa’s course on Sept. 9 are asked to use caution when approaching cyclists. Groups consisting of several riders may be present. Cautious passing is advised to ensure safety.
Chambers defined “cautious passing” as slowing down, giving at least three feet of space between the vehicle and cyclist(s), and patiently waiting for oncoming vehicle traffic to clear before pulling around a cyclist or group of cyclists.
Chambers said the race wouldn’t be possible without its approximately 600 volunteers, and cooperation and help from businesses, civic leaders, public safety officials, and communities. Also making it possible are the 140 ham radio operators from the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club. They provide uninterrupted communication for event staff and cyclist safety from Logan to Jackson.
LoToJa cyclists, support crews, event staff, volunteers, and well-wishers, represent an entourage of more than 4,000 people, Chambers said. Several of the communities through which the race passes organize roadside fundraisers to capitalize on visitors. The host cities of Logan and Jackson also enjoy an economic boost from the race, specifically restaurants and hotels.
According to Chambers, more than 21,000 cyclists have pedaled nearly seven-million miles during the race since it began 41 years ago.
“LoToJa is a unique and honored bicycle race because of its deep history, the landscape it crosses, and all of the people involved, from cyclists to volunteers to sponsors,” he said. “There is no other race like it. For cyclists who make it to the finish line, the feeling of personal victory is a life-changer.”
LoToJa’s route and additional information about the race are available at lotoja.com.