Meager beginnings have turned into a well-known annual cycling event that will be celebrating 40 years this weekend.
The LoToJa Classic turns 40 as more than 1,500 cyclists will race or ride 203 miles from Logan to Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Just seven riders rode in the first event, held in 1983.
“Hitting 40 consecutive years is an impressive accomplishment,” said Brent Chambers, LoToJa’s race director since 1998, in a press release. “But it’s also humbling. I’m grateful for the race’s four decades — all made possible thanks to tremendous support from cyclists, volunteers, sponsors and the communities LoToJa passes through.”
David Bern, the communications director for the LoToJa Classic, described the event as “one of the most iconic and popular point-to-point cycling road races in America.” LoToJa is the longest one-day bicycle race in America that is sanctioned by USA Cycling, the sport’s governing body.
More than 2,000 cyclists apply each year for the available spots. Bern explained that around 1,500 are accepted to “keep safety and the quality of the cycling experience high.” The distance, scenery and Jackson finish near the grand Tetons are all intriguing to cyclists that race to those that like to challenge themselves.
This year’s race will feature USA Cycling licensed racers, cyclosportive cyclists, relay teams and tandem riders from 38 states, Canada and Denmark. They will start at Sunrise Cyclery in Logan and ride on scenic back roads for the 203 miles across northeastern Utah, southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming.
There are three mountain passes with almost 10,000 vertical feet of climbing. It takes most cyclists 10 to 13 hours to complete the ride, some racing the deadline of darkness when riders must stop. The current men’s course record is 8 hours, 18 minutes, 29 seconds, and the women’s is 9:35:00.
Many of the cyclists are from Utah. Members of local riding and racing teams based in Cache Valley participate every year and have had success in the competitive categories. In fact, local riders have won the overall race numerous times.
Groups will begin leaving the starting line on 100 East in Logan at 5:30 a.m. The riders are split into 31 groups and leave every four minutes. The last group will depart at 7:30 a.m. Chambers and Bern asked for motorists to be understanding and patient Saturday morning when encountering these cyclists heading north.
All USA Cycling categories (licensed racers) will take US-91 and pedal through Smithfield, Richmond and Franklin. Meanwhile, all cyclosportive riders and relay categories will ride north on state Route 23 past Trenton, east through Cornish on state Route 61, then north on state Route 200 into Preston.
In Logan, motorists will encounter LoToJa cyclists on 100 East, 200 North, 1000 West, Airport Road, 2500 North, and Main Street (US-91) from 2500 North to Preston.
Chambers said support crews for cyclosportive riders and relay teams will use US-91 out of Logan, while support crews for licensed racers will use Logan Canyon’s US-89 to Montpelier, Idaho.
During its 40 years of existence, LoToJa has grown into one of the nation’s premier amateur cycling races, attracting riders from across the U.S. and several foreign countries. It has also become a major fundraiser for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and other health-related organizations. To date, LoToJa sponsors and participants have raised more than $2.6 million for these causes.
LoToJa’s riders, support crews, event staff, volunteers and well-wishers, represent an entourage of approximately 3,000 people, Chambers said. Several of the communities through which the race passes organize roadside fundraisers to capitalize on the influx of 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 7 million miles during LoToJa since the race began 40 years ago.
“LoToJa continues to be an extraordinary bicycle race because of the landscape it crosses and how it challenges the physical, mental and emotional endurance of every cyclist who rides it,” Chambers said. “Cyclists who cross the finish line feel a deep sense of accomplishment ? a personal victory that lasts a lifetime. To organize such an event that gives so much in return brings me a lot of joy.”