A peloton of women cyclists work a pace line along the Snake River a few miles south of Hoback Junction, Wyoming, in last year’s LoToJa Classic. This year’s event is set for Sept. 11 with more than 1,500 cyclists racing 203 miles from Logan, Utah, to Wyoming’s Jackson Hole. 

Cyclists ready to pedal in America’s longest, one-day sanctioned bicycle race from Logan, Utah, to Jackson, Wyoming

More than 1,500 cyclists will race from Logan, Utah, to Jackson Hole in the 39th annual LoToJa Classic on Sept. 11.

USA Cycling licensed racers will ride 203 miles/327 kilometers to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort while cyclosportive cyclists and relay teams will ride 198 miles/319 kilometers to Jackson Hole High School.

The one-day race begins before the crack of dawn at Sunrise Cyclery in Logan. The course takes cyclists on scenic back roads through northeastern Utah, southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming. The fastest licensed racers will 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. The majority of cyclists take about 10 to 13 hours to complete the course. But regardless of time, to endure and finish LoToJa — with a spectacular view of the 13,776 foot-high Grand Teton nearby — is always a big reward.“We’re looking forward to a remarkable day of bicycle racing through some of the American West’s most breathtaking landscape,” said Brent Chambers, who has been LoToJa’s race director since 1998. “To all cyclists, support crews, event staff and volunteers, I say let’s celebrate the day, while also remembering and honoring those who lost their lives on 9/11 20 years ago.”

If the scenery doesn’t take cyclists’ breath away, the long, challenging course will. It features three mountain passes that total 35 miles and almost 10,000 vertical feet of climbing. Also seen on course are Utah’s Cache Valley, Idaho’s Preston and Montpelier, and Wyoming’s Afton and Alpine Junction in Star Valley.

LoToJa is recognized as the longest, one-day USA Cycling sanctioned road race in America. After nearly 40 years of existence, it is one of the nation’s most popular cycling events. Several thousand riders from across the U.S. and foreign countries register every April, but less than 2,000 are accepted for safety reasons and to keep the cycling experience quality high. LoToJa’s challenging distance, scenery and finish in Jackson are all part of its allure.

So, too, is the event’s focus on fundraising for worthy causes. While becoming one of America’s premier amateur cycling races, LoToJa has evolved into a major fundraiser for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and other health-related organizations. More than $2.2 million has been contributed to Huntsman alone by cyclists and sponsors. LoToJa also sponsors local fund-raising groups that assist the event.

LoToJa began in 1983 by two Logan cyclists who wanted to create an enduring one-day bicycle race in the spirit of 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 9 hours. In 1986 the finish line was moved to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which increased the race’s distance to over 200 miles.

Chambers said this year’s LoToJa again features multiple categories for USA Cycling license holders, plus a cyclosportive rider 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.Chambers stressed LoToJa wouldn’t be possible without its volunteers and the cooperation and assistance it receives from businesses, civic leaders, public safety officials and community volunteers.

This year’s race will have 600 course volunteers, which includes 150 Ham radio operators from the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club, he said. They provide uninterrupted communication throughout LoToJa’s mountainous and remote terrain.

He also emphasized that LoToJa’s top goal is to have a safe race. All cyclists, support crews, volunteers and event staff will be required to follow Covid-19 safety guidelines that were implemented for last year’s race in response to the pandemic.

“We have again worked tirelessly to include several Covid-19 safety adaptations to mitigate the health risks to all participants and the communities that LoToJa passes through,” Chambers said. The two separate finish lines in Jackson are key parts to those health risk mitigation efforts. The two finish lines were used in last year’s race.

Chambers added that while the pandemic continues, LoToJa will adapt with effective health safety measures to keep the race moving forward. A complete list of LoToJa’s Covid-19 Adaptations, along with other event-related information, can be viewed at lotoja.com.

Also, in the name of safety, motorists traveling on LoToJa’s course on Sept. 11 are asked to use caution when approaching cyclists. Groups consisting of several riders may be present.

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 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.

The temporary travel restrictions are used to add an extra layer of safety for cyclists, Chambers said. Motorists are asked to use caution while traveling on these two roadways during LoToJa. Cautious passing is advised to ensure safety for everyone.

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.

LoToJa cyclists, plus their support crews, well-wishers, event staff and volunteers, represent an entourage of approximately 3,000 people, Chambers said. 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.

According to Chambers, it is estimated more than 20,000 cyclists have pedaled more than 6 million miles during LoToJa since the race began 39 years ago.

“After nearly four decades of existence, LoToJa continues to be an epic bicycle race that challenges every cyclist’s endurance and spirit,” he said. “Those who commit to ride the distance and cross the finish line experience a euphoria that changes them forever — a life change for the better. It’s always an honor and a privilege for me to help create an event that gives so much in return.”LoToJa’s route and additional information about the race are available at lotoja.com.