LOTOJA CLASSIC 2017 file

LoToJa Classic riders fly down a hill on Highway 36 north of Preston in 2017.

America’s longest, one-day sanctioned bicycle race is back for its 37th running.

The 37th annual LoToJa Classic is set for Saturday. More than 1,500 cyclists will embark on a 207-mile journey from Logan to Jackson, Wyoming. The race begins in front of Sunrise Cyclery on 100 East and finishes at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Groups of cyclists will begin at 6 a.m. and every three minutes different categories will begin the trek north with the final bunch leaving at 7:30. There various levels of riders from amateurs to professionals. Ages vary as well, from teenagers up to 70-year-olds.

The course winds through northeastern Utah, southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming. The riders will climb three mountain passes that combine for a total of nearly 10,000 vertical feet of riding uphill. All the big climbing takes place in the first 110 miles.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been racing for years, or are new to the sport, crossing LoToJa’s finish line is known to change lives,” LoToJa Race Director Brent Chambers said in a press release. “It is a challenging and beautiful event that presents a huge goal for every cyclist who enters. They must properly train and dig deep, and that includes those who just want to finish and cross LoToJa off their bucket list.”

Chambers has owned and been the race director of the event since 1998. He said it continues to draw attention across the U.S. and abroad. This year 37 states are represented and two foreign countries — Canada and the United Kingdom. More than 2,000 register every April, but fewer riders than that are accepted in order to keep LoToJa “a high quality cycling experience with a premium on safety.”

Many Cache Valley riders make LoToJa an annual tradition. The Logan Race Club usually has more than 50 members compete each year and has had riders win the race overall and in different categories.

“This race is a fall rite of passage for many of us, and even though we try, it’s hard not to sign up each April,” said Drew Neilson, LRC president. “This is especially true for local riders. I think that’s true because it’s easier logistically for us to do.”

Neilson, who has won the race before, will be riding with the Masters 45A and 35A group. Also in that group from the LRC is Kirk Eck and Kent Carlsen, who have won the event several times. Neilson also listed Greg Roper, Erik Neilson, Joe Camire, Lawrence Allen, Mike Twohig and Brandon Burtenshaw.

“Joe’s been riding super well and one to watch,” Drew Neilson said. “Mike Twohig and Brandon Burtenshaw are in the 35’s and both are riding well and should compete for the podium.”

Last year the men’s course record was shattered by Spencer Johnson of Riverton. He took more than 24 minutes off the previous record, which was set in 2017. Johnson rode the course in 8 hours, 18 minutes and 29 seconds. Chambers said “it would be extraordinary if the men’s course record is broken again.”

The current women’s record was set in 2013 by Melinda MacFarlane of Salt Lake City. She rode the route in 9:35:00.

Drew Neilson said the top riders from last year are in the group he is riding in, so they will try and keep a eye on them, especially over the mountain passes.

Most cyclists take between 10 to 13 hours to ride LoToJa. The finish line closes at 8:30 p.m., but some keep pedaling and finish after that time.

Since LoToJa has become one of America’s premier amateur cycling races, it has also become a major fundraiser for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and other health-related organizations. More than $2 million has been contributed to Huntsman alone by cyclists and sponsors. LoToJa also sponsors local fund-raising groups that assist the event.

Chambers said this year’s 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.

Chambers emphasized that LoToJa’s top goal is to have a safe race for all cyclists, support crews and volunteers. Motorists traveling LoToJa’s course on Saturday are asked to use caution when approaching cyclists. Groups consisting of 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.

The race director defined “cautious passing” as slowing down, giving plenty of space — at least three feet — between the vehicle and cyclists, and patiently waiting for oncoming vehicle traffic to clear before pulling around a cyclist or group of cyclists.

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 U.S. Highway 89 between Montpelier, Idaho, and the Wyoming state line will also be restricted from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

LoToJa’s route and additional information about the race are available at lotoja.com.

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