HAM radio operators provide imporant safety service for LOTOJA

The LOTOJA Classic bicycle race from Logan to Jackson Hole, Wyoming is the longest single day race in America. For 20 years Amateur Radio operators in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming have provided safety communications for the 206-mile event and they will be in place again for this year’s event, September 10. “Our main responsibility,” said Kevin Reeve, one of the Ham Radio organizers, “is what is called ‘neutral support’. Because Lotoja has so many cyclists, it’s impossible for each cyclist to have a support vehicle following them to provide mechanical and other types of support. “That means we will have about 50 vehicles on the road, following along with the race. Inside those vehicles are amateur radio operators and we provide neutral wheel support and mechanical support if, for example, a cyclist breaks down on the road. We’re there to help them get up and get going.” The group also provides first aid when accidents happen in the race, plus the radio communications for the entire event. “We have ham radio coverage for the entire 206 miles of the race,” said Reeve, “even though it goes through several mountainous ranges where cell phones and other types of communications just don’t work.” Reeve said they made calls for four or five ambulances during the 2010 event when cyclists went down. He said the race is as good an emergency communications exercise as there is. “We love Lotoja because it has the most traffic that is real. It is real, emergency-type traffic to help cyclists when there are accidents or to hook them up with their support vehicles or other logistical issues like getting supplies from point A to point B.” He said the most recent list of ham volunteers for Lotoja has grown to 140. “I don’t know that I’ve got a fully accurate count. We’re fortunate to have good relationships with clubs in the Montpelier, Idaho area, in Star Valley, Wyoming and in Jackson that assist us because it is just impossible to take that many people through the entire event.” Reeve said there will be radio operators in each of the 50 vehicles and also at the “feed zones” and at other strategic locations where they need to keep an eye out for things. Reeve has been part of amateur radio’s involvement in LOTOJA from day one. “The first year I remember being in the lead vehicle that followed the lead riders all the way to Jackson. I think there were only 12 of us amateur radio operators that helped then. At that time the race was a lot smaller with just over 100 cyclists.”

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