Cyclists gather in Logan for 39th annual LoToJa Saturday

Mark Schaefer (Team Maddog Racing P/B Hammer Nutrition) arcs a turn while descending into Bear Lake Valley from Strawberry Summit in last year’s LoToJa Classic.

LOGAN — on Saturday, Sept. 11, 62 year-old Dave Bern of Sun City, AZ, will be on the starting line before the crack of dawn at Sunrise Cyclery located at 138 N. 100 E. in Logan for the 39th annual LoToJa Classic.

Lindsey Stevenson (Team Spry/Zone 5) crosses the finish alone at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to win the Women’s Pro 123 title in last year’s LoToJa Classic.

The 203 miles/327 kilometers to Jackson Hole, Wyoming course takes cyclists on scenic back roads through northeastern Utah, southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming.

Bern has a special tie to the race. He was one of the original group who peddled to Jackson Hole from Logan that got this whole thing started in 1983.

“I have ridden Logan to Jackson 30 plus times; some of the rides have been outside of the annual competition,” he said. “This is an endurance ride you can’t fake. You have to do the homework the whole summer before the race.”

He said cyclists should get 2,000 to 3,000 miles on their legs – including two or three century or 100-mile rides – before attempting LoToJa.

“There is definitely a different training strategy when it comes to riding it just to finish and racing it,” Bern said. “For racing, you need to race every other weekend and be able to hold your speed to 30 miles an hour or more for the race.”

He said as a professional you must be disciplined; it is a lifestyle change and nutrition becomes more important. It becomes a job.

“There are a lot of amateur cyclists thinking it is a fun ride and when they finally make it to the end, they say they will never do it again,” Bern said. “But I see them sign up again the next year.”

“It is a challenge, but it’s still a remarkable event that attracts people every year,” he said. “When the riders get to Jackson many stay two or three nights recuperating in one to the nation’s top destinations.”

The best thing about LoToJa is it generates over $2 million a year to Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

Julie Hollist Terrill, director of Cache Valley Visitors Bureau, said the long-standing event occurring in Logan generates a large amount of money for the local economy.

LoToJa fills all of our hotel rooms and some in other communities as well,” she said. “It brings thousands of people into our valley. “

LoToJa participants and their support staff book 80 percent of the valley’s 1090 rooms at an average of $85 a night and about 40 percent stay for the second night. The Visitors Bureau said they figure one person spends about $75 a day at an event like this.

Chandler Jackman at Hampton Inn & Suites said they have no vacancies and have been sold out since mid-August.

The Baugh Motel has been booked for months said, Clyde Baugh.

“The hotel started filling up months ago,” he said. “As soon as the race is over, we start getting reservations for the next year.”

Brent Chambers, the LoToJa race director since 1998, said he was looking forward to a remarkable day of bicycle racing through some of the American West’s most breathtaking landscape.

“LoToJa is recognized as the longest, one-day USA Cycling sanctioned road race in America,” he said. “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 Hole are all part of its allure.

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,” Chambers said. “They provide uninterrupted communication throughout LoToJa’s mountainous and remote terrain.”

Race officials worked tirelessly to include several COVID-19 safety adaptations to mitigate the health risks to all participants and the communities that cyclists pass through. The two separate finish lines in Jackson Hole are key parts to those health risk mitigation efforts.

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 of several riders may be present.

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.

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.

Several of the communities which LoToJa passes through organize roadside fundraisers to capitalize on the influx of visitors. The host cities of Logan and Jackson Hole also enjoy a welcomed economic boost from the race, specifically restaurants and hotels.

“LoToJa continues to be an epic bicycle race that challenges every cyclist’s endurance and spirit,” the race director 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.

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