The LoToJa (pronounced low-tuh-juh) is the longest single-day bike race in America sanctioned by USA Cycling. The event boasts a 206-mile course with nearly 10,000 vertical feet of climbing.
If the cars sporting 13.1 or even 26.2 stickers don’t impress, then those emblazoned with “LoToJa” might.
“There are so many inspiring stories of people who ride LoToJa,” race director Brent Chambers said. “There are people who ride with cancer and who ride after cancer. There are some who ride with heart conditions and some who literally ride to stay alive.”
Chambers recalls a woman who road in the race with a pacemaker and how cycling helps keep her heart strong and problem free.
“Some people think the LoToJa is just a race with one winner,” said Chambers. “That’s just not the case.”
For those wondering what LoToJa means, it is a combination of the names of the cities where the race begins and ends. LoToJa literally means Logan, Utah, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
For the riders, LoToJa consists of one race day, but planning, preparation, execution and cleanup is another story.
Chambers works full time all year long to direct all of the facets of the race.
“After the race is over, it takes about two months to get everything cleaned up,” Chambers said. “It takes an entire week just to get all of the trailers unloaded and all of the equipment inventoried.”
According to news agencies in Jackson Hole, this year’s LoToJa had nearly 1,800 cyclists registered for the race.
“The fascinating thing about setting up LoToJa each year is it’s just my dad behind the scenes,” Brent Chambers’ son Andrew Chambers said of his dad’s responsibilities. “He supervises everything from registration to merchandise to setting up the physical course.”
Andrew and the other members of the family do all they can to help their father as the race approaches each year.
“My role is pretty small,” Andrew said. “Me and the rest of the family assist in running errands and assembling packets in the month preceding the race.”
The LoToJa took place on Sept. 10. The weather conditions at the start of the race were just as racers could have hoped — sunny and cool temperatures. However, that didn’t last long — the conditions quickly changed and cyclists had to endure strong tailwinds as they headed into Wyoming.
“This was by far the most wind I’ve personally experience at LoToJa,” Mike Garff of Salt Lake City said. “This was my 10th LoToJa, and the wind really did kick up as we approached Afton, Wyoming. However, that is what makes a race like this such a challenge: things can change quickly, and you never know what to expect from the weather.”
For the second year in a row, Ira Sorenson of Herriman was the top finisher with a time of 8:55:03, riding at an average speed of 23 miles per hour.
While the LoToJa is nationally known, there are many other local road bike races coming up, including the Salt to Saint Relay, a 420 mile relay race from Salt Lake City to St. George beginning on Sept. 23, or the 38th Annual Snowbird Hill Climb on Sept. 24.