This last weekend I participated in the LOTOJA race. It was a great day of weather and really perfect riding conditions. My category group starting time was 6:52am with an early morning temperature of around 42 F. The beginning of the ride meanders through farmland with a chilly morning wakeup call of dew and moisture from the sprinkling systems. Once over the initial cold shock and starting line adrenaline I settled in for a good warm up of roughly 40 miles in the main peloton(main group of riders) before starting the first of three distinct mountain climbs, Strawberry, Geneva and Salt River pass. These climbs are covered in the first 100+ miles of the ride and are the bulk of the climbing for the day.
Cresting over the top of the last mountain pass the temperature warmed up nicely and peaked out for the day around 75 F degrees with sunny skies and minimal wind – perfect riding day! Team Adobe, team of 5 riders I rode with comprising of friends and neighbors, was looking good and working solid together as we descended into Montpelier, ID for our first Feed zone transition. To our fortune we all have wonderful spouses who “volunteered” (with some begging from the husbands) acting as our support crew for the day – this is no easy task in itself. They did an amazing job making sure we all had our special concoctions of drinks, gels, chews and other secret nutritional tricks to get us through the long day as powerful as possible.
Leaving Montpelier we were all feeling good and ready to pound out the second half of the race which was a gradual ascent of rolling hills through Starr Valley and up along the Snake River to the finish at Teton Village in Jackson, Wy. Turning into our second feed zone stop of the day in Afton, WY I picked up a piece of glass in my front tire sounding the distinct alarming noise, pssst, pssst, pssst, as my wheel rotated. A flat! I suppose if you are to get a flat though no better place than in front of the feed zone and support crew. After one of the fastest flat changes in my life we were headed off again. However, the flat put us behind 3 other riders who were now leading our category race by around 2 minutes. We worked together as a team closing the gap down to about 1 minute as we turned into our final feed zone stop in Alpine, WY.
As we headed up the canyon along the side of the stunning scenery of the Snake River I had to often remind myself that I was still in a race as I took time to take in all of the beautiful surroundings. It was roughly 50 miles left at this point and there were thoughts that the lead group could still be caught. With a hard push I jumped out from the current group I was riding with to attempt bridging the remaining 1 minute gap to the lead group. To my amazement I caught up to them about 10-15 miles before the finish. These final few miles riding with a group again made for a nice short rest as we turned the corner from Jackson, WY heading into Teton Village for the last stretch to the finish line. It was a resurgence of energy and encouraging sight to see all the people lined along the finishing stretch with bells and signs.
Now with only a few riders between me and the 3 leaders of our group I was digging deep battling the anxiety of the quickly approaching finish line and realizing I have a chance. Will I have the legs for the sprint? 1 Kilometer sign goes by – racers start to stand out of their saddle for final sprint, wait for it, wait for it, and with 1-200 meters, GO!.... As luck would have it I kept one bullet of energy for the final sprint and passed the 3 other riders just before the line to finish in a time of 9 Hours, 27 Minutes and 20 seconds, just slightly ahead of the second place finisher.
It was a great experience providing a sense of accomplishment and reward for a year of hard training. To top it all off an awesome bonding experience to achieve with friends and especially my wife. I highly recommend this experience to any of you out there wondering if it is worth it. Regardless of the finishing time, irrespective of a race, it is still an incredible experience for all to enjoy and worth adding to anyone’s bucket list.
Ride safe and have fun!
The LoToJa Bicycle Classic is a 206-mile (332 km), one-day amateur bicycle road race from Logan, UT to Jackson Hole, WY, USA. It is usually held in September the first Saturday after Labor Day, and attracts national and International participants. LoToJa is one of the longest one-day road cycling races in the U.S, and is the longest one-day race sanctioned by USA Cycling, the sport's governing body based in Colorado Springs, CO. The race began in 1983 and celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. In 1983 the race had nine participants. In 2012, it had over 1,500 riders.
The race starts at Sunrise Cyclery in Logan, Utah and heads north into southeastern Idaho and winds across western Wyoming. The finish line is near the base of the Grand Teton at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one of America's top ski destinations. Along the scenic 206-mile (332 km) course are three mountain passes, plus hilly to rolling terrain that results in 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) of vertical climbing.