LOGAN — At a time when the world is impacted by the challenges of a global pandemic, a group of dedicated cycling enthusiasts are quietly going about preparing to host a 200-plus-mile bike race.
Cyclists, volunteers and fans from around the country will gather in Logan this weekend for the 38th annual LoToJa (pronounced “Low-ta-juh”) bike race, which begins in Logan and ends in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Why, might you ask, does a race like LoToJa continue when similar events have been canceled around the country? The answer is simple, says race co-founder Dave Bern: “Passion.”
LoToJa almost joined the long list of major cycling events across the U.S. that have been canceled or postponed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But because of the dedicated support from riders, sponsors and community leaders, the decision was made to run the event with strict “COVID-19 adaptations,” said LoToJa race director Brent Chambers.
“Although we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, we have worked tirelessly to plan for and implement several comprehensive safety adaptations to mitigate the health risks of riders, support crews and the communities that LoToJa passes through,” Chambers said.
“We have applied CDC and local and state health department recommendations in our preparations,” he added. “With them in place, we have done what health experts say are effective to mitigate COVID-19 transmission.”
In addition to mandatory facial masks, hygiene and social distancing, Chambers’ COVID-19 adaptations include more than 50 specific health safety actions and requirements that will further minimize human contact during the race. Key points include COVID-19 screening for all cyclists, no indoor gatherings, smaller groups leaving the start line, more and enlarged feed zones to increase social distancing, and all neutral feed zone staff to wear PPE and distribute food and hydration products to cyclists from behind protective barriers. Hand sanitizer will also be everywhere.
Cyclists are allowed to remove masks while on the road. A complete list of the COVID-19 adaptations, along with other event-related information, can be viewed at www.lotoja.com.
Chambers said this year’s LoToJa is essentially two events in one. The change significantly reduces the number of cyclists and support crews at the start line, on the road, through communities on course, at feed zones, the two finish lines, and at the awards ceremony. The start line area has also been enlarged to further increase social distancing between riders.
Chambers said the success of this year’s event is dependent upon the choices and cooperation of all cyclists and their support crews. That includes volunteers, vendors and sponsors, too. He stressed the effort is about creating a great experience for everyone, not just a few.
“LoToJa is committed to do whatever it takes to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Chambers said. “Likewise, we expect all participants to follow all event guidelines.
“After all these years, LoToJa is still a remarkable event that touches the soul of everyone who races or rides it,” Chambers continued. “To cross the finish line is an achievement that not only enhances people’s lives — it changes them for the better.
“Who wouldn’t after riding 200-plus miles in a day across some of the most breathtaking landscape in the American West? LoToJa is about celebrating life and the power and resilience of the human spirit. In times like these, we need to be reminded of that.”
No doubt that for those participating in LoToJa 2020, it will be a race to be remembered.
Glenn Seninger lives in Salt Lake City and is an 11-time LoToJa finisher.