JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — It was a memorable day out on the roads for many of the 1,500 cyclists who braved early-morning rains and competed in the 39th-annual LoToJa Classic.
Much like last year, this year’s race also ended in a photo finish. Three riders — Anders Johnson, Nathan Spratt and Roger Arnell — all approached the line in a thrilling sprint finish, with Spratt edging out Arnell to claim the victory.
Spratt, of Salt Lake City, won with a time of 8:31.18, averaging 23.7 mph. Spratt’s win gave him bragging rights on a difficult day of racing that included everything from heavy rain showers to strong crosswinds to road construction that spanned the final two legs of the 203-mile course.
The winner in the women’s competition with the fastest overall time was Melissa Aitken of Salt Lake City with a time of 9:44:15.7, riding in the women’s Cat 5 group.
Aitken crossed the line first after a strong push to the finish. The battle for second place was equally exciting as it went down to the final closing pedal strokes. Second place went to Aileen Pannecoucke of Pocatello, Idaho, racing in the women’s Cat 1/2/3 with an overall time of 9:45.36. Pannecoucke had a sprint finish as well with challenger Jenny Leiser of Charlotte, North Carolina, who took the third spot on the podium with a time of 9:45:37.2.
For the second year in a row, the top men’s two-person relay team was Bill’s Bike and Run from Idaho Falls with a time of 9:12:56, a full 12 minutes faster than last years’ time. The winner of the three-to-five-person mixed relay went to team Just Keep Spinning of South Jordan with a time of 9:37.36.
This year’s event fell on 9/11 and many cyclists honored those who were lost on this day 20 years ago by wearing red, white and blue colors.
Ron Perry of Spanish Springs, Nevada, was one of them.
“It’s my first LoToJa and what a great way to remember the race and this special day by spending it on the open roads with friends and my fellow cyclists,” Perry said. “We took a team photo before the race in our patriotic colors so we would always remember the significance of this day. I want to come back again and ride the entire race.”
Perry’s Team Zion relay team participated in the men’s five-rider relay with a time of 11:26.03.said
“I was impressed with how well things were organized for this race,” said Lynnette Peters, who was part of the support crew for Team Zion. “Many riders were here to ride to pay tribute to those who were lost in 9/11 and also those who were riding for loved ones who were lost during the pandemic. I found it heartwarming that for a race like this people took a moment to reflect and pay their respects.”
One cyclist seen out on the racecourse wearing red was new University of Utah president Taylor Randall, who was participating in his fourth LoToJa.
“I love this race and I appreciate all of the amazing people it takes to put on an event like this,” Randall said. “This year’s event was even more memorable given it coincided with 9/11. Honoring those who sacrificed for our country is something I will never forget.”
As for the race, Randall rode from Logan to Montpelier, Idaho, enduring tough weather conditions before handing off his timing chip to race teammate Ray Milliner for the final push to the finish. Not to worry, Randall made his way to Provo just in time for the start of the Utah-BYU football game.
Official race results can be found at: https://www.sportstats.us
Glenn Seninger lives in Salt Lake City and is a 13-time LoToJa finisher.
Correction: The original version of this story stated that Aileen Pannecoucke of Pocatello, Idaho, won the women’s division. Melissa Aitken of Salt Lake City won the women’s division and Pannecoucke placed second.