Colette Call, Deseret News
Records could fall again at this year’s 31st annual LoToJa, Saturday's 206-mile bike race from Logan, Utah, to Jackson, Wyo. After 11 cyclists shattered the nine-hour barrier last year, race organizers expect another competitive field.
One of those riders, Scott Buccambuso, finished with the second fastest time ever of 8:57:20. His advice to this year's field of competitors? Come prepared.
“The way I look at LoToJa is it’s a battle of nutrition, not attrition,” Buccambuso said. “What I like about LoToJa is the race caters to riders of all abilities. You don’t have to be a specialist to do well at LoToJa.”
Race co-founder Dave Bern agrees.
“LoToJa brings out the best in all of our participants," Bern said. "Our race format is open to riders of all abilities. We have the non-competitive cyclist who is trying to reach a personal goal or the relay team riding for a cause or the licensed cyclist looking to win a category.”
An example is Rob Cocanour, a 66-year-old veterinarian from Reno who will be riding in his sixth LoToJa.
“I look forward to this race every year," said Cocanour. "For me, LoToJa is the toughest and most rewarding ride I do all year. Last year I had five flats and still finished.”
This year’s race is once again expected to draw riders from all over the world.
Last year, Leon Bergant, a native of Ljubljana, Slovenia, set the fastest time ever at LoToJa, 8:57:19. He will be competing in the Cat 1-3 division.
“Last year was my first time riding LoToJa,” Bergant said. “Actually, my friends and family encouraged me to sign up, so I did. I entered by myself, not with a team. I quickly realized that there are a lot of team strategy and tactics that go into winning this race.”
Bergant has a unique training regimen. As a pilot for Skywest Airlines, he is gone for days at a time, but he uses his down time in cities between flights to train.
“I may have an eight-hour stopover in a city and rather than sit in the hotel, I get on my bike and see the area,” he adds.
Bergant has trained in such places as Chicago, Kansas City and San Francisco, and he plans a final ride in Dallas the day before driving to Logan for the race.
An estimated 4,500 riders, volunteers and support crews will be arriving in Logan this week, a major boost to the local economy.
Given the popularity of LoToJa, race organizers have changed the official 2013 race route. As a result, riders and support teams should be aware of major changes in the first leg of the race.
LoToJa notes: This year, LoToJa will be a memorial for those who lost friends and loved ones as part of the larger cycling family. Robert Verhaaren, 42 of Mesa, Ariz., and Doug Cottle, 62, of Ogden, Utah, died as a result of injuries they suffered in last year’s race. Another longtime LoToJa veteran, Carl Blair, 60, of Kaysville, who was preparing for his 26th LoToJa, died earlier this year while on a training ride.
“We consider all participants of LoToJa as part of a larger extended family, “ Bern said. “Our thoughts are with their families at this time. “
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