The annual Logan to Jackson bicycle race has grown in size, scope and popularity over the past 25 years.
It has also developed a unique set of problems few anticipated would pop up.
"It's bigger than I ever thought it would get," Brent Chambers, president of Epic Events which puts on the LOTOJA race said. "We had to revisit the way we were doing things."
With more than 2,300 people trying to register last year, Chambers was overwhelmed with the race in 2007, the 25th running of the race, and many participants were unhappy with a variety of things.
Chambers heard complaints from racers who felt the categories weren't clearly separated and complaints from casual riders who felt there was not enough food at rest areas and not enough daylight to finish the 206 miles before the finish line and clock were taken down.
In an effort to smooth out some of the wrinkles that have come as the event has grown into one of the nation's largest one-day bike races, Chambers has rolled out several new twists to the 2008 event, scheduled to race Sept. 6.
"The bottom line is, we wanted to make sure two things happened this year," Chambers said. "First is fairplay. We want to make sure everyone who registers can race in a fair way in the race they registered for.
"Second is safety. With as many cyclists as we have, we want to try to separate the riders from the racers. Last year we had some problems with packs merging and we had to address that. It wasn't safe and it was something we couldn't allow."
Registration for the race opens April 22.
One of the most significant changes participants will see on race day is the citizen's class of riders will start shortly after the elite Cat 1-2-3 cyclists.
The move is intended to create two effects.
First, the casual riders will have a bigger time window to complete the race and get an official time.
Second, the competitive cyclists will be more spread out and not as lumped together creating a competitive imbalance for various categories.
"We might even look into having separate routes out of Logan for the competitive cyclists and the fun-ride cyclists," Chambers said. "If it helps create less confusion on the road and helps more people enjoy the day and reach their goals that's something we want to consider."
Other changes include a new prioritized registration process that will give LOTOJA veterans an edge on getting one of the 1,000 coveted entries.
Chambers created four groups with returning winners, multi-year vets and a few others getting first crack at getting into the race.
At the bottom of the list for entries will be first timers or those who have not raced in a few years.
"I wanted to make sure that those people who have supported LOTOJA in the past were able to get in," Chambers said. "I know there will be some people who complain about not getting in or having a later start time, but the bottom line for us is to have a safe race."
Chambers said the 2008 version of LOTOJA will have a hard cap of 1,000 cyclists and there will be no waiting list maintained. Refunds or transferring registration to another person is also not an option.
"We want people to be serious about their participation," he said. "When they register in April, they should have plenty of time to train and prepare."For some, to have an option to get out means they will not be serious about training for it."
ROAD SEASON STARTS: Though cyclists have been training and riding throughout the winter, the local racing season begins in earnest this weekend with the Hell of the North circuit race on Saturday.
The race, which takes cyclists on a series of 5-mile loops north of the airport, is unique in that one leg of the loop is on a gravel road. Racing begins at 9 a.m. for Cat 4 cyclists and continues through the day with the Pro/Cat 1-2 starting at 1 p.m.
Registration information can be found at hellofthenorth.com.Next week is the first local stage race of the season. The Triple Valley Stage Race will include a road race, an individual time trial and a circuit race spread over three days in the Tooele, Skull and Salt Lake valleys. Visit triplevalley.com for more info.
SALT LAKE MARATHON REMINDER: There are only two weeks left before the Salt Lake Marathon takes runners and cyclists through the neighborhoods and streets of the valley. The race, which begins April 19 at 7 a.m. at the Olympic Legacy Bridge on the University of Utah campus, will include thousands of athletes in the marathon, half-marathon, 5K or bike tour.
TRIATHLETES BREAK THE ICE: It was a cold morning in American Fork for the nearly 400 triathletes participating in the first significant event of the season in the area.
The Timp Tri Club's annual Icebreaker was forced to reverse the order of the race to prevent soaked swimmers from leaving a warm pool and venturing out into a 30-degree bike ride.Still, Highland's Cameron Lasky was credited with the fastest time among the men, finishing the race in 56 minutes, 24 seconds. Kamas' Jamie Lambert won the women's division with a 1:06:36 time.
SPEEDSKATING TRAINING GROUP: Under the direction of Olympic speedskating coach Peter Schotting, a 48-week program designed to develop the next wave of stars on the oval will begin in late April.
A limited number of positions in the group are available and there has been some international interest in the training program which will work with juniors, seniors or masters class athletes.Call 313-658-0448 or e-mail [email protected] for more information.
E-mail: [email protected]