Road cycling is a growing sport that not only affects the racers participating in the event, but also the towns the race passes through. Even though LoToJa, the 206 mile bike race from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming has come and gone this year, the economic benefits are still being felt.
"You know just all the people that it brings in, more from an accountants perspective I can see all of the revenue it brings into the valley. Into our restaurants, into our motels, gas stations, convenient stores, all of that benefit from the race starting here, and I know that pretty much all of the communities that the race passes through feel that same way. At least the communities that have the ability to capitalize on it. That do have retail establishments. So it definitely brings money to a lot of cities."
That was Kirk Eck, an eighteen time competitor and five time winner of LOTOJA. The race has grown from a small group of friends cycling together, to an event cyclists mark on their calendars nationwide.
David Bern is the communications director of the LOTOJA Classic, and said he remembers the first race.
"I was here 1983 at the very first LOTOJA. It started here at Sunrise Cyclery. There were only ten people here at the start line, and everybody finished that first LOTOJA.The next day we had breakfast together in downtown Jackson. That first year I put the event on, and I asked everybody is this something they would love to do and come back and do again, and again, and they all said, 'Absolutely. This has got to be the coolest thing that I have ever done.' Well here we are today. We have nearly 4,000 plus people that register for this event every year. We can only take a little more than 1,500. So LOTOJA has gone from a bike race to a major event to a major destination on peoples cycling calendars every year," Bern said.
The challenging hills that are throughout this course are one reason why some bikers are drawn to this race.
"We are from the Dallas area, Dallas Texas," participant Derik Smith said. "It's just a good challenge. We like the challenge."
"Well we felt good when we left Texas, and then we started climbing the hills and realized that they are pretty steep sometimes, and there is nothing in Texas that compares," Smith said. "Texas is about 600 feet elevation, and our tallest hill is about 70 feet." Micah Porter said.
LOTOJA has raised nearly $1million for charities throughout the years, and Huntsman Hometown Heroes is their largest charity partner. Jen Murano was in charge of this years' race.
"We really appreciate the opportunity that LOTOJA has given us.," said Murano, "They are a huge catalyst to help us raise over hundreds of thousands of dollars every single year."