From ARRL de WD1CKS@VERT/WLARB to QST on Friday, September 15, 2023 19:43:10
On September 9, 2023, the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club (BARC) in northern Utah provided amateur radio communications support during LoToJa, the longest 1-day USA Cycling (USAC)-sanctioned bicycle race in America. The LoToJa course consists of 200 miles of rough, mountainous terrain. BARC was prepared for the challenge and had been training and working on their communications plans for more than 3 decades.
The club's involvement with LoToJa began in 1991, when the race had 200 riders and 14 amateur radio operators. This year's event had 1,700 riders and 120 amateur radio operators, including 35 cars with amateur radio operators along for the ride. Amateur radio was engaged in every aspect of the race from start to finish thanks to assistance of operators from Ogden, Davis County, and Salt Lake City, as well as Idaho, Wyoming, and Maryland.
Section Manager of the ARRL Utah Section Pat Malan, N7PAT, said that BARC members evaluate their operating skills and equipment, which is the best form of preparation for emergency communications. "It's a tremendous effort and dedication from everyone," Malan said.
Youth Coordinator for the ARRL Utah Section and former BARC President Kevin Reeve, N7RXE, said the teams deployed two mountaintop portable repeaters (using batteries and solar power), three portable digipeaters, and a portable IGate throughout the racecourse, in addition to setting up four command and net control centers. Reeve explained, "This provided continuous audio and an Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) for the 35 cars covering the entire event."
Reeve went on to say that this year, a family needed to contact one of the riders because of an emergency. He stated, "There was no cell phone coverage, but we were able to locate the cyclist in about 5 minutes, then reunite them with their family in 15 minutes." BARC also provided emergency communications for at least two other large-scale cycling events this year, including the Little Red Riding Hood event that had 3,500 women cyclists and 70 ham radio operators, and the Cache Gran Fondo event that had 1,500 cyclists.
BARC was founded in 1976 by Jeff Jacobsen, WA7MBL; Bob Wood, WA7MXZ, and Bill Neville, WA7KMF (SK), and it exists for the training and fellowship of amateur radio operators. The club currently has 227 members.