Amateur Radio Volunteers Assist in Major US Cycling Event
From ARRL de WD1CKS@VERT/WLARB to QST on Thursday, September 30, 2021 18:27:57
On September 11, some 115 amateur radio volunteers from five states provided communication support for LoToJa, the longest single-day USA Cycling (USAC)-sanctioned bicycle event in the country and now in its 39th year. Starting in Logan, Utah, the 203-mile course ends in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, taking cyclists through northeastern Utah, southeastern Idaho, and western Wyoming in the process. The race attracts thousands of applicants, and upward of 2,000 are selected to compete. Some 1,700 competed this year. The event generates more than $2 million a year for Huntsman Cancer Foundation. Hams participate from multiple clubs in Utah, including Goldman Spike Amateur Radio Club (GSARC), Ogden Amateur Radio Club (OARC), and Utah Valley Amateur Radio Club (UVARC). The race deploys four command centers and multiple repeaters.
Prior to the event, Race Director Brent Chambers told the Cache Valley Daily that "This year's race will have 600 course volunteers, which includes 150 ham radio operators [and helpers] from the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club. They provide uninterrupted communication throughout LoToJa's mountainous and remote terrain."
"We take two portable repeaters to the top of mountains, and we deploy multiple APRS [Automatic Packet Reporting System] digipeaters," explained Kevin Reeve, N7RXE, who is the coordinator of amateur radio operators and communications systems for LoToJa. "All ham vehicles run APRS, and we have APRS and a radio operator with the race director and race official. Our goal is the help the cyclists, their support crews, and their families have a safe and enjoyable event."
Ted McArthur, AC7II, heads the communication infrastructure team for the LoToJa hams. In all, nine repeaters and several simplex frequencies are used throughout the event, and APRS plays an important role.
"With [an increase in] the number of mobile vehicles needed to meet a growing event, Net Control Stations were spending a lot of radio time asking for position reports," McArthur said. "We needed the airtime for real traffic, like helping cyclists, emergencies, and other critical traffic."
"LoToJa is such a great event for amateur radio operators to participate in," said Tyler Griffiths, N7UWX. "It is the ARES [Amateur Radio Emergency Service] radio operator's dream event. We know where it starts, we know where it ends, but everything that happens in between is different from year to year."