When Summerlin resident Michael Kling takes to the road on his bicycle, he doesn’t opt for the flatlands. He’s a regular participant in the LoToJa, a 206-mile bike race that goes from Logan, Utah, to Jackson, Wyo.
The annual ride, which takes its name from manipulating the first syllables of the towns, takes place in the fall and draws cyclists from all over the country. The course tests mental and physical might with a route that climbs three mountain passes in the first 110 miles.
“I was a little nervous about the three mountain climbs,” said Kling, founder of Kling Law Offices, 10799 W. Twain Ave. “Fortunately, I had (access to) a cabin in Bear Lake in Northern Utah, which we ride right by, so I got to do two of the three mountain climbs about a month before the event, and that made me realize that they’re not that hard. They’re no tougher than anything we do around here.”
The total elevation gain was just more than 8,000 feet. It’s not bad, he said, for more than 200 miles.
“I mean, it looks horrible, and I guess it would be if it was your first time on a bike,” he said.
The LoToJa event caps participation at 1,500 cyclists who are assigned racing categories. Each category starts in three-minute intervals beginning at 6 a.m. Kling races in the Masters 35 category.
What did he learn from the experience?
“That it’s much easier to ride in a group than by yourself, because of drafting,” he said. “The efficiency of drafting is enormous.”
Kling, 51, participates as a Hometown Hero, raising money for cancer research with about two dozen Las Vegas residents. Through donations and sponsorships, Kling raised $6,500 for the 2013 race, which was held Sept. 7, pushing his five-year total to nearly $20,000.
Kling said that when he learned he could participate in the Hometown Heroes program through the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and raise money for cancer research, “I basically said, ‘If I’m going to torture myself for 206 miles, I may as well do it for a cause.’ ”
But he regularly “tortures” himself. In Las Vegas, Kling is part of the Red Burro Racing team, which has more than 50 members. They ride three to five times a week, depending on the season.
“We have strong participation in the months leading up to LoToJa, then we tend to relax in the winter,” Kling said.
Kling began cycling about six years ago when a friend introduced him to the Red Burro group around March 2008. Another member, Todd Quinn, told him about LoToJa.
Quinn said he approached Kling because he was always up for a challenge, willing to push himself and interested in trying hard.
“He doesn’t go halfway on anything,” Quinn said. “We were talking about bike riding, and he said, ‘I’m really good at climbing, really good at this, at that,’ and one day we were on a bike ride together, and I looked at him and thought, ‘No way you’re a good climber, because you’re my size.’ “
Quinn said Kling was put in a more elite riding group and was immediately at the back.
“And he found that as a challenge, and now he’s (riding in) front. He’s very driven, just a great guy,” Quinn said.
Training for LoToJa means hitting the road at 5 a.m. Red Burro members ride two to three hours on weekdays, with a longer ride on weekends. As the race gets closer, the mileage increases from a 30-mile ride twice a week to a 40-mile route, then 50 miles to 80 miles, then to 100 and 125. After that, it’s time to train with a 200-plus-mile ride, done in one day.
Kling said cycling never gets boring.
“You’re outside in the elements,” he said. “Red Rock is beautiful, you can ride the (Scenic Loop), (Mount) Potosi, the canyon. Sometimes I’ll ride from Summerlin to the ski resort and back, so, it’s always different.”
Married more than 22 years, he and his wife, Ann, have two daughters, Lauren, 10, and Katy, 9.
“They just think it’s natural for Daddy to be on a bike,” he said, adding that they sometimes join him. “They just don’t have the same love of endurance that I have.”
He’s not the only athlete in the family. Ann is involved in a relay team that runs a 200-plus-mile course in a day.
Every athlete suffers an injury. His injury came while driving when another car broadsided him. It resulted in a knee surgery, causing him to miss the 2010 LoToJa event. He said it was a temporary setback in his intent to raise money for cancer.
“I’ve had a ton of support in my efforts with LoToJa,” Kling said. “It certainly isn’t easy to travel 206 miles by bike, especially with the mountain passes to overcome, but it is just a drop in the bucket compared to battling cancer. It is an honor to be able to use my physical fitness to garner donations that will go toward cancer research.”
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.