Three and a half years ago, Brandon Nelson got his first road bicycle. On September 7, competing in his second Logan to Jackson, Nelson won men’s category 5 1300s in 9:39:05, a result that didn’t sink in for him right away.

The result was significantly faster than his first LoToJa in 2018, which he finished in 10:16 for eighth in Licensed Race 15 Men’s Category 5. LoToJa, which is nation’s the longest single-day USA Cycling sanctioned road race, is the only sanctioned road race Nelson has competed in.

“Not only was I able to improve my time, but my goal was to go faster than 10 hours. I shattered my time from last year,” Nelson said by phone a week after the race. “The first thought was, I came across the finish line and I knew I had gotten first place. I never ever even thought that was a possibility. I would honestly say this was the furthest thing on my mind.”

Nelson, an Idaho Falls resident, had ridden bikes his entire life but did not get into road cycling until three and a half years ago upon recommendation from his boss, who is an avid cyclist. Nelson had a desk job and wanted to get active. He also was motivated to lose weight by cycling, and he said he has lost 55 pounds since then. Along the way, Nelson began riding with friends who were training for LoToJa. Although he did not enter LoToJa his first year of riding a road bike, he chose to sign up and train for LoToJa in 2018. Competing in the race gave him some perspective.

“I would say it was a lot harder than I expected,” Nelson said. “You look at road cyclists and you don’t really understand until you’ve done it. You can prepare all summer long and you can train but the fact of the matter is, if you haven’t done it, it’s a grueling day.”

Upon finishing LoToJa in 2018, Nelson aimed to return in 2019 with the lone motive of beating his time. He participates in an evening group ride one day a week and spends the other days riding an hour and a half to two hours in the mornings. His biggest point of emphasis for this year’s LoToJa was working on climbing.

“The first year in LoToJa, I got dropped on the first climb,” Nelson said. “I had my strength in the flats, but my climbing just needed to improve. I constantly worked on that. I try to always ride with people that are stronger than me.”

The end result was a much more enjoyable and fun day compared to his first LoToJa. Nelson said he was in much better shape for his second LoToJa, and more ideal racing conditions also made for a better experience.

He also had added motivation from competing in the Cache Gran Fondo--a 10-mile up-and-back race in Logan--in July where he placed 12th in the men’s 19-34 age category and placing fifth in his age group and eighth overall in the Four Peaks Gran Fondo in Pocatello.

“This year, I ended up not doing as well as I wanted to (in Logan),” Nelson said. “Every time I rode my bike, it was just a challenge to get better and faster.”

Nelson said he anticipated it taking five to six years of being a road cyclist before ‘being in the ballpark’ of winning a race. Now that he has won a race--and LoToJa at that--Nelson wants to keep going with road racing.

“I’m one to always push myself,” Nelson said. “Next year, I do plan on entering more road races now that I’m getting more into the road racing side of things. See where it takes me.”

Coming up locally

The Shelley Spud Run 5k run and 1-mile walk takes place Saturday as part of the annual Spud Days celebrations. It begins at 7:30 a.m. at Sunrise Elementary.

Also Saturday is the Horseshoe Challenge Trail Race in Driggs. Courses are available in half marathon distance and 12k (7.5 miles). The 12k walking class race starts at 8:45 a.m., the half marathon begins at 9 a.m. and the 12k begins at 10 a.m.

Team USA Update

USA Softball shared on Tuesday that the 2020 USA Softball Women’s National Team Olympic Selection Trials will be from Oct. 2-6 in Oklahoma City. Tokyo 2020 will be the first Summer Olympics with softball and baseball since Beijing 2008.

Team USA won 21 medals at the 2019 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships, which concluded Sunday in Emmen, The Netherlands. Shawn Morelli, Aaron Keith, Alicia Dana and Ryan Boyle all won titles for the U.S.

Team USA ended the World Para Swimming Championships in London with 36 medals. Leanne Smith won the women’s 50-meter breaststroke SB3 in 57.24 and the women’s 100 freestyle S3 in 1:36.49--both Pan American records--on Sunday, the final day of competition.

The U.S. women’s national volleyball team is currently undefeated at the FIVB World Cup in Hamamatsu, Japan, moving to 4-0 in the 12-team round robin tournament upon defeating the Netherlands 25-23, 25-18, 25-19 on Wednesday. The Netherlands also entered that match undefeated. The U.S. next plays Brazil this morning to conclude the first phase of play.

Marlowe Hereford is a sports reporter for the Post Register. Contact her at 542-6772 and find her on Twitter: @mwhereford.

Marlowe Hereford has worked for the Post Register since August 2011. She has covered 11 different high school sports, Olympic sports and recreational sports.