This coming weekend is the Crusher in the Tushar gravel race in Beaver, Utah. While “just” over 100k, the event is considered one of the toughest with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain and varying terrain. 2016 marks the race’s sixth year and there are some big names from the world of cyclocross that will be on the start line looking for top finishes.
Read up on the event and some of the race favorites in the press release, below.
Not Your Average Gravel Race
Beaver, UTAH —The Crusher in the Tushar p/b DNA Cycling celebrates its sixth edition on Saturday, July 9. The famously difficult course starts in downtown Beaver and runs over a mix of paved and dirt roads for 70 miles of adventurous, backcountry racing. Defending champions Rob Squire (Holowesko-Citadel) and Robin Farina (Panaracer-Stan’s NoTubes) headline the elite races.
“It’s hard to believe we’re coming up on our sixth year,” said race organizer Burke Swindlehurst. “It seems like yesterday I was wondering if anyone would show up for the first edition, if it was just too much of a hairball idea for a bike race”
Utah’s Tushar Mountains and the Fishlake National Forest provide a stunning backdrop for the Crusher. When it began six years ago, the Crusher mixed together the elements of road and mountain bike racing and before “gravel” racing was a thing.
Swindlehurst’s creation has proved a favorite among riders and when registration for this year’s edition opened in January, it sold out within 36 hours. The Crusher attracts riders of all abilities and in addition to pro races for men and women, there are 10 age-graded categories including a single-speed division for riders who just can’t get enough of suffering.
The Crusher course features over 10,000 feet of elevation gain, mostly on dirt or gravel climbs, and the race finishes with a soul-crushing, undulating climb to the Eagle Point ski resort. The race is often won — or lost — on the slopes of this final climb. The finish line is perched at a dizzying altitude just shy of 11,000 feet.
As a three-time winner of the Tour of the Gila, Swindlehurst is happiest in the high mountains and during his career, he often disappeared into the wilderness around Beaver to train.
“Whenever I need to recharge and reset, I just head down to the Tushars with my bike, fly rod, and trail running shoes and get my fix,” he said. “There really aren’t too many wild places left like it.”
Choosing the right bike and equipment is a challenging task for the Crusher. Unlike the Leadville 100, Crusher has been won on both mountain and cyclocross bikes. The Crusher’s steep climbs make gearing a make-or-break decision. The wrong gear choice can mean a long walk up the Crusher’s steep final climb.
Each year the Crusher attracts riders from a variety of disciplines to test their mettle against the mountainous terrain. For 2016, the elite fields include multi-sport athletes, road racers, and endurance mountain bikers.
“To see riders turn up every year from not only a broad spectrum of disciplines and abilities, but also from all over the country and even beyond is a thrill that fuels me to keep working harder every year to live up to their expectations,” said Swindlehurst.
The 2016 Crusher boasts a stacked field for the elite races. Riders set to start include:
Rob Squire (Holowesko-Citadel) returns to the Crusher as the defending champion. Squire currently races road for Holowesko-Citadel, but raced mountain bikes as a junior. Squire’s career highlights include top ten finishes at the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge. More recently, he won the KOM title at the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic. Squire’s a local boy and knows the Utah mountains well.
Jamey Driscoll (Raleigh-Clément) has ridden the Crusher four times now and has finished second on three occasions. Best known for his cross racing talents, Driscoll is a won a junior national cross championship and has won multiple races on the U.S. cyclocross circuit.
Todd Wells (SRAM-TLD) is a three-time Olympian on the mountain bike. In 2014 he achieved a rare double when he won the national cross-country championship and Leadville 100 in the same year, two events with very different fitness demands. An unusually versatile athlete, Wells has won multiple national titles in mountain bike racing and cyclocross.
Neil Shirley (Road Bike Action) has rarely seen a long ride or a high mountain without riding straight for it. Currently the editor of Road Bike Action magazine, Shirley has ridden to podium finishes in the pro national championships both on the road and in cross-country mountain bike racing.
Josh Berry (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) is a newcomer to the Crusher. The Sun Valley native was hit by a car while training earlier this season and has steadily worked his way back to racing form. Berry was third in the 2012 edition of the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and currently races road for Jelly Belly-Maxxis.
Scottie Weiss (Panarcer-Stan’s NoTubes) Scottie Weiss is cycling’s current “everesting” champion. He took the title by climbing the equivalent of Everest’s elevation on Mill Mountain in Roanoke, Va. in under 9 hours.
Leroy Popowski (Juwi Solar) finished third in last year’s Crusher. Popowski is rare in his decision to ride a mountain bike at the Crusher in the Tushar. He’s also a two-time winner of the Mount Evans hill climb.
Robin Farina (Panaracer-Stan’s NoTubes) headlines the women’s pro race. Farina won the 2015 Crusher and is the current course record holder. She’s also the 2011 U.S. Pro road race champion.
Mindy Caruso (Nero Veloce) has ridden the Crusher for the past two years and finished on the podium both times. The Albuquerque resident is a talented climber and in 2012, she won the Iron Horse Road Race ahead of Mara Abbott.
Melinda McCutcheon (DNA Cycling-Cotton Sox) finished third in the 2015 Crusher and is back for more. McCutcheon showed off her climbing talents earlier this year with a third place finish on the Gila Monster stage at the Tour of the Gila.
Breanne Nalder (P7DS) comes to the Crusher for the first time this year. The Salt Lake City local finished third on the Gila Monster stage at the Tour of the Gila in 2015. She currently races road for the Visit Dallas-DNA Pro Cycling.
Anna Grace Christiansen (DNA Cycling-Cotton Sox) comes to the Crusher for the first time from Portland, Oregon. She’s no stranger to hard riding. Earlier this year, Christiansen finished second at the Gorge Roubaix in Oregon and currently races road for Visit Dallas-DNA Pro Cycling.
Rhae Shaw makes her second appearance at the Crusher after finishing 2nd in her debut appearance in 2014. The Canadian originally comes from a triathlon background but has found success in recent years as a professional road and mountain bike cyclist.