Mindy McCutcheon (Canyon Bicycles) and Joey Lythgoe (Kühl) lead the women’s race through the flat roads after the start. Angie Kell (Church of the Big Ring) and Rhae Shaw (Liv) sit tucked in behind them. This is some of the last flat riding they will see at the Crusher.

The women’s field rolls out from Beaver, Utah during the 2014 edition of the Crusher in the Tushar. Joey Lythgoe returns to defend last year’s title. Photo: Christopher See.

By Jen See

BEAVER, UTAH — The fifth annual Crusher in the Tushar takes place later today in the Tushar Mountains outside Beaver, Utah. Cyclocross star Jamey Driscoll (Raleigh-Clément) goes to the line as the favorite in the men’s race after finishing second last year. Tim Johnson (Cannondale) and Jonathan Page (Fuji) are also among the headliners this year, while in the women’s race, Nicole Duke (SRAM) brings her cyclocross — and downhill mountain bike — talents to the party.

Crusher riders face a fiendishly difficult 70-mile course through the remote Tushar Mountains and Fishlake National Forest. The race runs over a mix of paved and dirt roads, and riders have won on both mountain bike and cyclocross rigs. The Crusher includes over 10,000 feet of elevation gain and climbs to a finish at 11,000 feet at the Eagle Point ski resort. Washboarded descents, parching heat, grinding climbs, and panoramic views are among the Crusher’s trademark features.

The men race along the pavement on the their way to the first dirt climb of the day. The Crusher in the Tushar runs through remote wilderness areas in the Tushar Mountains and the Fishlake National Forest.

The Crusher races through the remote wilderness of the Tushar Mountains and the Fishlake National Forest. Photo: Christopher See.

“To be honest, it feels a little surreal that this will be our fifth edition of the Crusher,” said race organizer Burke Swindlehurst. “It seems like yesterday that I was scheming the idea of the event and wondering if anyone would show up for it!”

Swindlehurst created the Crusher as a tribute to the legendary Boulder to Breckenridge race and during his career as a road racer, he used to head to Beaver to train in the area’s high-altitude terrain.

The Col de Crusher begins with a paved section, then the real suffering begins. Driscoll's spare tire rattled off on the rough descent, and he wrapped it Merckx-style around his shoulders, and he began the Col de Crusher out in front. "Jamie Driscoll had a helluva ride today. Wow! This is definitely the best I've ever seen him," said Swindlehurst. "He's climbing incredibly well and, as always, showed he's an ace at bike handling."

Jamey Driscoll returns to the Crusher in the Tushar as a favorite to win after last year’s second-place finish. Tim Johnson and Jonathan Page are among the cross racers headed to this year’s event. Photo: Christopher See.

Each year, Swindlehurst’s creation attracts riders from a variety of disciplines. This year’s field includes mountain bike racers Dave Wiens (Topeak-Ergon), Alex Grant (Cannondale-Gear Rush), Joey Lythgoe (Kühl), and Kelli Emmett (Julianna-SRAM). Former road national champion Robin Farina (BMW-Happy Tooth) will ride her first Crusher this year. Reality television stars Tyson Apostol and Connor O’Leary (DNA Cycling) are also among the road racers heading to Beaver this year.

In addition to the pro race, the Crusher hosts 600 riders, competing in 10 age-graded categories. Interested in testing your legs and lungs? You’ll have to be quick. Registration opens in January each year, and typically, the race sells out within days.

Go west, young man! A group of riders from the men’s race pedals through a meadow at 10,700 feet on the way to the finish at Eagle Point ski resort.

The Crusher gains 10,000 feet of elevation over the course of the race and finishes at just shy of 11,000 feet at the Eagle Point ski resort. Photo: Christopher See.

“I can’t thank the riders, volunteers, and community enough for their enthusiasm for the Crusher,” said Swindlehurst. “It’s truly been a gift in helping me transition out of racing professionally, yet still stay connected and involved with the sport that’s such a huge part of my life.”

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The Crusher course passes through rolling terrain on the way to the final climb to Eagle Point ski resort. These last rollers are deceptively difficult and many riders have found their legs completely crushed before they even reach the final climb.

The race runs over a mix of paved and dirt roads, and riders have won on both mountain bike and cyclocross rigs. Here two riders on cross bikes grind up one of the Crusher’s final climbs. Photo: Christopher See.