Thomas Cooke is one of the Ironmen of the Crusher in the Tushar – and not a bad cyclocross racer – joining just seven other riders who have contested the Crusher each year since 2011. Cooke provided this diary about his seventh Crusher. He talks about appeasing the Crusher gods, managing the Col d’Crush descent and gives a shout out to the other Crusher Ironmen.
If man is five, if man is five, if man is five
Then the devil is six, then the devil is six
The devil is six, the devil is six and if the devil is six
Then God is seven, then God is seven, then God is seven.
by: Thomas Cooke
I have had a love/hate relationship with the Crusher ever since winning my age group at the inaugural race in 2011. I love the build-up and training, and I love the technical aspect of weighing the pros and cons of different equipment choices. Back then, I rode a carbon Specialized Crux with TRP cantilever brakes and Reynolds carbon wheels with TUFO 34c tubulars, and I swear the only thing hotter than my rims on the descent was the air temperature on the climb back up Col d’Crush.
Since that first hot trip out of the Tushar Mountains, I have spent seven years obsessing over the perfect tires for the Col d’Crush descent. The result has been seven years worth of Crush bike evolution. In 2017, that evolution led to 2.1-inch Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires set at 24psi on my Assos Open U.P.P.E.R. gravel bike.
An Appeal to the Crusher Gods
They say seven is a lucky number, so I was feeling good about my form and experience and was hoping to better my Crusher personal best time of 4 hours and 38 minutes set in 2015.
I have seven pairs of Incredisocks with the Crusher mountain goat logo, to get mixed up in my sock drawer so I never have a matching pair. I have seven different event t-shirts with signature Crusher themed artwork (The “Rush” logo is still my favorite). 2016 was a rather unlucky year for me, having flatted a front tubular that just wouldn’t seal up with sealant and CO2.
Then again, some people think 13 is an unlucky number, and fittingly, I camped in Little Cottonwood campsite number 13. Little Cottonwood campground is, you guessed it, seven miles up canyon from the starting line in downtown Beaver. I obsess over the numbers, sometimes looking for meaning where there is none.
Cramping His Style
On Saturday, I finally got the opportunity to see what the Crusher gods had in store for me. Initially, things were going smoothly and I rode at the front of our 45-49 men’s group all the way until we turned right at mile ten and started climbing. We had passed the women’s field earlier, and naturally, the contenders in that group hopped in our line.
I remember Mindy “McCrushin” McCutcheon saying something like “Alright Mr. Cooke, let’s do this.” That made me feel old, so I had to stretch my legs and surge. By the time we hit Feed One at Kents Lake, we had a small group of three at the front of our age group race, and we were starting to gobble up the carnage left behind from the pro field.
My group was down to two on the big descent of Col d’Crush. The fat 2.1-inch tires gave me no advantage on my fellow competitor, as he was on a 29er hardtail, but at least my rims were not smoking like they were in 2011!
Two or three switchbacks from the bottom, I passed DZ (Dave Zabriskie), only to have him tuck past me on the long straight pavement drop down to Circleville. He looked to be riding WTB Byways, and whatever advantage I had in the loose stuff was gone. He was flying in the full-on superman position.
In an effort to get on his wheel, I picked up leg-locking cramps that would be my riding partner for much the rest of the day. I have had cramping issues in this race before, but NEVER so early in the race. My nemesis has historically been the section from the KOM to the last feed zone where the short and sharp climbs punch you in the tender spots. Those tender spots were especially tender from the cramps, and I felt every painful pedal stroke to the finish line.
It ended up being a really long day with lots of soft pedaling to ward off the cramping demons. I finished just over 5:01, and managed to gobble up two riders in my age group just in the last mile, saving face and getting on the podium in 3rd place. I was pretty devastated, but now looking back, it was not my worst Crusher, just not my best.
The Ironmen of the Crusher in the Tushar
I asked promoter Burke Swindlehurst if he had a handle on how many OG Crushers might be expected back for an eighth running of the race. According to Tiffany Swindlehurst: “Going into this year’s Crusher, there were eight people who had finished six Crushers. They were all men, and all eight of them registered for and finished this year!
Josh McCarrel (who, incidentally, finished in a time of 8:08:08).
The group of riders who have toed the line at every Crusher since the first gets smaller every year. I am sure it will shrink again, as we approach the Hateful Eighth, but I am also pretty sure I will be part of that group.
Want to read and see more from the 2017 Crusher in the Tushar. You can find all our Crusher coverage here.