The name might make you chuckle, but rest assured there’s nothing about the Crusher in the Tushar and its 69-mile point-to-point route with 10,000 feet of climbing through Utah’s Tushar Mountains that’s funny. Add in the fact that the finishing altitude makes you short of breath just thinking about it and that 60% of the course is on gravel roads–then it dawns on you where the name Crusher really comes from.
This past Saturday was the Crusher’s eighth year. In its first year, event promoter Burke Swindlehurst wasn’t sure anyone would be interested in his unconventional event idea so it’s fair to say it’s been an overwhelming success. For the past few years Bonk Breaker has supported the riders with bars and Energy Chews at each feed zone throughout the course since regardless of fitness level, everyone needs a little fueling help out there to keep heading toward the finish line.
Not only were we there as an event partner, we were also participating, and as anyone that’s ridden the Crusher in the past has probably realized, it’s best to expect the unexpected when it comes to July weather in the Tushar Mountains. Last year we experienced a wild 50-degree temperature swing between the heat in the valley floor to the finish line hail storm. This year, as the sold-out field of 600 riders arrived in the start town of Beaver for check-in on Friday, the weather picked up right where it left off with rain greeting everyone and rekindling old memories. But by race morning, the clouds had lifted enough to allow full view of the mighty Tushar Mountains that would be our playground for the day.
Thanks to the rain we were treated to tacky and fast dirt roads as we made our way up the first climb of the day, a nearly hour-long ascent that took us first through pine forests before those gave way to aspen groves and alpine lakes. As the front of the group raced off, those of us that were less concerned with our finishing times soaked in the views and found a rhythm that would allow us to keep something in the tank for the second half of the course, knowing how unforgiving the final 20 miles can be.
Once at the top, an Energy Chews hand-up from the feed zone kept the calories coming in and blood sugar levels consistent for a white-knuckle descent where 40+ miles per hour is easily hit by those unconcerned by chunky gravel mixed with teeth-rattling washboard sections. Once at the bottom, and if you’re lucky enough to still have your water bottles in the cages after the high-speed washboard, it’s time to eat and drink in preparation for the Col de Crush, a five-mile, 2,300 foot climb that has always proven to be the decisive moment in sorting out the winners from the rest of the podium. For us, it was a chance to chat with buddies and take in the panoramic views offered of the valley floor far below.
From the summit, a final twelve undulating miles offered little respite to our tired legs until crossing the finish line at Eagle Point Resort where the post-ride party was already in full swing. After five and a half hours, three packages of Energy Chews, one Salted Caramel Bonk Breaker Bar, a can of Coke, and some very tired legs, we were on the other side of the finish line and high-fiving each other after checking off an epic day in Utah’s Tushar Mountains.