BEAVER, Utah — The third annual Beaver County Travel Board Crusher in the Tushar-DNA Cycling race is set to roll Saturday, July 13. The 69-mile course runs over paved and dirt roads through remote wilderness areas in Utah’s scenic Tushar Mountains and Fishlake National Forest. Along the way, Crusher racers face washboarded dirt roads and steep, unrelenting climbs.
The Crusher finishes at Eagle Point ski resort, and the finish line sits at a dizzying 11,000 feet above sea level. A series of rolling climbs lead to the finish, and typically this is where the race is decided.
The race is the brainchild of former pro road racer Burke Swindlehurst, who used to train on the roads around Beaver. The terrain offered perfect preparation for the gravel roads of the Boulder to Breckenridge race, one of his all-time favorite races. A three-time winner of the Tour of the Gila, Swindlehurst loves nothing more than a long sufferfest in the mountains.
“The concept of the ‘Crusher’ lived only in my head for more than 10 years,” Swindlehurst said. “I long dreamed of the day when an event would incorporate the incredible terrain and breathtaking scenery afforded in the surrounding Tushar mountains.”
After retiring from racing in 2010, Swindlehurst set out to create a race through his favorite terrain. The race is unique in its inclusion of both dirt and paved roads, and each year, riders agonize over what bike setup will work the best. Past winners have ridden both cyclocross and mountain bikes.
Gear choice is crucial for the race’s steep climb to the finish, as ‘cross racer Ryan Trebon found out the hard way last year. Trebon rode his standard cyclocross bike, and was forced to walk sections of the final climbs.
With its challenging course, the Crusher attracts an eclectic and talented field from a variety of cycling disciplines. This year’s field includes cyclocross racers, endurance mountain bike riders, and multisport athletes.
After winning the past two editions, Tyler Wren (Jamis-Hagens Berman) returns in the hope of scoring his third straight victory. Mountain bike racer Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joe’s) also returns to defend her 2012 title. Last year, Reeves broke the Crusher course record held by Olympic medalist Clara Hughes.
A newcomer to the Crusher, Levi Leipheimer (Cliff Bar) could put an end to Wren’s winning streak. The Utah mountains are one of Leipheimer’s favorite training grounds, and he is plenty familiar with their challenges. In 2012, Leipheimer won the final stage of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah with an attack on the steep Empire Pass on the race’s final day.
Last year’s third-placed rider Jay Henry (Tokyo Joe’s) returns to the Crusher, as does Leadville veteran Alex Grant (Cannondale-Sho-Air). Cyclocross national champion Jonathan Page (Fuji-Competitive Cyclist), Barry Wicks (Kona), Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld), and Ben Berden (Clément) are set to start. Tour of Utah winner Jeff Louder is also expected to be on the start line in Beaver.
Two big names from the multisport world headline the women’s race, and it could mean the race sees a new course record this year. Paula Newby-Fraser, an eight-time world Ironman champion, will race her first Crusher. Former road racer and XTERRA world champion Kimberly Baldwin heads to Beaver for the first time.
Tammy Jacques (Honey Stinger) finished second last year after dueling with Reeves on the early climbs. She will be looking to go one better this time around.
Last year’s fourth-place finisher Nicole Duke (Spy Optics) is back for more Crusher. She struggled on the climbs in her cross bike’s 36×27 gear setup in 2012. Armed with better knowledge of the Crusher’s challenges, Duke could surprise.
“I’m so excited to see such a diverse mix of great athletes across a variety of disciplines ready to line up at the Crusher,” Swindlehurst said. “It’s exactly what I envisioned for the event. Mountain bikers, road racers, cyclocross riders, and all points in between getting together to duke it out on their choice of bike and hopefully, having a great time in the process.”