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Fourth annual Crusher in the Tushar attracts top field

  • By Jen See
  • Published Jul. 9, 2014
Gretchen Reeves returns to the Crusher in the Tushar to defend her title. She'll be hoping for a smoother race this year, as she suffered a flat tire in 2013. Catherine Fegan-Kim | VeloNews.com

BEAVER, Utah (VN) — The fourth annual Crusher in the Tushar runs Saturday, July 12, over 70 miles of paved and dirt roads through the remote wilderness areas of Utah’s Tushar Mountains and Fishlake National Forest.

This year, the Crusher will host 600 riders, including some of America’s best road racers, mountain bikers, and cyclocross racers.

With over 10,000 feet of total elevation gain, mostly on dirt road climbs, and a finish atop a grinding series of ascents to the Eagle Point ski resort, the Crusher is a demanding one-day, multi-surface adventure. The finish line is perched at 11,000 feet and the race is typically decided on the slopes of the final climb.

Inspired by his love for the legendary Boulder to Breckenridge race (a now-defunct event known as the Saturn Classic), Burke Swindlehurst invented the Crusher in the Tushar after he retired from road racing. Swindlehurst used to train on the roads around Beaver, Utah, because of the area’s perfect combination of difficult climbing and remote beauty. A three-time winner of the Tour of the Gila, Swindlehurst is happiest with a big mountain to climb, and his design of the Crusher course confirms that.

“The concept of the Crusher lived 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 Tushar mountains.”

After retiring in 2010, Swindlehurst set out to create the race he imagined. The Crusher includes both dirt and paved roads and, each year, riders agonize over what bike set-up will work best for the challenging terrain. Past winners of the event have ridden both cyclocross and mountain bikes.

Gear choice is especially crucial because the dirt climbs include some precipitous gradients. In 2012, Ryan Trebon, a former mountain bike national champion, rode his cyclocross bike, but had to walk several sections of the Crusher’s steep climbs.

Each year, the Crusher attracts a talented field of riders from a variety of disciplines. For 2014, the elite fields include multi-sport athletes, cyclocrossers, road racers, and endurance mountain bike racers.

Two-time winner Tyler Wren (Jamis-Hagens Berman) finished second to Levi Leipheimer (Clif Bar) in 2013, and Wren returns to the Crusher in search of a third victory. Wren’s teammate, Rob Squire, finished fifth last year after suffering a puncture; he also returns for 2014.

Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare) and cyclocross racers Jamey Driscoll (Raleigh-Clement) and Justin Lindine (Redline-NBX) are among the other top riders returning to the Crusher.

Newcomers include U.S. Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member Dave Wiens (Topeak-Ergon), who won the Leadville 100 for six consecutive years, from 2003 to 2008. With his deep experience and unquestionable talent, Wiens could be a threat this year.

Road and cyclocross racer Shawn Milne (Team Rio Grande) rounds out the headliners for this year’s men’s event.

The women’s field will also be packed with talent for 2014. Two-time winner Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joe’s) returns to defend her title. Last year’s second place finisher and Pro-Form Queen of the Mountains winner, Joey Lythgoe (Team Kühl), will return to challenge Reeves. Lythgoe recently placed second at the U.S. marathon mountain bike national championships in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Newcomer Amanda Carey (NoTubes) could pose the biggest challenge to Reeves’ winning streak. Carey has won the NUE mountain bike series on multiple occasions and her specialty is challenging, ultra-distance events. Eight-time Ironman Hawaii champion Paula Newby-Fraser is also set to race, adding another star to the women’s line-up.

Cyclocross racer and 2009 U.S. national road champion Meredith Miller will race the Crusher for the first time.

“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.”

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