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July 10, 2017
Photography by Christopher See and Catherine Fegan-Kim
The challenging course profile and Mother Nature combined for a powerful one-two punch as 600 riders lined up for the seventh edition of the Crusher in the Tushar gravel race in Beaver, Utah. Robbie Squire (Felt-Assos) crossed the finish line at Eagle Point Resort with his arms raised for the third straight year, triumphing over a stacked men’s field that included Todd Wells, Keegan Swenson (Cannondale 3Rox Racing), Ben King (Dimension Data) and Jamey Driscoll (DNA Cycling), in addition to the full men’s podium from last month’s Dirty Kanza 200.
First-time Crusher rider Janel Holcomb (Mavic) took the women’s win — and an equal share of the prize money — covering the 69-mile course and climbing 10,000 feet in just over five hours, ahead of 2016 winner Melinda McCutcheon (DNA Cycling) and Breanne Nalder (Plan7 DS).
Very warm weather was forecast for the day, with temperatures up to 90°F expected as the race reached the midway point in Junction — some of the hottest conditions in the event’s history. A slight tailwind made for a hot 4,000ft climb up the Col du Crush into the Fishlake National Forest’s Tushar Mountain range, where the high altitude brought the relief of cooler temperatures.
Riders were warned not to take their hydration lightly and feed stations were found about every ten miles on course.
As it turned out, riders would have to contend with both heat and cold as a major mountain thunderstorm and drastically falling temperatures settled in over the course’s high point at Eagle Point Resort, which sits at an altitude of nearly 10,500 feet. First hail, then rain and wind welcomed all but the very fastest riders, bringing a chill to the finish line but hardly diminishing the celebrations for those who had just completed the Crusher in the Tushar.
“I’ve been fortunate to attend a lot of amazing events over the past few months and I was in awe of the volunteers and support of the Crusher community,” said Holcomb shortly after crossing the finish line. “Climbing Col du Crush was made possible and enjoyable because of the people cheering, the kids who ran alongside me asking if I wanted Coke, water, mix, or a snack. I had to smile and say ‘thank you’ at every kind act of support, and those smiles were a gift that fueled me through to take the win.”
Another Crusher first-timer, Michael White, came in with some different ambitions than those looking to race the event; he simply wanted to challenge himself and ride somewhere new. “Of all the cycling events I’ve enjoyed, there are few locations that rival both the beauty and brutality of the Crusher,” he said. “The course is incredibly challenging, the landscape is stunning, and the support staff was first-class from start to finish.”
The expo gave everyone a chance to mingle before the following day’s race. Photo: Christopher See.
Ben King (Dimension Data) pushed the pace until a string of flat tires took him out of contention. Photo: Christopher See.
The big changes in elevation also provided riders with big changes in scenery. Photo: Catherine Fegan-Kim.
Leroy Popowski and Drew Miller enjoy the lower elevations before making their way up the Col du Crush and the finish at Eagle Point Resort that sits at 10,500 feet in elevation. Photo: Christopher See.
After ten miles of pavement to start, riders headed into the Fishlake National Forest’s Tushar Mountain range. Photo: Christopher See.
Robbie Squire took the win just ahead of Todd Wells. Photo: Christopher See.
Even though Jamey Driscoll keeps his focus on the cyclocross season, he’s still a regular every year at the Crusher. Photo: Christopher See.
Robbie Squire took the KOM honors atop the brutally hard Col du Crush. Photo: Christopher See.
Multi-time Tour of the Gila winner Drew Miller leads Spencer Powlison on the climb through Fishlake National Forest. Photo: Christopher See.
The first climb took riders from 6,000 feet in elevation up to the 10,000-foot point. Photo: Christopher See.
The women’s leaders, Janel Holcomb, Melinda McCutcheon, and Larissa Connors, make their way through the men’s field. Photo: Catherine Fegan-Kim.
Half a dozen switchbacks kept riders on their toes during the fast descent. Photo: Catherine Fegan-Kim.
The descent down into the town of Junction is a fast one, with speeds upwards of 50mph on the washboarded dirt road. Photo: Catherine Fegan-Kim.
Ben King came out to play on his team-issued Cervelo road bike. Unfortunately, road tires weren’t up to the task and he had five punctures on the day. Photo: Catherine Fegan-Kim.
At the top of the Tushar Mountains, riders were treated to beautiful dirt roads and thick stands of pine trees. Photo: Catherine Fegan-Kim.
Six-hundred riders lined up for the start of Crusher In The Tushar in Beaver, Utah, ready to tackle the 69-mile route that included 10,000 feet of climbing. Photo: Christopher See.
The Col du Crush is a challenge even for the most elite riders in the field, with an average 8% gradient for over five miles. Photo: Catherine Fegan-Kim.
Robbie Squire won his third-straight Crusher in the Tushar over a stacked field that included Todd Wells, Keegan Swenson (Cannondale 3Rox Racing), Ben King (Dimension Data), and Jamey Driscoll (DNA Cycling). Photo: Christopher See.
Janel Holcomb finished atop this year’s Crusher in the Tushar podium, with a total time just over five hours.