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Book excerpt: A guide to Crusher in the Tushar

From the book "Gravel Cycling," a guide to Crusher in the Tushar, a 70-mile gravel race in Beaver, Utah with 10,000ft of climbing.

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Beaver, Utah | July

Beaver, Utah, the birthplace of outlaw train robber Butch Cassidy, plays home to the start of this climber’s delight of a gravel race. Retired pro cyclist Burke Swindlehurst organizes the Crusher to showcase the beautiful roads of Utah’s Tushar Mountains and Fishlake National Forest. With 10,000 feet of climbing in just 70 miles, you need to bring your A-game to this event. Because of the climbing and fast descents, some competitors choose to race on mountain bikes, though top finishers are usually aboard cyclocross or gravel bikes.

Defining features

• Located in southwest Utah, Beaver was the home of Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of devices that made television possible. The town of Beaver was the first in the state of Utah to be electrified, thanks to a hydroelectric plant on the Beaver River. The area was also part of the Mormon trade route from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles in the mid-19th century.
• Very hilly course that starts at 6,000 feet, with a 50/50 split of pavement and dirt
• Five aid stations stocked with provisions
• Course is very well marked; no need for cue sheet. GPX file provided

Essential gear

• Low climbing gears are required, with many racers electing to use mountain bikes
• Good brakes for rough descents

Advice from the pros

Burke Swindlehurst
Crusher in the Tushar promoter

Bike: “First year was 50/50 split with mountain bikes and ‘cross bikes. Now it’s more gravel bikes. Still 35 percent [of participants] are on mountain bikes. Ride whatever you feel most comfortable on. A mountain biker would be crazy to go out and buy a gravel bike thinking they’ll go faster. The bikes handle totally differently. Personally, I love challenging myself on a ‘cross bike. Sometimes I’m walking. But I’m amazed at how capable a ‘cross bike is. It’s so fun and people are stunned.”

Tyler Wren
2011 Crusher in the Tushar winner

Bike: “The technical side of the Crusher is always really interesting for me. I was doing a lot of prototype testing for Jamis on the Renegade. It was a great course for me to give feedback. That type of adventure bike is perfect for a course like that. That’s where the race is won. But at the same time, you can’t afford to lose a lot of time on the descents. No matter what bike you have, you’ll reach a point where you’re on the wrong bike. I always thought a ‘cross bike or adventure bike was a good choice for me. I spent a lot of time on that type of bike, so I was really comfortable on it. Make sure it’s a bike that’s comfortable for a long ride but that you can also aggressively descend on. Even for the winner, it’s a six-hour day. For others, it can be a ten-hour day.”

Tires: “I used a lot of different tires at that event. I found that something with a semi-slick tread with aggressive side knobs is great. You need something with good knobs for descending the Col de Crush. But the rest of the time, you want a tire that rolls really well.”

Brakes: “Braking power is really important too. The washboard switchbacks are tricky. I recommend disc breaks, hydraulic disc brakes if you can get them.”

Crusher in the Tushar
Todd Wells led Keegan Swenson at the 2017 Crusher in the Tushar. Photo: Cathy Kim

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