On July 10, the Crusher in the Tushar returns to Beaver, Utah to serve up a whole lotta hurt in the Tushar mountains.
The beloved gravel race turns 10 this year, and after last year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, riders of all stripes are eager to get back to its punishing climbs and dramatic descent.
The race boasts more vert (10,400ft) than miles (70), and it’s long been known to give riders pause when choosing their equipment. It has been won on a mountain bike, won by mountain bikers riding ‘cross bikes, and won by roadies on gravel bikes. It is anyone’s race on any equipment.
Due to its challenging elevation profile and the added issue of high altitude, the Crusher has long been known for attracting a fiercely competitive crowd; this year’s lineup at this year’s Crusher is no different.
Women to watch
Followers of the race called Unbound Gravel will recognize the names of its top two finishers on the Crusher start list. Lauren de Crescenzo and Amity Rockwell will both be in Beaver this weekend. Rockwell finished ninth at the race in 2019, while De Crescenzo hopes to repeat her 2018 win.
“I liked my strategy the first time,” she told VeloNews. “The first climb will decide everything. It’s a two-hour climb, you can’t really fake anything on that. Establishing a position there and then hanging on for deal life, then being safe on the descent. It went pretty well the first time so I think I’m gonna stick to that plan.
Pro mountain biker and Utah resident Sofia Gomez Villafane will line up at the Crusher for the first time — on a mountain bike. Coincidentally, it was Gomez Villafane who loaned last year’s winner, Evelyn Dong, a gravel bike when Dong didn’t have one. Gomez Villafane says her Specialized Epic hardtail “with a 38 tooth chainring and 40c Ramblers may end up being the best bike.”
“There’s only about 12 miles where I’ll have a disadvantage,” she told VeloNews. “I’m pretty good at drafting, knowing what I can and can’t do on the flats. It’s gonna be kamikaze on the descents.”
Other women to watch include SoCal Strava queen Isabel King (who finished eighth at Unbound, her first-ever gravel race).
There are some notable women absent from the start list, a few of whom will be competing in Colorado at mountain bike nationals. Dong, along with Juliana-SRAM teammate Rose Grant, will be in Colorado. Other riders have also opted out due to the close proximity to July 18’s Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego; others still, like last year’s second-place finisher Lauren Stephens, are busy with the WorldTour.
Men to watch
Riders to watch in the men’s race include Eddie Anderson, Alpecin-Fenix’s first professional gravel racer, who has been on a tear lately; he’ll be coming to Beaver fresh off a second-place finish at the Breckenridge, Colorado mountain bike race Firecracker 50.
Pete Stetina, the ever-hungry gravelleur, should be well-rested after his win at the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder stage race; plus, climbing is his forte. He says he’s been trying to make it to the race’s “mountaintop finish at altitude” for years now.
“It has elevated status in its own right, and overall it does set up nicely for a great hit one week out from BWR,” he said.
Stetina will be joined by another ex-road pro, TJ Eisenhart, who will not only be at Crusher to race, but also to paint a commissioned piece of the iconic Crusher Goat. People can watch him work on the installation at the race expo, and the final piece will be auctioned off with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Life Time Foundation.
The most legendary rider on the Crusher’s start list is undoubtedly mountain bike great Ned Overend. Will the 65-year old be able to hang with the likes of young pro MTB’er Kyle Trudeau or multi-disciplinarian and L39ion of Los Angeles’ rider Lance Haidet?
Others to watch include multi-time Crusher podium finisher Jamey Driscoll, Aevolo development squad rider Eric Brunner, and De Crescenzo’s Cinch Elite Cycling teammate Cory Lockwood.