Born from the mind of retired cyclist Burke Swindlehurst, the Crushar in the Tushar is a one day, all out assault of pain on those brave enough to enter. Seventy miles and 10,500 ft. of vertical ascent split perfectly across pavement and dirt roads demands everything of the riders and their chosen bikes. Now in its second year the race enjoyed an excellent turnout despite poor weather conditions.
We started on wet roads leading out of Beaver. Jovial spirits were soon quieted as those roads quickly turned into muddy dirt roads that crisscrossed the mountain, disappearing into the misty clouds. Some 4500 vertical feet later, those deeply rutted roads hurtled us in bone-rattling fashion back below the thermocline towards the farm town of Circleville. This gave those riding cyclocross bikes ample time to regret having ever been born. A fast loop on paved roads around the town granted the initial waves of survivors a brief moment of respite to take on food and give the mountain bikers time to reflect on having picked the wrong bike for the race. The road out of Circleville was a sandy upward stretch of horse trail that pulled riders into a long, snaking ribbon of wet misery. And as if to re-emphasize the poignancy of the moment, here, the rain chose to fall a little harder. The sandy trail finally rejoined the loose, washboard gravel roads backtracking up the mountain. This time the road was strewn with pieces of bicycle shaken loose during the initial hair-raising descent from hours’ previous. Saddlebags, water bottles, cages, pumps; nearly anything that could break on a bike, broke here.
Some “racers” dismounted and hiked the grueling ascent back to the KOM. Others clung to their dignity and crawled along at three miles per hour. An aid station greeted those who crested the summit, but even still, 1500 feet of hateful and muddy ascent lay in waiting as riders made their way to Eagle Point Resort somewhere around 10,000 feet above sea level, a further 15 miles away. For every momentary stretch of reprieve, another brutal upward slog awaited with legs weaker than the previous climb. Nearly a third of the entrants didn’t finish; bad luck or exhaustion having forced them off the course. For the rest of us, we were greeted at the finish with warm blankets, wet towels for mud-caked legs, salty digestables, cold recovery drinks, and sympathetic volunteers; all amenities of any well-stocked disaster relief aid station.
For some, the Crusher is a race. For the vast majority of the rest of us, it is an exercise in sheer willpower. Better training may result in faster times, but every rider lucky enough to finish does so completely emptied all the same. I have never felt so spiteful, but grateful and deeply connected to the body and bike upon which I doled out punishment, yet which still faithfully carried me to the finish line. Somewhere beyond my 120 hour recovery time may I find that masochistic revelation to gather the resolve for another run at next year’s course and revisit the limits of my body. I still have another 60 or so hours to change my mind.