With great weather and a stacked field this yearís Crusher
in the Tushar threatened to be one of the best ever. Rain in the days leading
up to the race kept temperatures cool and traction prime for the half dirt,
half pavement Crusher.
Despite the incredible weather the 10,000 feet of climbing
on tap was certain to make riders uncomfortable. Although just 69 miles long,
the Crusher is becoming known as one of the toughest bike races in the nation.
The brutal nature of the Crusher racecourse brings the
nations toughest racers to Beaver, Utah, looking to take on the challenge. Crush
or be Crushed.
Elite Menís Race
The menís race looked to be a showdown between some of the
nations best mountain bike, cyclocross, and road racers. Leading the way for
the roadies was none other than former Tour de France rider Levi Leipheimer
(Clif Bar). Leipheimer would be joined by returning champion Tyler Wren
(Jamis/Hagens Berman) and his teammate Jamey Driscoll. Youngster Robbie Squire
(Amore Vita) was on hand for the roadies as was local speedster Jeff Louder.
On the dirt side was Alex Grant (Sho-Air/Cannondale), fresh
off his podium finish at the marathon national championships. Kona strongman
Barry Wicks, Jay Henry (Tokyo Joes), and Jason Sager (Jamis) rounded out the
mountain bike contingent while Justin Lindine (Seattle Bike Supply), Ben Berden
(Clemente), and national champion Jonathan Page (Fuji/Spy) represented the
Things got off to a fast start with an early three-man break
pushing off the front. They were quickly absorbed by an elite group of chasers
that included Wicks, Grant, Leipheimer, Squire, teammates Wren and Driscoll,
and most of the other race favorites.
Once on the dirt, the real climbing started as well as the
first real hostilities. The course
climbs consistently from mile 10 to mile 21 roughly and positions on the road
shifted throughout these early miles. The group doing most the damage again
included Lepiheimer, Squire, Wren, Driscoll, and the mountain bikers Alex Grant
and Barry Wicks.
Leipheimer and Driscoll crested the summit with the lead but
groups started to form up on the flatter sections of pavement between the tiny
communities of Junction and Circleville.
Now at the base of the Col dí Crush, a five-mile long
brooding monster of a climb thatís steeper and longer than anything you have
ever ridden, it was time to get to work deciding who would win the 2013
From the early slopes of the Col it was apparent that Levi
Leipheimer had the legs for a winning ride.
An accomplished champion of many elite road bike events,
Leipheimer is most recently known for his role in the Postal Service doping
scandal and subsequent suspension. The Crusher represented one of his first
races since completion of his doping suspension.
Leipheimer made it clear he has not lost any fitness in the
months since his last race. Without making any abrupt accelerations the Clif
Bar rider slowly opened a gap over the chasers adding seconds with every mile
He captured the KOM with ease and left the chasers alone to
hash out the final podium spots.
Once again the Col dí Crush performed itís duty admirably,
pushing riders to their limits with only the strongest surviving at the summit.
In the end, Leipheimer would cross the line with a lead of
just under 10 minutes.
Tyler Wren and Barry Wicks battled for second place with
Wicks holding a slight margin entering the steep, mile-long grade to the
mountain top finish. Itís a finishing stretch that Tyler Wren knows well and he
used his experience to close down the gap and out sprint Wicks to the line.
Jamey Driscoll, whoíd ridden strong near the front all day
finished fourth just 30 seconds behind Wicks.
The fifth and final podium spot would come down to another
grueling sprint finish. This time between Rob Squire and Alex Grant, once again
the roadies would prevail as Squire got the upper hand on mountain biker Grant.
Elite Womenís Race
2012 Crusher champion Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joes) straddled
the start line as the favorite but she had some big name talent hoping to steal
her title away. Most recognizable was crosser Nicole Duke (Spy/Alchemy) and
third place finisher last year Anna Jo Dingman (Rockford/Clif).
Reeves would have a tougher time taking her second title but
it was the pesky locals that threatened her the most during this yearís event.
Like 2012 Reeves broke away early but unlike last year she
couldnít quite shake Salt Lake City rider Joey Lythgoe (Kuhl). Lythgoe closed
the gap on Reeves on the opening dirt climb about mile 18 but Reeves surged
again opening a gap.
It took Lythgoe many miles to chase down the Tokyo Joes
rider once again and this time Reeves was on the side of the road fixing a
flat. Knowing this was her chance Lythgoe pushed the pace up the incredibly
steep slopes of the Col dí Crush and crested the KOM out front with just 10
miles to the finish.
Reeves wasnít about to give up. Once on top of the mountain
she motored through the final feed zone and attacked the rolling terrain toward
the finish. With just miles to go she overtook Lythgoe and quickly dispatched
the former leader.
By the finish Gretchen Reeves was all alone and pleased to
claim a second title and one thousand dollar purse for winning the Crusher in
Another local Meghan Sheridan (UtahMountainBiking.com)