BEAVER, UT (07/14/12): They came, they saw, and they crushed.
In the small southwestern Utah town of Beaver, a town originally settled by Mormon pioneers in 1856 just west of the Tushar mountains, also known as the birthplace of both the notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy and inventor of the television Philo T. Farnsworth, grey skies and light rain greeted the roughly 300 riders choosing to brave the conditions and the course designed by former road professional Burke Swindlehurst in the Second Annual Beaver Country Travel Council Crusher in the Tushar, presented by DNA Cycling.
In attendance were riders from 17 US states and 4 countries, on a wide variety of bikes, ranging from cyclocross bikes to both rigid and full-suspension mountain bikes, geared and singlespeed, with flat bars, drop bars, riser bars or even moustache-bars, ready to tackle an event that never dipped below 5900’ in elevation, and crested above 10,000’ as it approached the finish at the Eagle Point Ski & Summer Resort on Mt. Holly.
Amongst the Pro/Open men starters were 2011 Crusher champion, 2012 USPRO National Championship KOM and Utah transplant Tyler Wren along with multiple-time Junior National Cyclocross Champion Jamey Driscoll (both riding for Jamis-Sutter Home on the road), former multi-time US National Cyclocross & Mountain Bike Champion Ryan Trebon (Cannondale-Clement Cycling), former Belgian National Cyclocross Champion Ben Berden (Clement Cycling), former road professionals Todd Littlehales (Rapha) and Neil Shirley (Road Bike Action), and endurance mountain biker Jay Henry (Tokyo Joe’s), as well as 2011 top-10 finishers Reed Wycoff (Contender Bicycles) and Nate King (Competitive Cyclist).
Representing the women were Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joe’s), former mountain bike professional Tammy Jacques (Honey Stinger), French cyclocross national champion Caroline Mani (Clement Cycling), Nicole Duke (Spy Optics-Cannondale), and 2010 XTERRA 30-34 World Champion & multiple time XTERRA regional champion Rachel Cieslewicz.
After a short neutral rollout, the race began in earnest up the first paved climb as the Belgian Ben Berden quickly reducing the men’s field to about 10-15 riders. In this lead group, in addition to Berden were Ryan Trebon, Tyler Wren, Jamey Driscoll, Jay Henry, Neil Shirley, Chris Mackay (Backcountry.com), Jake Stocking (Revolution-Café Rio), the Roosters-Biker’s Edge trio of Jake Pantone, Kevin Hulick & Jonny Hintze, Erik Harrington (RMCC), Dave Harward & Mark Deterline (Plan 7 Coaching), Todd Littlehales (Rapha), Kevin Day (Team KUHL), Reed Wycoff and Alex Grant.
One by one riders began tailing off the back until the field was whittled down to just 4 riders (Wren, Driscoll, Trebon & Chris Mackay) approaching the Competitive Cyclist KOM line from on front side of the course, followed by the duo of Neil Shirley and Jay Henry who rejoined the lead 4 shortly before the summit.
On the descent of the back side, Ryan Trebon had some problems with the deep washboard conditions, and quickly fell off the back of the lead group of 6 on the dirt, but managed to rejoin once the course turned onto pavement again; whereupon Tyler Wren almost immediately dropped his chain and had to stop to fix his mechanical, with teammate Jamey Driscoll to help pace him back to the lead group. As in a traditional mountain bike race, riders are expected to be self-sufficient when it comes to fixing mechanicals, and are not allowed any outside assistance; not even from teammates, who may nonetheless pace their leader back to the field, once the mechanical issue has been resolved.
Eventually, the lead group of 6 regrouped and began working together on the paved section of Highway 89 through Junction and Circleville, before turning back on the jeep road to begin the climb back up to State Road 153.
Once the riders turned back onto 153 to begin the main climb back up the backside of towards the KOM, once again riders began to drop off the pace, until the lead group was whittled back down to a trio of riders, including Ryan Trebon, Neil Shirley, and Tyler Wren with about 15 miles to go. Trailing behind were Jay Henry, followed a bit further back by Chris Mackay, with Jamey Driscoll about another minute back.
Behind these 3 solo riders was Alex Grant, who recovered from some of his early troubles to claw his way back into 7th place at this point in the race after soloing the descent and road sections through Junction and Circleville to eventually regroup with Reed Wycoff (Contender Bicycles) and Jake Stocking (Revolution-Café Rio) before the final climb. Stocking fell off the pace set by Wycoff and Grant, who began the final climb together.
A mile or two before the Competitive Cyclist KOM line, Ryan Trebon’s back began to lock up, again having problems dealing with the deep washboard conditions, and he dropped out of the lead group leaving the duo of Neil Shirley and Tyler Wren to contest the KOM sprint, which was taken by Neil Shirley. In addition to taking the $250 prize for the taking the KOM, Shirley also managed to grab an additional $100 KOM prime being held out by Utah’s own Slyfox Moonwillow aka “Gilly” as he crossed the line.
Back in the chase, as Trebon began paperboying up to the KOM, the remaining chasers were beginning to recover and to bring back the bigger names who had previously fallen off the pace.
Up front, with about 6 miles to go and in essentially the same spot as in 2011, Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home) launched his attack and dropped Neil Shirley for good to solo in for another win at the Crusher in 4 hours, 28 minutes and 58 seconds, only 1:54 behind his time from the previous year in far worse weather conditions.
Neil Shirley (Road Bike Action) held on to solo in for second in 4:32:45, while Jay Henry (Tokyo Joe’s) came in third at 4:41:26.
Alex Grant (Cannondale Factory Racing), who had recovered from his earlier problems on the first climb, got away from Reed Wycoff (Contender Bicycles) on the paved ramp back onto the dirt section, caught Jamey Driscoll about halfway up the final climb, then Chris Mackay, before overtaking Ryan Trebon after the KOM line. He caught Jay Henry (Tokyo Joe’s), who had previously overtaken Trebon about two miles before the final paved kick up to the finish, but flatted right after passing him and was overtaken while fixing his flat., but held on to take fourth in 4:44:55
Reed Wycoff overhauled Driscoll and Trebon to round out the long podium in fifth place in 4:49:07, while Jake Stocking also overtook the two professionals to finish in sixth in 4:51:08, asking one of the follow vehicles “Who are those guys?” as he was about to catch and pass.
Driscoll and Trebon eventually finished in seventh and eighth in 4:57:17 and 4:58:01 respectively.
Ben Berden (Clement Cycling) managed to pull back Chris Mackay (Backcountry.com) and outsprinted him on the line to finish ninth in 5:02:34, while Mackay rounded out the top-ten in 5:02:35.
After the race, when asked how the weather and his prior knowledge of the course affected the race, Tyler had the following to say:
“The weather certainly made the day more memorable, but I don’t think it had a significant impact on the race. We descended the KOM in dry conditions and the mud was not thick enough to make any of the climbing difficult.
“Prior knowledge of the course gave me a huge advantage over some of my competitors. I had great legs right from the start, but I knew how difficult the latter half of the course was, so I held back early on. I attacked on the exact same roller as last year, knowing that I could handle the solo effort from there to the line.”
Wren also praised his Jamis-Sutter Home teammate Jamey Driscoll:
“Jamey was a huge asset for me during the race. He told me beforehand that he was there with the one goal of helping me repeat. I could tell that he wanted to use his ample CX skills to scorch the downhill with the Tokyo Joe’s guy, but he went down at my speed to make sure I was still in the mix.
“With guys like Trebon in the field and the condition of the washboards, I was concerned that the descent was a place I could lose time. Jamey waited for me when my chain jammed and pushed the pace in the valley when I asked him to. He was the perfect teammate, and it always adds to my motivation to get the job done when such a professional has sacrificed his race to help me.”
When asked if the absence of Jamis-Sutter Home from the upcoming Tour of Utah had any effect on how he rode, Wren indicated that the news definitely helped motivate him even further.
“I’ve been really sad and disappointed this week since learning that Jamis-Sutter Home won’t be racing in the Tour of Utah. The news also made me realize that I need to seize the racing opportunities that I do have, and that’s exactly what I did at the Crusher.”
Wren also thanked his Jamis-Sutter Home bike sponsor, saying “The new Jamis prototype I rode was the perfect set-up. The hydraulic disc brakes gave me a lot of confidence on the big descent, and the Shimano di2 had no performance drop over the course of the muddy race, as a cable set-up surely would.”
In the Pro women’s race, Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joe’s) soloed to take the win in 5:18:41, a nearly 14 minute margin over the duo of Tammy Jacques (Honey Stinger) in 5:32:28 and Anna Jo Dingman (Team Rockford-Clif) in 5:32:35.
Nicole Duke (Spy Optics-Cannondale) took fourth in 5:49:25, declaring after the finish that this was one of the hardest things she’s done, stating flat out, “I’m used to racing for 40 minutes!” while chatting at the awards ceremony later that afternoon at the Eagle Point lodge.
Rachel Cieslewicz (Canyon Bicycles), who has battled a variety of health issues this season, battled herself and the weather conditions to finish sixth in 6:05:29.
French Cyclocross National Champion Caroline Mani (seventh place, 6:37:57) posted to Twitter after she finished “If I was not sure what is pain and determination, now I am! Insane! That was a long fight against myself!”
Mary Foss (Team KUHL) finished eighth in 7:56:40, while Kate Lynch (of Victor, ID) rounded out the women’s Open field in ninth just a few seconds under 8 hours, in 7:59:56.