A few weeks ago I was over in France for Marathon World Champs. I’ve been to what feels like a million XC World Champs but had never made it across the pond fro the Marathon Worlds until a few weeks ago.
Myron and I arrived in Rodez, France with out issue(only one lost bike, luckily I brought two), we had awesome weather and great accommodations, even a washing machine. I got to pre-ride the entire 100 k course before the race. I had a big crash one day when I clipped a rock with my pedal and launched myself through the air landing on my head and busting my helmet. Luckily the MIPS saved me because I was sore every where except where I landed on my head.
Race day rolled around, the weather was perfect and other then starting in 120 position because I didn’t have any World Series Marathon points things were good. All the XC guys were in the back for the start so I was in good company and most made it to the front relatively quickly(very impressive). I moved a bit at the beginning but then the legs loaded and I knew it was going to be a looooooong day. I suffered like I haven’t in a long time and doubted if I would even make it to the finish line. I kept pushing and by the end I was passing a few people instead of constantly getting passed. I rolled in for a rough 48 and couldn’t even stand up at the finish. A quick stop at McDonalds had me feeling almost human again and ready to head back home to the family.
I had a weekend at home with the family before loading up the truck and heading to Beaver, UT for the Crusher in the Tushar. I always thought Tushar referred to your bottom but it turns out that is the name of the mountain range the race traverses. We arrived the day before the race and with Dave Wiens advice we hit the Tushars from the east and drove/rode most of the course on the way in. I was glad I got to drive it the day before because the views are spectacular but there isn’t much time to look at it while the race is going on.
It was great to catch up with Rob and Josh over dinner at Beaver Taco.
The Tushar is the brain child of long time Navigators pro Burke Swindlehurst. It is a gravel road race which climbs nearly 10,000 ft and only descends about half of that since you start at 6,000 ft and finish at the ski area about 10,000 ft. The course is probably 60/40 gravel/pavement and has plenty of ups and downs along the way. It was my first gravel road race and it was everything I imagined a gravel grinder should be.
We rolled out of Beaver 8am Saturday morning under warm blue sky. The course gradually climbs as it heads out the valley on the pavement for the first 11 miles. The group stayed together until we made a hard right turn, the road turned to dirt and the pace kicked up along with the grade. We were quickly a group of six and a few guys joined us after the second feed zone at the top of the climb almost 15 miles later. That’s what was the coolest part of the race for me, flying along the top of the plateau in a big group on the rollers going nearly 40 mph on the dirt with gravel and dust flying everywhere trying to hold the wheel and stay upright, exhilarating and terrifying.
From there we dropped down the Col d’ Crush, nearly 5,000 ft for some more road through Junction and Circleville. Our group swelled to 9 along the crosswind flats before heading back towards the Col on the roughest section of the course. There is a gradual uphill sandy, rough section rolling back towards the Col where Squire put the pressure on and pulled myself and Burleigh clear of the group so we were down to three heading to the Col.
Burleigh had to stop to seal up his tire in feed zone four so then it was just Squire and I heading up the Col. I knew it was gonna be a big ask for me to climb back the Col with the recent Tour de Beauce KOM jersey winner and he managed to drop me just before the climb turned to dirt. I didn’t feel too bad until the last switch back at the top, I really started to suffer then. There was no trying to match Rob’s pace so I just rode as hard as I felt I could sustain.
I rolled by myself over the top along the plateau until I hit the next 1,000 ft climb with 8 miles left. I was fighting cramps when Burleigh caught me but never locked up completely which was lucky because with quite a bit of climbing still to go and about 5 miles of freshly laid gravel still to go it would have been a long way to the finish. Burleigh wouldn’t pull at all so I was left to ride on the front all the way to end. There is a short descent and then a one mile fairly steep paved climb to the finish at over 10,000 ft. I lead up the climb and lead out the sprint but just got pipped at the line for 2nd and wound up 3rd. 2 or 3 didn’t really matter, after Squire dropped me and I started to suffer I was just happy to make it to the finish.
If you enjoy gravel racing and haven’t done the Crusher, put it on your list. Burke does a great job, the course is a perfect for a gravel bike in my opinion and the area is beautiful. There isn’t much O2 and there is a lot of climbing but we all must like to suffer or we wouldn’t be cyclists.
Bike Setup: Scott Addict CX 10, SRAM Red Hydro Disc brake/shifters, front chainrings 52/36 rear cassette 11/32, Zipp 303s, Maxxis tires setup tubeless 43 psi front/rear, 1 spare tube/co2. Zabriski ran a single ring setup with a 44 10/42 and I would probably use that same gearing next year instead of running a double.
We spent a few days at the old NORBA venue in Brian Head, UT before doing the endless drive across to Nevada to Mammoth for the XC National Champs this weekend. The XC is on Friday and I’m interested to see how my Crusher prep was for the event.
All race photos by:
facebook: cotton sox photography