Ken Montaney (Sabino Cycles Racing) competed Saturday in the Crusher in the Tushar, a gravel/dirt race near Beaver, Utah that accumulates more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain in the Tushars, one of Utah’s tallest mountain ranges. Several of the mountains rise to more than 12,000 feet in elevation.
I have made a lot of poor life decisions, but I don’t think there were ever as many as I made for Crusher in the Tushar.
Poor life decision No. 1: signing up for the pro race. Standing on the start line, I looked around and was blown away. The call-ups included several full-time pros, two former national champions and a member of a black-and-blue clad world tour team on his Pinarello. When they finished call-ups, 15 riders lined the front row and several recognizable pros didn’t even receive a call-up.
Poor life decision No. 2 included following the pros up the first climb. We rolled out on a long gradual uphill and everything seemed fine. Then we hit a hard right turn, the road kicked up to 9 percent, the pavement ended and the race was on.
I chose to follow a former national champ who chose to follow Team Sky, who chose to follow another national champ. Soon, 12 of us had separated ourselves from the field. A mile later, one other rider and I epically exploded and the eventual top 10 finishers rode away. Maybe I should have paced myself a bit more.
Poor life decision No. 3: being 10 pounds over race weight and way under-trained. I quickly learned the whole race was tons of climbing in the 6 to 15 percent grade range. My beer belly was not pleased as that first climb kept going and going and going.
Poor life decision No. 4 was not training on dirt. Climbing on dirt is one thing. Descending is a whole other story. I finally lugged my extra heft to the top of the first long climb and the world fell out from under me. Dropping 5,000 feet in four miles all on dirt and gravel switchbacks is a totally different experience than on the road. I did surprisingly well, though a couple of corners were a little sketchy. Then we hit the sketchy “Sarlacc pit” with large rocks strewn everywhere and the “road” just eating me up. It would have been nice to practice that.
Poor life decision No. 5: not having granny enough gears. I survived my way through the valley, then it was time to climb the Col d’ Crush, the aforementioned descent. Running a near 1:1 gear ratio wasn’t an easy enough gear (see No. 3). The four miles up the Col d’ Crush obliterated my spirit. I was in survival mode. Five miles at 10+ percent is absurd.
Poor life decision No. 6… you know what, screw it, there were no poor life decisions. The event was absolutely amazing. I enjoyed the absolutely gorgeous views and embraced what might be the single hardest course I’ve ever ridden. I wept at the KOM when I realized it wasn’t the top of the climb. I was elated when I got a Coke with a kick at the last aid station. I rattled my teeth out on some dirt descents. I let out a cry of joy when I got back on the pavement only to scream in pain when the grade kicked up to 12 percent and stayed there. I regret absolutely none of my dumb mistakes.
This was the most absurd race courses I’ve ever done. I’ve never hurt so bad or been so shattered. I swore a ton, climbed off my bike a couple times, and vowed to destroy the man who created such a sick event. I can’t wait to do it again next year.
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Photos: Ken Montaney and Crusher in the Tushar