“Crusher…..CRUUUU–SHER….come out and Plaaaayee-yaaaa!”
That’s how one of the most epic events in recent memory began: Bruce Bilodeau sang his warning chant while clanging three Coors longnecks connected to his fingers.
And how could a self-proclaimed 80 mile “roadirt” event with over 10,000 feet of climbing begin any other way?
An event dreamt by Burke Swindlehurst, notorious for his masochistic tendencies as a professional roadie, the Crusher in the Tushar was a perfect test for Boo Bicycles and a target of Tyler Wren’s since Burke ran the idea by him almost a year prior. As Utah natives, both Burke and Tyler have a penchant for extreme challenges, probably one of the reasons they’ve enjoyed such long careers and still love the bike.
“Since my move to Salt Lake two years ago, I’ve been becoming more confident in my abilities on climbs at altitude and off-road proficiency, so I was focusing in on this race ever since Burke described it to me last fall. Also, since I’ve moved here, I’ve come to know Burke and his penchant for extremely difficult terrain, so I knew that this race would be an immense challenge and therefore something I wanted to be a part of.”
So Tyler drew a big red circle around July 16th, 2011…
As a small frame builder, Boo Bicycles has made a name for itself by showing up at select races and really hitting it out of the park. We’ve raced some of the biggest cross events on the calendar and demonstrated that a bamboo bike can compete heads-up with all the carbon Ridleys and Stevens and Konas and other dominant brands in the discipline.
For the Crusher in the Tushar, we had another couple ingredients: Brad Cole on a Boo 29er (fully rigid and belt drive singlespeed, no less!) and yours truly. Brad had just gotten his Boo set up properly and raced well to 7th overall at Forty in the Fort the previous weekend, and I’d just won the Iowa State Criterium championship and taken third in the road race. With Tyler’s motivation to win, we knew we we’d be three of the strongest guys in the field.
That’s when Tyler threw a wrench into the plan. “Dude, you need to ride your road bike.” WHAT?! It specifically says on Crusher’s site: “Definitely not recommended….there will most definitely be dismounts and snow field crossings.”
Of course I was skeptical, but as Tyler described the race tactics to me–very similar to our epic win at the penultimate Queen Stage of the Vuelta Chile in February this year–I was on board. I rolled the Boo 29er back into the basement, a tear swelling in my eye, and saddled up the trusty Jamis for a new, harrowing adventure.
Brad and I, both Fort Collins dwellers, loaded up the turbo Volvo and rolled out on Friday (the day before the race) for a beautiful-but-arduous journey to Beaver, Utah. Beaver is the butt of many a joke, some of which we made ourselves, but it’s a nice little town nestled up next to the Tushar mountains about two hours northeast of Las Vegas, three hours south of Salt Lake City. We slept a little, had a good breakfast, and saddled up for a long haul at around 7:15AM the next morning.
Tyler’s and Brad’s Boos were dialed in and ready to rock, each running a very special setup for The Crusher. With the help of some outstanding companies, we were hooked up with the very best from Enve Composites, Chris King, Challenge, TRP, Gates, Pactimo, and Giro…Tyler’s Boo Cross and Brad’s Boo 29er were definitely two of the fastest and most unique rigs at the line. I was surely out of place on 23c road tires and 53/39 SRM crankset, but we followed our plan to a T.
At just 2km into the race, after our good friend Alistair from Princeton got the group clipping at a simmering pace, I attacked full-gas with Tyler on my wheel. And I didn’t look back.
After about five minutes at the front, riding around 25mph uphill into a headwind, I decided to assess the situation: ten guys holding on for dear life. Perfect! Tyler wanted me to get the group down to a manageable size and discourage any attacks before the gravel climbing began, so now the mission was to just set a hard tempo to the gravel and then ride my own race.
After throwing up some hash browns and eggs in my mouth for the first half hour of the race, we finally neared the gravel section of climbing and only Ben from Jewi Solar had gone off the front, solo, by a minute. What a move! I hit the gravel first and all the cross bikes and mountain bikes swarmed around me, gave me a few pats on the back, and proceeded to drill it up the washboard and gnarly little stones thrown about the road. I just grinned and tried to bear it.
After some epic scenery and a long climb and then hair-raising descent, I got the first two of my eventual four flats, which would later see me leave the race just halfway in. But I was happy to watch and listen as I got word that Tyler was sitting pretty in a smaller-and-smaller group, while Brad was riding through most of the pro field on a rigid singlespeed!
I had a couple of beers and became a cheering spectator, content to watch the others suffer but feeling a twinge of remorse that I hadn’t lined up my own Boo Cross in advance of the race so I could continue with the painful journey.
I hitched a ride to the finish and let out a triumphant holler when I learned of Tyler’s dominant win! We had predicted 4:30 for the epic course, and sure enough he rolled the Boo across the line in just over 4:27.
Tyler told reporters, “Burke did a brilliant job putting together a beautiful race with the Crusher. Not only did fitness, technical skill and tactics matter, but equipment choice as well. I spent a week getting my Boo ready and weighing various bike/tire selections (huge thanks to Troy at SLC Bike Co), eventually deciding on the Boo CX with tubeless semi-slick CX tires and a compact road crank. The competitors made the race challenging as well, with nearly all of the riders who eventually ended up in the top ten putting in serious attacks or accelerations at various times throughout the course.”
Shortly thereafter, Brad spun through in a 46/30 just 45 minutes behind Tyler, eventually taking top-15 overall as well as a dominant win in the singlespeed category. Although elated with his victory, Brad’s only discernible quote was “FML!”, understandable after riding the Crusher with just one gear.
The Crusher in the Tushar is now officially on the map, and I’m very proud to see Boo at the top of two of its podiums. While we continue to refine and perfect our frames and spread the word about Boo, it’s nice to take a moment and enjoy some success. Bike racing is a brutal sport and successes are few and far between, so I’m honored to be a part of the Crusher in the Tushar and help to put on a good show both during and after the race.