Janel Holcomb Tames Crusher In The Tushar On Allroad Pro Wheels
The Crusher In The Tushar might have a funny name, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not going to be the hardest 69 miles of your life. Over that distance, the Crusher packs in 10,000 feet of climbing on a combination of pavement and dirt roads through Utah’s Fishlake National Forest in the Tushar Mountains. To make it all the more challenging, the finish line is located at a lung-searing 10,500 feet above sea level.
A day on the bike like this makes nearly all of the 600 Crusher riders rather nervous, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that Mavic ambassador Janel Holcomb thinks about when dreaming up what her perfect ride might look like.
By Dirty Kanza 200 standards, the Crusher is short and sweet, with winning times just over four hours for the men and right at five hours for the women. Because it’s not double-digit hours of ride time, such as with DK200, and there’s a hefty prize purse, the race has attracted some of the best road, mountain bike, cyclocross, and gravel racers in the States during its seven year history.
After jumping head first into the gravel scene this year, Janel circled the Crusher on her calendar because it checked all the boxes for what she was looking for in an event, which was really just a challenging day with good people.
“With increasing frequency it seems I'm approached by friends who have great ideas about events I should attend,” Janel explained. “That's how I found myself in Beaver, Utah, for Crusher in the Tushar. Not knowing anything about the terrain, just the vital stats of 69 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing, which was enough for me to grab my Focus Mares, mounted with the new Mavic Allroad Pro UST wheels, and let my mind grow comfortable with the unknown.” Basically, Janel’s motto is ‘have bike, will travel’.
Speaking of the new Allroad Pro UST wheels, Janel received the new wheelset just days before the race and knew they offered a notable advantage in the fact they feature an inner rim width of 22mm. When using gravel tires, like the Yksion Pro Allroad XL that are available on the wheels, the increased rim width offers better tire sidewall support and an increased air volume.
“Even though it was a last minute change to the Allroad Pro UST setup, I had a ton of confidence in Mavic’s UST system since I spent a week on the Ksyrium Pro UST wheels during Haute Route Rockies and didn’t experience a single flat tire in over 500 miles during the event.”
That confidence in equipment is an important part of success at the Crusher considering the main descent has riders reaching in upwards of 50 mph...on gravel! By all accounts, Janel embraced the experience, “Descending off the first climb, I had heard, would offer some challenge: washboard, a few switchbacks, high speeds, and changing gravel conditions. I was blowing by people! There wasn’t a single ‘oh no’ moment on the descent, I just went with it.”
By the midway point Janel had distanced last year’s winner and course record holder Melinda McCutcheon, and Larissa Connors who handily won the Belgian Waffle Ride earlier this Spring. But, it wasn’t only the course that delivered the final challenge.
“The toughest part of the day was the climb back up Col de Crush–it was steep and the mercury was on the rise.” A wild, and rather unexpected, temperature swing of 65 degrees took riders from nearly triple-digit temps midway through the race, to hail and rain an hour later as they made their way up to higher altitudes.
“As I descended toward the final climb to the finish, a few drops of rain began to fall and I dared the skies to open up as I was still quite hot. Open up they did! Thunder, hail and rain cooled me down and washed away much of the dirt of the day as I rolled into the finish.”
Janel would go on to win with a time of 5 hours, 39 seconds, and earn herself a nice $1,000 payday for her efforts. In the end, it was the volunteers and her equipment that she credited in helping her come out on top.
After the finish, Janel said, “The course was so well managed with volunteers. I've been fortunate to attend a lot of amazing events over the past few months and I was in awe of the volunteers and support of the community. I had to smile and say thank you at every kind act of support–it was a gift that fueled me through the pain to take the win.
“When it came to my wheel setup I knew I couldn’t flat...or at least I couldn’t fix a flat...since my saddle bag broke on the first climb and I lost my Co2 cartridges. I told myself, ‘You know what, I’m not going to flat’. I was confident in that and it turned out to be true.”
For those that might be tempted to try their own hand at Crusher In The Tushar next July, be sure to sign up as soon as registration opens since the 600 spots are gone within a day. Go to www.tusharcrusher.com for more info.
Credits: Cathy Fegan-Kim