Gravel Race: Riders Bring “Eh Game” to The Crusher in Michigan’s UP – Cyclocross Magazine

Michigan might be known as the “Mitten State,” but there is another part of the state tucked in between Lakes Superior and Michigan north of Wisconsin called the Upper Peninsula. The U.P., as folks call it, was long known for its copper and iron deposits, and not surprisingly, has a rugged and hilly terrain different from surrounding parts of the Upper Midwest.

It is on that terrain and against that backdrop that The Crusher gravel race took place last weekend. The 225-mile race is not to be confused with the Crusher in the Tushar, although the brave souls who completed the U.P. version of the Crusher would likely argue they had the more difficult task.

While the Lower Peninsula has put itself on the gravel map with the Barry-Roubaix and Coast-to-Coast Gravel Grinder, ultra-endurance events are endemic to da U.P. thanks to the 906 Adventure Team. The Team also hosts the Polar Roll fat bike race in the winter and the brutal Marji Gesick mountain bike race in the fall.

“I look at ultra-ultra events as being super effective life-training events,” 906 Adventure Team’s Todd Poquette said. “906 Adventure Team is a 501c3 Non-Profit, and we have this crazy formula featuring ultra butt-kicking events for adults and adventure bike club for kids. We empower people to discover the best version of themselves through outdoor adventure.”

The Crusher provided a beautiful route and tough challenge. © Ryan Stephens

The Crusher provided a beautiful route and tough challenge. © Ryan Stephens

The 2019 Crusher started at the northern end of the Keweenah Peninsula in Copper Harbor and wound its way south to the Lake Superior city of Marquette. Along the way, riders rode an actual distance of 232 miles and climbed nearly 10,000 feet.

“I love point-to-point events. They’re hard. Logistics are a pain in the ass,” Poquette said. “You have to be prepared. You gotta bring your eh-game. Marquette is a mountain bike capital, so is Copper Harbor, that’s how I decided the beginning and end this year.”

The Crusher bills itself as “Enhanced Gravel.” Marquette, Houghton and Copper Harbor are home to impressive mountain bike trail networks, and with 906 Adventure’s hosting of the Marji, Enhanced Gravel seemed like it could go a lot of ways.

“We use gravel, ORV trails, old railroad beds, rivers, Michigan’s highest point, logging roads, jeep trails, sand and Mosquito gulch,” Poquette said. “Eighty percent of the course is devoid of cell service and highly remote. Racers reported seeing a bear, bobcat, coyote, badger, fox, moose and porcupine. Roll it all up and you have yourself some enhanced gravel, as found in the UP.”

The 2019 Crusher rolled from Copper Harbor early Saturday morning. With a 36-hour cutoff, you know the route is challenging, and Poquette said most riders were expected to finish sometime after sunset. The challenge of the enhanced gravel route is not unintentional.

“We create journeys—and experiences—intended to push people to their limits, riddled with intentional obstacles, tempting participants to crack,” he said. “The hardest stuff is always at the end when you’ll be at your weakest and darkest place, both figuratively and literally, because you’re hurting and it’s the middle of the night.”

The Crusher is a challenging race for all categories. © Ryan Stephens

The Crusher is a challenging race for all categories. © Ryan Stephens

The Crusher route is not necessarily the most direct route from Copper to Marquette, hugging the west side of the Keweenaw Peninsula for most of its length, so to help keep folks honest and on track, each was required to carry a “passport” that they filled out at each of five checkpoints with activities such as taking a selfie.

Waiting at the end of the ride was a Ti Crusher Cup for each rider who finished by the time cutoff. That approach is a bit different than the Marji Gesick, which famously awards handmade belt buckles to each sub-12-hour finisher. The Marji has a 60% DNF rate, so those buckles are hard-earned.

The Crusher could have been a 300+ mile trans-U.P. trek from Copper Harbor to Mackinac Island, but Poquette said that is not the goal for the event. At least not yet.

“For some, Marji is about the buckle but the everyday man and woman will never claim one, it’s out of reach. I think that’s ok, but Jim from Indiana needs something to hang his hat on too. He has a family, works too many hours a week, doesn’t take good care of himself, and needs a kick in the ass. Crusher is that kick in the ass. It’s sorta like a Marji for the everyday man and woman.”

The goal of The Crusher is to be hard but finishable. © Ryan Stephens

The goal of The Crusher is to be hard but finishable. © Ryan Stephens

Could a Cross the U.P. route be coming as an even bigger kick in the butt? Maybe!

“I’m leaning toward changing the route every year, running it backward or making it end-to-end as you mentioned,” Poquette said. “We like to mix things up, keep the events fresh and present new challenges. We don’t want people getting comfortable and weak.”

Although the 225-mile Crusher is an overnight ultra-endurance challenge, the event also offers all-inclusive distance options, with 100 and 30-mile solo rides, a 50-mile team ride and a 50-mile ultra run.

2019 Results

Thanks to a bit of a fluke of geography, riders had a little help in chasing the sun on Saturday. Marquette is more or less straight north of Milwaukee, but since it is on Eastern time, sunset was around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. Despite the help, the challenging route forced most riders to finish after dark or even the next morning.

Sandy Marshall (Midtown Cycling) finished a bit after 1 a.m. Sunday to take the Women’s win. Carey Lowery (Rescue Racing / Scott’s Bikes) and Lisa Randall (Mountain Goat Adventures) finished second and third, with Tara Laase-McKinney (Twin Six METAL) and Alexandera Houchin (Chumba USA // Broken Spoke Bike Studio) rounding out the wide-angle podium.

The top finisher for the Men was Mark Kransz (KONA Bicycles/QSBS/CFA), who finished just before the sunset with a time of 15:15. Tinker Juarez and Nick Stanko rolled in together to take second and third. Mitchell DeYoung (Hammer Nutrition, Rudy Project, ESI Grips, Wolf Tooth Components) and Tyler Weston (TITAN/ICW/M22) rounded out the wide-angle podium.

Full results for the 225-mile race are below.

The Crusher returns in 2020 on July 18. Registration opens on August 9 (more info).

Women’s Results: 2019 Crusher Enhanced Gravel

Place First Last Team Time
1 Sandy MARSHALL Midtown Cycling 19:20:00
2 Carey LOWERY Rescue Racing/Scott’s Bikes 19:49:00
3 Lisa RANDALL Mountain Goat Adventures 19:49:00
4 Tara LAASE-MCKINNEY Twin Six METAL 20:37:00
5 Alexandera HOUCHIN CHUMBA USA // Broken Spoke Bike Studio 22:55:00
6 Kimberly NUFFER Boulder Centre for Orthopedics 22:58:00
7 Emily NORDAHL Wheel & Sprocket (Team Java Cat) 23:19:00
8 Teri FABIAN Scapegoat Cycling 23:42:00
9 Amie JONES Knobby Side Down 23:48:00
10 Angela GRAZIOSI Trailer Park Racing 25:12:00
11 Kelsy KELLERMANN Titletown Flyers 27:18:00
12 Lindsay BEAN 31:23:00

Men’s Results: 2019 Crusher Enhanced Gravel

Place First Last Team Time
1 Mark KRANSZ KONA Bicycles/QSBS/CFA 15:15:00
2 Tinker JUAREZ 15:49:00
3 Nicholas STANKO 15:49:00
4 Mitchell DEYOUNG Hammer Nutrition, Rudy Project, ESI Grips, Wolf Tooth Components 15:53:00
5 Tyler WESTON TITAN/ICW/M22 16:24:00
6 Greg KUHN RBS Cycling Team 16:33:00
7 David MESSING 16:33:00
8 Chad MILLS Village Racing 16:35:00
9 Allen WHEELER Grand Rapids Bicycle Company 16:39:00
10 Zeno MOLTENI Plus One Cycling 17:01:00
11 Ryan GOEMANS Pete’s Garage 17:43:00
12 Steve ERICKSEN All Spoked Up 18:17:00
13 Jeff RUPNOW Evolution Training Cycles, Paradise Garage, Cannondale 18:20:00
14 Roy KRANZ Ray’s Bike Shop 18:45:00
15 Marc SALM LOADED/Winnebago Bikes 18:45:00
16 Greg GENTLE Team Hollywood Cycles 19:07:00
17 Tom SCOTT Speed Merchants 19:07:00
18 Pete EMME 19:19:00
19 Steve MARSHALL Midtown Cycling 19:20:00
20 Christopher HOLMES Maumee Valley Wheelman 19:30:00
21 Steve FIELDS 19:33:00
22 George KAPITZ Broken Spoke Racing Team 19:33:00
23 Petr INEMAN Terrene Tires, Carver bikes, BarYak 19:34:00
24 James PLICHTA West Michigan Coast Riders 19:34:00
25 Jeff ABITZ Diablo Cycling 19:48:00
27 Ted SCHAFF Bike Team 19:48:00
28 Tyler UBINGER 19:50:00
29 Fran BROEDERS 19:55:00
30 Kyler BRADLEY 20:07:00
31 Craig THOMAS Discover Chiropractic 20:10:00
32 Dan LUEBKE Smith’s Bike Shop – TREK 20:11:00
33 Marvin WANDERS Smith Cycling 20:11:00
34 Hugh MELLING 20:17:00
35 Victor TOKARSKI Hussars 20:18:00
36 Michael EVANS Adventure212/Specialized 20:37:00
37 Josh VERHAGE 20:37:00
38 Peter SENKBEIL Broken Spoke Racing 20:53:00
40 Justin ENGWIS 21:33:00
41 Eric STECKLING 21:43:00
42 Adam BENDER Revolution Racing Team 21:44:00
43 Paul RYTLEWSKI Revolution Racing 21:44:00
44 Bradley STARK AAVC 21:51:00
45 Mason BACSO Kuhl Cycling 21:56:00
46 David JOLIN Rescue Racing 21:56:00
47 Aaron KLEIN Commercial Mortgage Capital, Inc. 22:17:00
48 Joseph LAWHORN Team Dayton 22:22:00
49 James MORRISON Scenic Bicycles Chattanooga 22:22:00
50 Kevin CLEGG Chocolay Ace Hardware 22:23:00
51 David LIEBLE Munising Bay Trail Network 22:39:00
52 Chris SCHOTZ Race Thunderdown Next Month 22:39:00
53 Nathaniel DARLING Beerheads 22:55:00
54 Andrew LANE 22:58:00
55 Steven PIRELLI 22:58:00
57 Chris FELLOWS El Lobo Endurance Cycling/ Loft & Shove 23:08:00
58 Mike PEIFFER Maumee Valley Wheelmen 23:08:00
59 Lane MEYERS 23:08:00
60 George HOLLERBACH Newtown Bike 23:15:00
62 Mitch NORDAHL Wheel & Sprocket (Team Java Cat) 23:19:00
63 Bryan DEW Central District 23:23:00
64 Robert MITCHELL 23:40:00
65 Justin WHEELOCK 23:40:00
66 Dan HARKE Milltown 23:41:00
67 Nathan BURKS 23:47:00
68 Kenny KOCAREK KnobbySideDown 23:48:00
69 Gregory MCBRIDE 23:56:00
70 Joshua STAMPER 24:24:00
71 Quentin GNIOT Gryphon Velo Racing 24:30:00
72 Steve CRIGIER 24:31:00
73 Richard SCHICK BOWLTRON 24:55:00
74 brian BLANEY Velorution 25:05:00
75 Daniel BROSEMER Velorution 25:05:00
76 David KOCHANOWSKI Velorution 25:05:00
77 Reg PEER OutSpoken Brewing 25:05:00
78 Ben WARNOCK Velorution 25:05:00
79 Justin LACOSSE 25:07:00
80 Travis BANGART 25:12:00
81 Jake COLANTONIO LRB 25:12:00
82 Rhet COOMBS 25:12:00
83 Brian GESHEL Blackrocks Brewery / 45NRTH 25:12:00
84 Danny HILL RAMBA/Quick Stop Bike 25:12:00
85 Scott HUBBARD 25:12:00
86 Barry JONES 25:12:00
87 Mike KOZLOWSKI Second chin racing 25:12:00
88 Glen LERLIE RAMBA 25:12:00
89 Paul WATTERS Ramba 25:12:00
90 Adam NELSON RAMBA 25:28:00
91 Adam PESOLA 25:28:00
92 Jim LEIKERT 26:00:00
93 Travis VAN NESTE Van Neste Surveying 26:14:00
94 Paul HYTINEN 26:15:00
95 Paul SHEPARD 26:15:00
96 Michael SAUER 26:50:00
97 Travis SEEGER Milltown 27:18:00
98 Adam WINT 27:26:00
99 Josh KOWALESKI Moose & Squirrel 27:45:00
100 David GIEFER 27:56:00
101 Jeff SCOFIELD Speed Merchants 27:56:00
102 Matt GRAVES Speed Merchants 27:57:00
103 Jon SCHNORR 28:35:00
104 Mark SCHNORR South Lake Cycle 28:35:00
105 Jeff HERVELA 28:58:00
106 George ERNST McLain Race Team 29:15:00
107 Chad SCHUT Bunker Hill Bikes / Quiring Cycles 29:15:00
108 Brian EGGART Moonlight Cycles 29:54:00
109 Chuck BOYER Trailer Park Racing 30:20:00
110 Gary DURIAN Extreme Endurance Team 30:32:00
111 Robert ZIMMERMANN pedal moriane 30:32:00
112 Nathan LEINWEBER 30:54:00
113 Russ CROFTON Moonlight Cycles 30:56:00
114 Joshua DUGGAN Grand Rapids Bicycle Company 31:17:00
115 Tim POFF Broken Spoke Racing 31:44:00
116 Dustin MARSH Eau Claire Bike and Sport 32:23:00
117 Timothy CARMEAN 33:00:00
DNF Dennis CASEY III Nulu Bicycle Company
DNF Jesse GOULD KLM/Cold Stone
DNF Greg HALVERSON Broken spoke racing
DNF Steffen HOWARD Universal Racing
DNF Len PARMENTER Nulu Bicycle Company
DNF Ben SKONING Winnebago Bicycle
DNF Joseph URBANOWICZ Chainbuster Pactimo Race Team
DNF Rob VAN PELT Team Rule #5
DNF Matt VANDER SYS West Michigan Coast Riders
DNS Ryan BEEKMAN commercial mortgage capital
DNS Torrey DUPRAS Urban Analog
DNS Joshua KOWAKESKI Cedaero
DNS Brent KRMPOTICH Velorution