Crusher in the Tushar
- The creator and founder of the Crusher in the Tushar gravel race in Utah announced today that Life Time has acquired the event, starting in 2020.
- Life Time also owns the Dirty Kanza 200 and the off-road cycling events in the Leadville Race Series, among other gravel and mountain bike endurance events.
Life Time, the owners of the infamous Dirty Kanza 200—inarguably the Super Bowl of gravel racing—have announced that they have acquired , a half pavement, half dirt, super mountainous gravel event in the heart of Utah’s Tushar Mountains and Fishlake National Forest.
The Crusher will join the rapidly expanding Life Time off-road cycling line up that includes the Leadville Race Series, Dirty Kanza 200, and the recently launched in Bentonville, Arkansas, among others.
“The Crusher in the Tushar has been a long-standing staple on the gravel calendar and shares the same participant focused philosophies as Dirty Kanza and the entire Life Time team,” Life Time Events operating officer Lelan Dains told Bicycling. “Burke [Swindlehurst] has created a truly challenging and world class experience with his event.”
Crusher in the Tushar, which is going into its 10th year in 2020, is just 70 miles, which could almost be considered a sprint distance compared to events like DK200 and other popular ultra endurance gravel events.
But a one-two punch of leg-frying vertical gain and lung-searing elevation sets it apart from the pack. Crusher starts at 6,000 feet of altitude, tops out at roughly 10,200 feet, and racks up 10,000 feet of sometimes soul-crushing vertical gain over that relatively short distance. Though the winners can crush the course in 4 ½ hours, others can be out there for more than double that time.
Though Crusher features a fair amount of pavement for a gravel race, you won’t see anyone on skinny tires. One of the hallmarks of this grinder through the Utah Aspens is the seemingly endless, white-knuckle downhill segments, most notably the “Big Drop,” a gravel-y, switchbacking, washboard-ridden, and otherwise full pucker descent that drops nearly 4,000 feet over the course of about 15 miles.
Those descents are rugged enough that about a quarter to a third of the field line up on mountain bikes, though gravel bikes are increasingly becoming the weapon of choice.
Over the years, The Crusher has developed a faithful regional following and has hosted both local and World Tour pros like Alex Grant, Lauren Stephens, TJ Eisenhart, Alex Howes, and Evelyn Dong.
Now, retired pro racer and Crusher in the Tushar director and founder T. Burke “T-bird” Swindlehurst says it’s time to make some big changes in order to keep the Crusher rolling strong as gravel racing continues to sweep the American road racing scene.
“The Crusher is what gets me out of bed in the morning, but it also keeps me up plenty of nights, too,” Swindlehurst wrote in his announcement letter to all the past Crusher participants. “I believe this partnership will bring a wealth of experience and resources that will enable the Crusher to march confidently into its second decade on strong legs.”
When asked if he’s concerned about what some are worrying is the “corporate takeover” of the gravel scene, Swindlehurst says he understands those reservations, but after attending Life Time events and working with their team, he feels he can confidently assure longtime “crushers” that the spirit of the event will be unchanged.
“My wife and I will still be at the helm, running the event,” he told Bicycling in an interview. “But now instead of always being at the edge of our bandwidth, we’ll have the resources and the people behind us to dream big again and take this event to the next level.”
The 2020 edition of Crusher in the Tushar will be held on Saturday, July 11. The team is aiming to open registration on February 14, 2020. Registration has been capped at 600 participants since year four, but is expected to be expanded under Life Time.