Tushar Crusher | What Happened?! Yes, There's More
Climbing continued on the perfect dirt for about 6 miles. Some hills seemed somewhat steep. But overall the climb was pleasant and cool. I was being passed and also passing others. I was so stoked because there I was, riding my bike! And the morning couldn't have been better. I wasn't feeling any fatigue or twinge of my usual headaches under hard activity. Other riders were in great spirits. One of my customers, Matt, passed me on his hardtail. He was just cruising. But when you see him out and about he generally is faster than you think. I expected him to do very well in the climbing zones. Rolling up the road on my huge tires I was looking about, enjoying the scenery, taking in as much of the cool air as possible, and having thoughts of doing this event in the future. Everything was basically hunky-dory. Or whatever.
I'd planned for the first feed to be about 18 miles in and had carried 3 water bottles. It was nice to do that because I had a healthy mix of nutrition in two of those bottles, one being EFS and the other some Carborocket, a mix I reserve for the first hour of race days. So I don't use it a lot. It's like a cup of coffee for racing. I get a nice kick in the pants from it. Well, I would have had 2 empty bottles instead of one at the first feed had it not appeared 2-3 miles too soon. I had some juggling to do with all my bottles. I finally got rid of the misplaced weight of the two new bottles I'd picked up and refilled my much larger bottles.
Their EFS mix was super dense and too intense for my tongue. I could barely drink any. I swallowed what I could. Soon the track leveled out and the climbs became quite short making for a sweet descent here and there. I caught up with my travel buddy, Perry, who was racing in a younger group of folks. He was on a hardtail also, and it is lighter than my cross bike was for the race. It may be lighter anyhow. I don't know. He was taking it easy giving me a chance to catch up to him. We stayed together for about 30 miles.
The road was waking up. As we pedaled along at supersonic speeds, me in my big ring and Perry in his little cog, trucks started to pass. One truck in particular was being especially rowdy with his trailer, gassing riders the whole way up. I guess no matter where you are, you get harassment on all kinds of roads. As the roads turned downhill and we started losing elevation the roads dried out. So all favorable conditions disappeared for the fiercely loose corners that stood between us and the Paiute valley below, some 3,000 feet. It was reminiscent of a downhill race I'd never participated in: The Kamakazi at Mammoth. Ok, so maybe it wasn't that bad... but I was on a CX bike!
Already carrying some speed Perry and I drifted around the corner and over a cattle guard and the Paiute Valley came into full view. The mountain fell away and left me with a wonderful feeling that this would be ann epic descent. The first switchback came up and was super loose, resembling what comes of mixing chocolate into cold milk. But it was dust and rocks. Every corner turned out this way. The sections between the switchbacks weren't exactly straight which meant I needed to be a little careful. Being on a fully rigid bike down washboard road adds up to ground contact with tires about one in every three feet. Planning for those treacherous corners, mild or hairpin also lead me to start braking earlier than I would with my actual mountain bike.
Each switchback was both loose and washboard. But not so bad that I couldn't maintain a semblance of control. This was probably the best part of the race for me. It was the test dummy section of the race. I saw bottles everywhere that had fallen out because of the violence of riding the road. Not only bottles though. I saw bottle cages that had rattled off. Then I saw bottle cages with bottles in them. Perry said he saw derailleurs. I laughed a little inside while I tried to hold on. Riders were stopped, fixing flats. Not one or two. Scores. It was a testament to running larger volume tires, and tubeless as well. A lot of folks I saw had CX tires tubeless. Traditional CX tires don't have the volume to deal with the violence of this off piste action. So heads up if you come out here.
After blowing by probably 30 riders I finally was passed by a guy killing it on a hardtail as the dirt turned back to pavement. And that excitement was called the Col'd Crush. From this point forward we'd be road racing until we turned on to Doc Springs road which becomes the infamous Sarlacc Pit. It's a dirt road that's geographically isolated from the rest of everything in the world, including the wind but excluding the sun. It was an oven in there. I had a white kit on and my jersey was fully unzipped. It wasn't a terrible road though. It was a little rocky. It was a little loose but not like the Col. I caught up with another Heber/Park City local, Tom, and we chatted a bit. He was focused on retaining energy for the Col. At that point I thought better of my own pace and slowed. At the next feed zone I stopped for as much water as I could take and Tom took off up the hill.