Life Time Grand Prix Round 3: Crusher in Tushar preview
The inaugural Life Time Grand Prix adventure racing series presented by Mazda continues Saturday, July 9 in Beaver, Utah. On the program, a relatively short but brutal 70-mile (112 km) mixed-terrain race with 40% pavement and 60% gravel.
The race is billed as one of the toughest 70-mile races to do, largely due to the relentless high-altitude climbing.
Kicking off at the Sea Otter Classic in April, the Life Time Grand Prix is a mixed-surface racing series in which a hand-selected cast of 60 international competitors travel across the United States to compete in some of the biggest events in the world. country’s stamina in pursuit of a $250,000 scholarship.
This season’s cast includes WorldTour roadies, gravel privateers, mountain bike Olympians, track world champions, a pro triathlete and even a former elite rower.
The goal of the series is to increase cycling fandom in the United States and showcase some of the best and unique off-road events across the country.
With the extreme distances, difficult terrain, high altitudes and a variety of racing disciplines to master, those who emerge victorious in October will have to be very experienced cyclists.
Ranking of the series
The series kicked off with a hot and dusty 80 kilometer XC mountain bike race in Monterey, California.
While serving as a trusted builder for the big tire racers in the peloton, some roadies struggled to stay upright in fat and loose conditions. The race was won by mountain biker Keegan Swenson for the men and Moriah Wilson for the women. Tragically, Wilson was murdered a month later while visiting Texas for another race.
The second round of the Life Time Grand Prix series took place at the biggest gravel race in the world: the Unbound 200 in Kansas. This 200 mile (321 km) gravel race is a real test of endurance, autonomy and equipment. Along with having to refuel for over 11 hours of riding, the sharp flint boulders have been known to slice through tires and speed up podium aspirations. Along the way, riders also have to make do with hilly terrain, sun-exposed roads, headwinds, and possibly tire-sucking mud.
While the men’s race was won – in a biting sprint finish – by Dutchman Ivar Slik, Swenson was the first ever Grand Prix competitor to cross the finish line, in second place, winning the second moto in the process. the series and continuing to dominate the series standings. Close behind Swenson are mountain biker Russell Finsterwald and former WorldTour roadie Alexey Vermeulen.
In the women’s race, it was mountain bike Olympian and series competitor Sofia Gomez Villafañe who won the muddy epic in dominant fashion, setting a new course record along the way by finishing under 11 hours. . Coming off of second place in Monterrey and a big win at Kansas, Villafañe leads the series standings ahead of Canadian Olympian Haley Smith and cross-country skier-turned-cyclist Evelyn Dong.
Crusher in the Tushar
Don’t let the relatively short distance fool you. This race is a challenge for even the strongest competitors. Running at an elevation that peaks at nearly 10,500 feet (3200 meters) above sea level, riders will be breathless as they tackle seriously steep inclines, from gravel descents to white seal and some 10,100 feet (3078 meters) of climbing.
The Tushars are among the tallest mountain ranges in Utah, home to several peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. As well as offering challenging (g)roads to race on, those who look up from their stalks will be treated to great valley views, snow-capped peaks and glistening alpine lakes.
The race ends at the top of the now infamous Col d’Crush with a final 12% gradient to bring the runners to the finish at 10,344′ above sea level.
With a course that traverses over 28 miles of pavement and 48 miles of rough off-road terrain, the choice of bike becomes interesting. Some will opt for a cyclocross race bike for speed on paved roads and light climbing while others will prioritize traction and sure handling and choose an XC mountain bike instead. However, the majority of riders will likely ride a gravel bike with wide but fast-rolling tires.
As mentioned, 60 elite riders were handpicked to compete in the series – 30 in the men’s category and 30 in the women’s category. This cast of 60 riders are some of the best elite cyclists in the United States and beyond.
Notable names include former and current WorldTour roadies Lachlan Morton, Laurens ten Dam, Ted King, Logan Owen, Kiel Reijnen, Alexey Vermeulen, Peter Stetina, Ruth Winder, Emily Joy Newsom and Amber Neben. There are also mountain bike pros like Keegan Swenson, Payson McElveen, Erin Huck, Sofia Gomez Villafañe and Lea Davison, plus a host of gravel experts.
At Crusher, the sharp end of the race will once again be stacked with talent. Pete Stetina will be keen to defend his crown while Zach Calton will want a rematch. The former winner finished second behind Stetina in 2021 and he will do his best to reclaim the bragging rights. Of course, many Life Time Grand Prix riders will make their Crusher debuts, so it’s hard to say who could make it to the top step of the podium. But based on the first two rounds of the series, we would look to riders like Laurens ten Dam, Vermeulen and, of course, the yet to beat Swenson.
In the women’s race, it will be difficult to bet against returning champion Villafañe. After her victories in Unbound and the five-day Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder, she is showing incredible form and she will be the woman to beat. Other runners to watch will be former Tushar champion Evelyn Dong, soloist Lauren De Crescenzo who just won a silver medal at the US Pro Nationals and Unbound podium runner-up Emily Newsom.
How to watch
All Inaugural Life Time Grand Prix Series Events (opens in a new tab) will be streamed worldwide on FloBikes. (opens in a new tab)
It should be noted, however, that FloBikes requires an annual subscription and some coverage may be regionally limited.