The Crusher race coming this weekend

Self-reliance is a main feature of the upcoming 225-mile bike race, The Crusher. Participants will travel from Copper Harbor to Marquette Township Saturday to Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Timothy Carmean)

MARQUETTE — Its name — The “Crusher” — says it all.

The bicycling event, which runs Friday through Sunday, gives riders an opportunity to explore Upper Peninsula gravel, two-tracks and fire roads at their own pace.

Races are of varying lengths, but probably the most grueling is the new 225-mile route from Copper Harbor to Marquette Township.

Todd Poquette, “director of adventure” for the 906 Adventure Team, is event director of The Crusher.

He believes riders being self-supportive is the important aspect of The Crusher.

“That’s a part of the ethos of our events, meaning we create a challenge for people,” Poquette said. “We try to give them as much information as possible for the year leading up to the day of the event — to answer questions, help them make selections or advise them on gear, but they have to do their homework.”

It’s all on the riders, then, to complete the race.

However, they know this going in.

“We’re very upfront with that, saying, ‘We’re not going to hold your hand. We’re not going to pamper you out there. You need to show up to do this,'” Poquette said.

That means having a purpose besides winning, he said.

Participants, though, won’t be completely unsupported. According to the website, crushergravel.com, “If you suffer a mechanical (issue), quit, begin crying uncontrollably, or end up in Canada: Text Your Full Name and #CRUSHED to 906-748-0036.”

But by the end of the event, team members become friends following a strenuous bonding experience.

“They spend 24 hours together in the rain, in the dark,” Poquette said. “It’s not to be cliche or overly dramatic to say that it changed people’s lives, but events like this do.”

Poquette said the event started in 2014 as The Huron Mountain Crusher, a “local, grassroots event that very few people knew of.”

After participating in the event, Poquette determined more people should be made aware of it.

In 2018, The Crusher became better known in the biking world.

“The whole intent is to provide a number of options for people to get out and explore the U.P. in a non-singletrack delivery,” Poquette said. “So, you don’t need to have the singletrack skills to do this event.”

Routes that encompass gravel roads and two-tracks lend themselves to participation by more people, he said.

That doesn’t mean the experience is easy.

“It’s completely adventure-driven in that there’s not a single sign put out on the course,” Poquette said.

For the supported package, participants and their bikes will be shuttled to Copper Harbor from Marquette, while for the unsupported package, riders will get themselves to Copper Harbor.

In the two-person team race of 50-plus miles, checkpoints have to be reached, with participants taking selfies with their partners to prove they made it. Poquette said they also will take different routes to get to those checkpoints.

For the solo 225-mile event, gear check takes place on Friday night, with the race to start at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Riders must leave L’Anse by 2 a.m. Sunday; racers who haven’t arrived and left by this time will be marked as a “Did Not Finish.”

Riders must then cross the finish line at the Forestville Trailhead primitive campground in Marquette Township before 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Participants in the 225-mile ride and 50-mile run will carry beacons so their progress can be tracked across the course. The action can be followed at trackleaders.com /crusher19.

He said acclaimed mountain biker Tinker Juarez of California is planning to compete in the longest race, and in fact wants to complete it in 16 hours.

Other events include a 30-mile ride and a 100-mile ride.

However, Poquette said the 225-mile enhanced travel ride is getting the most attention.

“They’re going to get a full flavor of the U.P.,” he said, with the route descending from Copper Harbor to Lac La Belle. Riders will cut across the Keweenaw Peninsula to the Freda mining ruins, where there is a checkpoint. In fact, Poquette said riders will have to take a picture of themselves by the smokestack.

After skirting the Ottawa National Forest, they will head to L’Anse and then enter the remote Huron Mountains area. Eventually they will get to a spot called Mosquito Gulch by the Mulligan Plains.

“It’s basically 3 miles of pushing your bike uphill,” Poquette said.

The finish line at Forestville might be easier, but it’s still wild.

Race organizers intentionally set up the route through wilderness, although he acknowledged that search-and-rescue stressed that 80% percent of the route has no cell service.

Again, the participants know this ahead of time.

But they will get to experience what Poquette called the “awesomeness” of riding from Copper Harbor to Marquette.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.