Two Saturdays have passed since the 25th running of the Iceman Cometh Challenge, the largest mountain bike race in the Nation, held annually in Northern Michigan. A quick stop through any local bike shop and you will still see Iceman bikes with number plates zip tied to the bars, awaiting replacement parts or their owners to claim them after post-race cleaning.2014 was an historic year, having had 6 riders that completed all 25 and were on hand this year for some special festivities put together by Steve Brown, Iceman himself and the Race Organizer from that first race in 1990, won by Don Fedrigon Jr (who completed this year’s race). The conditions at the Kalkaska start line were anything but ideal. Rain was coming down and the temperature struggled to get much above freezing. Rain for the days leading up to race day and substantial logging in sections of the race, made for possibly the worst trail conditions in the history of the epic race. The conditions alone contributed to Pro Rider times in excess of 20min slower over the nearly 30 mile point-to-point race.
The morning amateur race consisted of 50 waves going off every 3 minutes and made of nearly 100 riders per wave. Riders were seeded based on previous Iceman times and/or Strava data for Iceman rookies like myself. Starting September 1st, my entire training focus was on this race. I completed 10 pre rides of the course extending from Kalkaska to Traverse City through two-tracks and singletrack sections. In talking with Brian Matter, this year’s Pro Winner, we agreed that I may have done more Iceman course recon than anyone other than those planning the race. As a reward for that training, I was seeded in Wave 2. This seeding was a benefit that was not fully realized until seeing how the course had deteriorated for even the early waves behind me. At 9:03am, I was off representing Hammer Nutrition/IC3 National Team. After the first mile of Kalkaska pavement, the field narrowed through the two-track back roads, leading up to the logging sections where the course mud could be likened to brownie batter and my choice to use my Framed FatTire Bike paid off in the end on many climbs and sections found to be unrideable by my 29er-clad fellow riders. My goal of a Top 10 Category finish was doable for me, as long as I stayed on track through my checkpoints and my on-the-bike data had me right on track. I crossed the finish line in 2:24:01 with a 7th Place IceBike finish and even beat the likes of Trek Pro Rider and Olympian Travis Brown. This was a great finish, given the conditions and I look forward to competing to win the IceBike Category in 2015 if the Lord wills.
The Pro Race started at 2:30pm after thousands of riders had ridden the course, now almost totally unrecognizable in many sections. An early group separated and contained the likes of 3 time Winner Brian Matter, 2013 Winner Geoff Kabush, 2014 Ore To Shore Winner Cole House, among others. The lead group dropped Isaac Neff with a mechanical as they came into the renowned VASA Ski Trail system and the final miles of the race. Matter had the disadvantage with Kabush and Scott 3 Rox teammate Derek Zandstra in the final group, but Matter’s determination and conditioning proved to be more than the team tactics would overcome. With a time of 1:56:54, Matter won his historic 4th Iceman in absolutely brutal conditions, becoming the first rider to win 4. In a conversation with Matter after the race, he told me that he was happy to have won this 25th version of the race in challenging conditions and over some of the fastest riders in the world. I am sure he will come back for #5. I will be back also.