Traverse City Michigan isn't exactly a destination that comes to mind when you think about the strong cycling communities around the U.S. But it's home to the biggest single-day cycling event in the Country, Bells Beers Iceman Cometh, and what a heck of an event it is! There are 50-some waves of around 100 riders, that start at 8am and go through the day. Its a point-to-point race, mostly on doubletrack and dirt roads, that's held rain, snow or shine. Some years the weather is terrible, below freezing with feet of snow covering the course, while other years the temps are mild and the course is fast and dry. This year we were pretty lucky, treated to arguably the fastest course in the race's history, under sunny skies.
I arrived in town on Tuesday, coming directly from the USAC Sport Committee meetings in Colorado Springs. It gave me a rare opportunity to go explore some of the other trails, and spend some time breaking bread with locals. The T-City community and Einstein Cycles welcomed me and Spencer with open arms. We chased around on a Thursday evening shop ride out on the Vasa Trails, spent time at the Expo, and enjoyed just getting to hang out at the shop, meeting new friends in town for the weekend.
By the time we got to race day, the anticipation had been built, and I was more nervous for this start than I have been for a race in a long time. We completed the 30mi course in under 1:25, likely the fastest times ever put up. My strategy at Iceman is usually to survive the first 28 miles, and then race the final two. Its such a flat, fast course, that things rarely break up and its all about positioning coming into the final few kilometers. This year was no different, other than that Howie (who went on to win) took off early, and stuck it to the end because we were disorganized in the chase group. The start was fast, crashes took place in the middle of the pack, and everyone was fighting hard to be in the right position. About 10 miles in, I dropped my chain and was standing on the side of the course when Howie attacked, so I'll never know whether I would have been able to respond when he went, but I've just gotta be happy knowing that I was able to close the 30 seconds I lost up to the front of the chase group. That in itself was a huge effort when the front end was moving at 20+ mph, I can hardly believe I was able to make it back. Once I made it to the front of the chase, I tried to contribute, but was careful not to burn the rest of my matches, saving something for the final few hills. Although I was feeling good and well positioned as elbows were being thrown going up the final chicane, my right hamstring had different ideas, and locked up as Payson sent a huge flyer. I had to throttle back and hold on to whatever position I could, the best I was able to muster at that point was 7th, which felt like a huge order limping in over the last quarter mile. The race is such a crap shoot, its November, people's fitness is all over the board, and although I felt like I was as strong as anyone in the group, the cards just didn't fall my way this year, but man what a fun day of racing through colorful foliage with a bunch of my good friends. I can't wait to get back next year!
This really does cap off the MTB race season for me, but 2016 isn't over. Even through I've missed the past few weeks of MFG Cyclocross, I still have an opportunity to win the overall, and supposedly the last race in Woodland Park, Seattle, this weekend is always the best! Cant wait to get back to riding the trail bike, and chasing around on skinny tires. Oh, and then there is SSCXWC in December... Better get my jorts out!