Written by Michael Green Tuesday, 05 December 2017 00:00
It’s November again, the first weekend in November to be exact, and time for the annual pilgrimage to Traverse City, Michigan and the 2017 edition of ICEMAN COMETH.
I’m not 100% sure of the exact count, but I think 2017 is my 17th trip to the great white north to venture into the woods with 4500 of my closest friends. Over the years I’ve broken chains, had tires blowout, destroyed my shoulder but I keep coming back to the 30 mile point-to-point race in the forests of Michigan’s northern lower peninsula.
I was fortunate to scrape a Wave 1 start, although towards the back, and had a specific tactic in mind - overtake as many as I can and don’t let anyone overtake me. Simple. It was funny looking around at the bikes of my foe for everyone was riding carbon yet my scandium Kona Big Unit was sure to take many of these other racers down.
It was 35 degrees the gun sounded at 9am, but no wind. It had rained overnight so the sandy soils should be decent. We sprinted the fenced section and while everyone slowed as the two tack approached I left it to the last minute to use my brakes passing as many as possible early in the race.
The first section of double-track quickly turned into single-track and a bottleneck. The pace was slow and for what seemed like forever the pace was crazy slow. There was a lot of shouting as people jumped around others and tires rubbing. This went on for the first five or six miles before things started to open up and the speeds got higher. By now the pace was getting high and the first selection occurred, and it happened right behind me. We were rolling through a wet, wooded section of single-track when, what seemed to be the rider right behind me, hit a root and went down completely blocking the trail. I know better to look behind otherwise the same would happen to me, so I stuck with my plan, overtake and don't get overtaken.
Iceman is a race track at times followed by interludes of slow steep climbs, so positioning is massively important and the right wheel makes the difference. There were a couple of occasions early on where I took it upon myself to close gaps and secure a ride, but eventually the field was split into many small groups. I pulled more than my share, but was feeling pretty comfortable, it was almost as if the slow start suited me and I continually pushed the pace. There’s a long section of seasonal road, mostly a false flat but fast. Here I fueled and made an attempt to catch the group ahead: if anyone wants to join me, jump on. No-one joined me and I was successful, a bit cooked but the match was worth it for I had a ride in a faster train for a while.
This group started to splinter as we crossed the 12 mile to go point (I remember specifically as I crashed here last year) and again I filled the gaps. There were four of us now and I hadn’t seen any of those I usually race against - either they were far ahead or just behind, I really had no clue. I pulled the group for quite a bit and slowly there was just two remaining until someone new popped into the group and went to the front. A new burst of energy and speed was welcomed and another youngster joined on from behind and again we were four.
For the remaining few miles we were now zipping along nicely although it was starting to get cold - the wind was up and along with it, snow. My Schwalbe Racing Ralph’s were hooking up nicely as I leaned into the corners. With three miles to go I came across a familiar face, someone I’ve raced with and trained with over the years but never beaten (different age category). I followed into the final stretch and as the finish line was visible I sprinted ahead. We joked about it at the end but this was evidence of a solid day in the woods.
I raced back to my car, changed and got back to the finish line for presentations. I was very pleased with the top step this year and exited to defend as champion in 2018 where I’ll repeat all the stress and fun of this awesome event.
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