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One down, One to go

Team Bikeman - Race Reports

I had two goals this year and the first was to win my age group at Iceman Cometh, the proclaimed biggest point-to-point race in North America with its 4700 competitors. After a stressful few weeks of staying healthy and watching the weather, I was set for the 30 miles of sand, grit, seasonal roads and singletrack.

Last year there were call ups for wave 1 and a number of us had confirmed the same for this year. Upon arrival at the start, I learned that wasn’t going to be the case and my late arrival placed me near the very back with 100 of the fastest MTB’ers from across the Midwest ahead of me. I took a deep breathe and contemplated my plan - only pass, don’t let anyone overtake.

It was, 9am, 34 degrees and a few snow flurries confirmed that this was Iceman - the gun went off. No sooner had I crossed the start line there was a crash - ugh, another stressor. Restarting down the shoot, a right turn and across West Kalkaska road and there was another crash slowing me down - all I could think was that I was on the wrong station and the train is leaving without me.

The first mile or so is sandy two track then into the first of the singletrack. The pace was slow enough for me to greet a few racing colleagues but I as the pace picked up I dropped them like a bad habit: every space ahead of me I filled anxiously trying to get in touch with the front, or regain as many spots as possible. I remember telling myself that my legs were good because I was closing gaps easily and dropping others behind. I was in “all in” mode.

The kilometers clicked by and I looked for every opportunity for speed. I drafted when the pace was high and moved passed when it dropped. I was making decent time but the front runners were gone.

After the Dockery Road crossing, the pace stayed high through tacky singletrack and sandy seasonal roads. Eventually we turned onto Sand Lakes Road where the pace is always high but smooth and relatively straight for a mile to feed and take stock of the group and who’s ahead. We had about ten of us in the group at this stage and the typical “sitters in”, “workers” and those about “done”. The latter group are those we were passing on the road and had been in the front group but had bitten off more than they could chew. Eventually the same would be the demise of our group. I sat at the back, finished a bottle and moved immediately to the front, there was others ahead, we can catch them, I thought.

Snow was on the ground at the high point and the westerly wind was picking up on the open areas, right into our faces. Across Broomhead and eventually Williamsburg Roads and this is the start of the race gets hard - lots of steep glacial punchy climbs that tear into your soul: Anita’s Hill, the VASA climb, Icebreaker and Woodchip Hill, they were coming fast a furious. We’d caught a few a long the way and lost a few. At 16k to go I made a move to the front, not just a pull but an attempt to break the group, we got down to six or so and others were feeling the urgency. We were reeling others in but not fast enough.

At 5k I went again, and at 1k again trying to break free as we rode the singletrack at Timber Ridge marking the completion of the race. The party hadn’t quite started as we entered the finish but the noise was quite evident. Families were waiting and cheering, Georgia Gould and Frankie Andreu did their color commentary and I was finished. At this point I had no idea how I’d placed, my Strava segments showed that I’d had plenty of PR’s. The course varies slightly every year so it’s difficult to compare but being under 1:50 was decent. Eventually the results were posted... goal one accomplished. Now on to goal number two.

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