The pinnacle race is now over for Michigan mountain bikers — Iceman Cometh. The race from Kalkaska to Traverse City kicks off every year and continues to deliver the best experience one can find in the states (in my opinion, which is based on . . . well . . . nothing). We’re talking about dirt bike rollouts, police cruiser road shut-downs, massive speed and way too many damn tree leaves to count. After a one year absence from racing (I still made the trek in 2012 to participant like a crazy yelling Belgium at a cross race), I returned. This year’s time failed to eclipse my previous times of 2010 and 2011; but unlike Craig Webb, I seem to lose performance as I age.
Nonetheless, much changed at Iceman during my one-year absence, which I think is worth mentioning. Besides, it might be more informative than the details of my 30 miles, which to summarize was 30 miles of pure pleasure anyways. So without further adieu, here are my top unforgettable changes that I noticed:
1) Triathlon’s growth has affected Iceman. Without citing to “real” data, I believe the growth is surpassing any other segment. But for what it is worth, I would predict cross/gravel road racing to make the next jump. Wait... what the hell does this have to do with Iceman. I thought the same until I saw a few “speed-increasing” items now used at the race. I spotted one individual with a straight-up Specialized time trial helmet. While it looked ridiculous, he must have saved at least 3 seconds off his time and gets the award for being prepared to be mocked the most after the race. I also noticed that compression sleeves are in, which all came from the triathlon crowd. The compression sleeves make perfect sense since one would want to save their calves for that after race SPRINT to the beer ticket counter. I’m totally opting in on the compression gear next year since I got beat to the keg post race by a few hundred folks. Also sharing the same familiarity with triathlon courses,were crashes occurring even though people were riding in a single file line on mostly flat roads, i.e. the Iceman course (I know there are a few hilly courses so don’t send me any hate mail), which I can only attribute to the inability to handle a bike. What I did not notice yet was behind the seat water bottles, so for 2014 I will take the initiative to bring even more triathlon goodies to the race.
2) NO OUTSIDE BEER! . . . seriously. You can’t even backpack in your own beverages anymore. While a good looking Irish guy like myself didn’t have to pay for my beer, I found the restrictions counter to a great drunken year-end festival, which started behind the grassroots theme. Plus, no offense to Bells but it is not the same as Rootbeer Schnapps on a cold Fall day.
3) Finish line crowds continue to grow and improve. The noise at the finish line for the pro race was phenomenal, something every racer should enjoy! I can’t explain in words how awesome it is to witness from either side of the race fence. So if you can race Pro/Cat 1 then do it; and if you can race in the morning and stay for the Pro/Cat 1 race then do that instead.
4) Rigid forks are finally dead, but 29ers were everywhere. For those that want to dispute rigid forks, you probably were one of two people riding one and are now offended. I can’t help it you missed the memo. This year I could only spot a handful of racers opting to beat the hell out of themselves for an extra few grams of weight saving. I too once did the rigid thing . . . once. One time was enough.
5) Unlike our American Society’s thinking, it is starting to look like fatter is cooler. Despite Dr. Oz’s efforts to slim the world, forget anything other than fat. 2013 is now officially dubbed the year of the fat bike; I mean, once there is a race category at Iceman for it, then you know it is here to stay. It’s also difficult to question the professionalism of this category when D. Musto is throwing down in this category.
In closing, to get over the slump of no racing, look to your local cross races or drink beer and watch those streamed online. Either one should provide some performance enhancement by next season. You can also scour your local bike shops for faster, lighter, more expensive parts, or a whole new fat bike. If you raced Iceman, you deserve something new anyways.
Have fun this winter and stay safe!!