The legendary ICEMAN COMETH!

Since my first Iceman experience in 2013, I have been undeniably hooked. For years I would watch my friends post photos after the race while I ran at MIS for cross country states having a blast running but, deep down, a bit jealous. I always thought that the race was what made the weekend such fun, but after my first edition I realized it was the people that did that. Each year has brought me a new friend and this year was no different.
After a late racing season, I was close as I would ever come to being fit for the Iceman this year. As a Michigander, winning Iceman will always be a dream, but as a roadie, being fit for Iceman will always be a difficult task. The all out racing style of mountain bike racing, combined with being so late in the year makes it nearly impossible. As I watched the weather from Europe, I prepared for an epic year. Mentally prepared that is. My season had begun in January and ended in late October. Being mentally ready to go as deep as you do in January as you do a week into your offseason is not simple. I wrote about the ability to suffer on Payson’s Tuesday Handup. I think it applies here as well, even if it’s a bit forward in this post. "Getting onto that train that is riding away at the beginning of the race was like trying to get into the breakaway at the beginning of a stage, but then it only gets faster over the course of the race!" Mountain bike racing for a roadie is a whole new game, just with the same muscles.
I started the race at the back. Somewhat expecting a callup, somewhat late to the start line (mtn bikers line up so early!). The first 500 meters is on an open grass field before the trail starts and forces 100+ riders onto single track as you hit the first sand hill. My relaxed start had let me warm up a bit longer, but I still had to focus on the job at hand from the shot of the gun. That train of lead riders goes away without warning and if you aren’t on, you will never see them again. I pushed past riders while yelling loudly so people did not get in my way. What better way then to scream like a crazy man? Once passed, I but the bike into gear and pushed towards the tail end of the front group that was just starting to split. As I got into the line and started to try to catch my breath we entered the 2nd big single-track section, the bane of a roadie racing mountain bikes. I pushed hard and just focused on the wheel in front of me…this unfortunately didn’t pan out well. Todd Wells, a veteran mountain bike racer and an Olympian lost his front wheel in the mud.
We all came to a complete stop as I managed to keep the bike upright, take a deep breath and then go as hard as I could again to regain contact with the front group. Iceman is usually a fast mountain bike race. It depends on the conditions, but for the most part, its short steep climbs, lots of double and single track and even some dirt roads. If you have done the race a couple times, you start to realize where you are on course when you cross a certain road, or pass a fire pit. It helps, but it also hurts sometimes, knowing what is about to come in front of you. As we wound down one of the more difficult descents in the race I knew what was coming. It was a series of climbs on uneven terrain. Bumpy. Unforgiving. Last year it has been the end of my run in the front of the race, this year, I was determined to make it through. As I fought through, I again found myself dangling, but this time I told myself I had one more gear. I couldn't blame my bike anymore...Bianchi had supplied me with a Iceman crushing machine! I pulled out that time trial mentality and just went. Arms over the bars, head down, just pushing. Riding all out in search of Paysons rear wheel. Here’s what I said on the Tuesday Handup,
"Racing in the ProTour has shown me that you always need to keep racing forward, that the race is almost never over. Concentrating on yourself and the job at hand while blocking out the rest of the craziness allows you to tap into something deeper. Believing that you can do it and thinking positively is so important. For example, at Iceman this weekend, I found myself off the back of the front group by about 20 seconds at one point. There was not a moment where I thought to let up and wait for someone to help or to conserve energy.I put my head down and focused on the task. I concentrated on the last rider in the lead group, which happened to be a nice bright orange jersey of Payson. Then I slowly clawed my way back.”
Once back I knew I only had a couple more matches left. As we came into the final kilometers of the race, the pace was high. I tried to move up, and get in position for the final assault on Icebreaker hill. Icebreaker looks like a wall in front of you by the end of the race. I put all the chips in and went for it, but immediately felt all of the work I had done during the race. In mountain biking you must focus on keeping traction on your rear wheel as well as riding hard. I attacked the hill with all I had…the big boys were going for the win…I was fighting to stay in contention for top 10. Cole House was coming on the left, Troy Wells and Todd Wells just in front and I went to pass Jordan Wakely on the right. It was a fight of will to the top where it became impossible to pass before the final 50 meters to the finish. As I watched Cole battle his way in front of the Wells brothers through a tight corner, I put all I had to stay in front of Jordan…whom I assumed was the 10th rider. At the end I finished 9th. Completely satisfied, but already hungry to see if I can be better next year. This race will always be one of my favorites. Whether I am fit or not, the real draw is the friends all around. It makes it a time to remember every year. In 2013 Sarah Demerly and I made memories (not all legal) and ate one of my all time best breakfasts! 2014 I met Tim Stoepker and his wife, dog and baby when they allowed me to crash in their beautiful cabin! In 2015 I met Seth and Emily, and eventually their awesome kids Reagan and Lane through Brian Adams. 2016 I met Jesse and Kevin and their kids Adri and Keira through Seth and Emily...and this year I met Josh Creem, Josh made me Belgian waffles so it is safe to say we are now forever friends! I think you can see that this event is so much more than just a race. Thanks again for a great event Iceman, until next year!