Iceman Cometh registration was today. Another round of frustration. Despite their efforts to put the last two year’s registration debacles behind them, we all found out today that USA Cycling’s registration system was not capable of handling the traffic surge (check out their Facebook page for a few examples). Because the race sells out on the first day every year, web traffic on opening day is extremely high. There were a ton of stories on Facebook, MMBA forums, and twitter from frustrated mountain bikers who experienced several hour wait times, duplicate charges on their credit cards, and no confirmation of their successful registration. However, I am happy to report that I am in for the 3rd year in a row….I think. No, really; I’m in.
The Iceman Cometh Challenge is the largest mountain biking event in Michigan and one of the larger races in the U.S. With 4,500 riders plus professionals, only Ore to Shore comes close as a Michigan event. Riders come from all over the country (the highest concentration originating from the Midwest) to compete for a ton of cash prizes, swag, bragging rights, and a sense of accomplishment. At about 30 miles, the point-to-point race (Kalkaska to Traverse City, MI) is long enough to be considered a real challenge for beginner to novice riders, a long time trial for enthusiast competitors, and a sprint race to the professionals (sprint meaning short). Starting in waves of 80 on average, riders race through two track and single track and are timed via race chip.
The race has also gained its notoriety for the unpredictable weather. Because it’s held on the first Saturday in November, participants can expect nothing when they sign up, particularly because sign up is on March 1. While today’s weather (mid thirties in lower West Michigan where I’m at) may be similar to temperatures found on race day, it is also not uncommon to find a foot of snow on the ground. Last year’s race was considered ‘niceman’ with temps in the mid 40’s and bright sunshine but the year before there was a couple of inches of snow in the woods with early start temperatures in the low 20’s, warming up to the high 30’s which made for a muddy mess to the late starters.
Outside of the race itself, there’s plenty to do during Iceman weekend. Traverse City in general is a phenomenal escape destination with a fun downtown, beautiful scenery (its only about a 30 minute drive from Sleeping Bear Dunes – voted Most Beautiful Place in America on ABC’s Good Morning America), and plenty of winery’s and brewery’s to relax in. At the end of the race riders are welcomed by thousands of cheerleaders, warm food, and beer. Unlike other races I’ve attended, everyone hangs out for several hours as all of the waves of riders come in. At 2:00 the awards ceremonies begin for all of the race categories and at 2:30 the pro’s start from downtown Kalkaska. The pro’s arrive sometime around 4:00-4:15 followed by the pro awards ceremony which completes the race day.
Even though the event is currently sold out, there are typically plenty of opportunities during the summer to buy an entry off someone who’s plans have changed. Just visit the MMBA’s forums for entries that are for sale. I’m convinced that if you’ve ever thought about racing in a mountain bike race, you would not be disappointed by starting with this one. I did and have been hooked ever since.