It's a magical time to be in Northern Michigan for so many reasons. The leaves are starting to turn the most brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. The hot, humid morning rides are giving way to crisp, clear sunrises that make getting on your bike before work even more rewarding than usual. But most importantly, the countdown to the most anticipated race in the Midwest is seemingly quickening. Indeed, with just over a month before the Iceman Cometh on November 5th, spandex-enthusiasts around the area are turning away extra helpings of dinner and increasing their rides by a few more miles each to prepare for the highlight of the racing season.
Why is Iceman such a big deal to so many cyclists? The course is fun and fast, but certainly not unique as far as Michigan mountain bike races go. The timing of the race isn't ideal for most riders, as the cool temperatures and fewer hours of daylight hamper training leading up to the race. At $100, it's not the cheapest race to do either.
The magic comes from the experience that each and every rider has. No matter the wave, no matter the finishing time, each rider feels part of something much bigger than themselves. It is eye-opening to see 4,000 people in Kalkaska at any time of the year, but 4,000 people on bikes? At only a few other events in the country can you see that many people at a bike race, and probably only in Michigan would you be able to find 4,000 people willing to do it in November in temperatures so cold that most people won't go outside to walk the dog.
The fact that you share the same course with World Champions, Olympic Medalists, current and former Canadian, American and other national champions is an absolute treat as well. Bob Smith, full-time accountant, can see how fast his time compares to former World Champion and 2016 Bronze medal winner Catherine Pendrel. And when her time is an hour faster than his, he gets to say "Shoot, guys! I almost beat a World Champion today!" to his fellow racers at the local bar after the race.
It's this experience that keeps people from around the country coming back year after, keeps us training in the cold weather, the darkness and the fatigue of a summer's worth of cycling and summer activities. I don't know about you all, but I can't wait to ride bikes in the woods with 4,000 of my closest friends!
Wes is a professional cyclist that has a 40-hour per week hobby in marketing that pays most of his bills. He works for Swell Development, teaches indoor cycling at Yen Yoga & Fitness, and rides for Einstein Cycles-Short's Brewing. He lives in Traverse City, MI with his wife and his Beagle, Disco Volante.