Canadian and drop-bar enthusiast, Geoff Kabush, returns to defend his Iceman Cometh in 2019, but a glance at the start list will tell you Kabush won’t have the race entirely his way this weekend. A deep and talented roster of riders will toe the line to see if they can dethrone Kabush as Iceman champ on a course that is uniquely climb-heavy towards our home base at Timber Ridge. An elite posse of professionals, a motley crew of locals, and thirty miles of northern Michigan hero dirt will ensure the 30th anniversary of the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge will be one of the most exciting editions yet!
Can anyone beat Geoff Kabush? He’s on pace to win three Icemans on the trot, an exceptionally rare feat in the thirty-year history of the race. If anyone is going to unseat Kabush, we reckon it might be one of these guys.
Watching the finale last year, Alexey Vermeulen cut a determined figure in solitary pursuit of eventual winner, Kabush. Coming into the line completely spent, but just a handful of seconds behind a repeat champion, Alexey was always going to come back this year for another chance to take home the win. A former WorldTour pro, he has the talent. After another season of mountain biking under his belt, 2019 might just be the year that Alexey wins his first Iceman Cometh.
Former National Champion, Payson McElveen, will bring his mustache and good attitude back to the start line in Kalkaska for another run at the Iceman title. McElveen has come oh-so-close to victory at this race before, back in 2017, with a 2nd place behind (you guessed it) Geoff Kabush.
If Kabush is unable to defend his title, Peter Disera sure wouldn’t mind keeping the title in Canadian hands. Disera has had an incredible year on the World Cup circuit, including a mind-blowing sixth place in Les Gets, France. His first crack at Iceman came in 2018, where he impressed on his debut with a fourth place.
Russell Finsterwald is back again for the race, and we love having this guy in our Pro Men field. His fearless, attacking racing style has made him a fan-favorite and everyone would love to see him take a well-earned maiden Iceman win.
With his last win coming in 2014, Brian Matter is just plain due for a victory at Iceman. He knows this race like the back of his hand, and he only needs to read the race correctly in order to put himself in with a shot at winning. It’s a recipe he’s gotten right on more than a few occasions, and everyone at the finish line would love to see a true Iceman legend take another victory.
A late addition to the race, Ted King flies the flag for Cannondale and maple syrup enthusiasts everywhere. The former WorldTour rider for Cervelo Test Team and Cannondale has been ‘retired’ for a few seasons now, but that’s simple meant he’s been traveling the country to crush skulls at gravel events both big and small. With race cancellations due to the Getty fires in Los Angeles, he’s swapping dry heat for cold, soggy fun for the first time.
The Dark Horses
Matt Acker’s Beard is better known for 24-rides than short sprints like Iceman, but don’t count him out. The nastier conditions are, the better we like Acker’s odds for pulling one over on the favorites to take a W.
Cole House rode a gravel bike at Peak to Peak two weeks back; perhaps a sneak peek at his steed of choice for Saturday? In any case, the perennial top ten finisher is someone to watch on Saturday.
Nick Zambeck enters the Pro race with zero pressure and flying under the radar. A season of road racing has given him some off the charts fitness, and paired with his bike handling skills, he has the ability to hang with just about anyone. If Zambeck can get to the front group by Sand Lakes Road, he’s golden. For him it’ll be about managing his efforts of the last climbs and giving himself a chance to spring a surprise after Wood Chip.
Jeff Owens is 135 pounds of positive energy and Traverse City’s nicest refrigerator salesman. Jeff whips up on us all summer long without so much as breaking a sweat, and his smile never fades, even if you’re going all-out trying to drop him. It’s infuriating! But he’s just so nice. It sure is great of all you fast guys to come up to TC to make Owens push himself. For once.
When it comes to crunch time at Iceman, Jordan Wakeley always seems to be there. He’s been on the wrong side of the deciding split on a few occasions, but if he makes the front group on the right side of Williamsburg road in 2019, even the biggest names will have their hands full trying to beat the Tower of Power from Grayling.
Jamison Sheppard was a DNF last year, but this guy is the real deal. He’s a rider without a weak spot, equally comfortable on climbs, in singletrack, and blasting through two track sections. He’s due to raise more than a few eyebrows in 2019.
The Young Guns
We have to give a shoutout to a host of young guys taking on the Pro category. Keegan Korienek was a jaw-dropping 26th in his Pro Men debut in 2018, and we can’t wait to see what he can do this year after another season of riding and racing in his legs.
Hagerty’s duo of Garrett Jenema and Max Meyer have shown themselves to have talent and work ethic in equal measure, which is the ideal recipe for brewing up fast cyclists. These guys will undoubtedly test their more experienced counterparts come race day and for the next thirty years of Iceman to come.
Braiden Voss is another incredible young talent from Suttons Bay, MI, who is coming home from school to show everyone his stuff. He’s developed from a raw talent into a race-savvy competitor, and he’ll be in with a shout if he can get to the front before the fireworks begin.
Almost a decade ago, we met this short, round kid from Cadillac and got him to race for the bike shop Cody worked at. This kid is now way taller and way, way faster than us. Tim Coffey is now a collegiate stud at Brevard, and he’s taking another shot at impressing his local fans with some Iceman glory. Papa Coffey must be so proud of this kid’s dedication to his sport and to school.
Due to the exceptional class of riders this race attracts, this preview gets more and more difficult to write each year. If we missed a rider who you think will hoist the big bottle of Bell’s at Timber, be sure to tell us in the comments.
The Pro Men take off from Kalkaska at 2:30pm. Get ready to yell your heads off for them along the course and at Timber Ridge in particular. Check out the complete start list here. Decide for yourself who to watch out for by taking a look at the 2018 results.