Thanks, Dad: A father’s Day Shout Out

Thanks, Dad: A Father's Day Shout Out

Some of my earliest memories aren’t just of my dad, they’re of my dad and bikes. Growing up, my brother, Wes, and I lived to go pedal around the block with our dad. I remember those early pedal strokes vividly; I even remember the exact day our dad, Joe, took the training wheels off my 12″ wheeled Murray BMX bike and pushed me through the front yard. 

And directly into the neighbor’s shrubbery. We got the hang of it eventually, however, and graduated from rides down Ninth Street to Deering’s for 5 cent Tootsie Rolls to joining him on his ‘training rides’ behind the State Hospital. You have to give him plenty of credit for patience. We couldn’t make it up the hills, nor could we be trusted to safely get down the rough and steep descents. Joe picked out a very short loop and told us to stick to the lap. At the time, I guessed it was maybe a mile long; today, I can assure you that it wasn’t more than 100 yards, maximum. Still, after one lap together, he’d take off, doing dozens of laps in thirty minutes, with Wes and I plodding along and wondering if we’d ever, ever be able to keep up with the man who, we assumed, was the fastest bicycle rider in the world. 

When we had a babysitter, we’d get to go the to the races and watch him. He raced at Shanty Creek, Sugar Loaf, all those early 90s events in Northern Michigan. Wes and I would be so proud to see our dad out on the course at the same time as riders like Tinker Juarez; we didn’t really get all the categories yet. I know it meant a lot for him to have us there, too. I remember after one race, he joined the queue of riders at the results board (they used to print them out on paper way back in the day, kids!) and turn around with the biggest smile on his face I’d ever seen and shout, with both hands flashing three fingers, “Third place! Third place!”. Sport class hero, but hey, he was my hero. 

As we got older, we got faster. I will never forget the first time we dropped Joe. We used to ride the Leelanau Trail to Suttons Bay on the weekend. The way out was Stage One, the return leg was Stage Two, and we’d grab Clif Bars or Pop-Tarts at the gas station as a break in between. In those days, the trail wasn’t paved all the way north, and we imagined that dirt and gravel stretch as a secteur of cobblestones, like we’d seen on TV watching Paris-Roubaix. It was a hot, dry day and when I countered Wes attack, Joe couldn’t go with me; I rode up to Wes’ wheel and we stayed clear all the way to Suttons Bay. I can distinctly remember looking back and seeing my dad’s teal Giro helmet and dusty, dirty face just barely visible in front of huge cloud of twisting, thick dust being kicked up behind him. He was giving it all he had to catch us, and I don’t doubt the immensity of the moment was lost on any of us. 

In high school, Wes and I got away from cycling. Baseball, football, track all flew by, but cycling, and our dad, was waiting for us on the other side. It was my dad that let me borrow his bike to race the first-ever Barry-Roubaix, the first spring I was riding bikes again. He made it to almost all of our races, combining the roles of coach, soigneur, mechanic, and cheerleader. He’d hand us water bottles during races, clean our bikes when we got home, and no matter what the result was, he’d ask us if we had fun. To this day, that’s the question he asks first; win or lose, it was about enjoying it. 

Joe hasn’t been able to ride much the past few years, and it’s maybe a little fitting that one of his last big hit-outs was his first-ever Iceman Cometh Challenge. November is really late in the year to stay fit, so he’d never tried it before. I finally just signed him up and told him he was racing. It was 2014; every racer who was there knows how that day went. Through the cold, the rain, the frozen fingers, he finished, though I never doubted he’d do anything other than try his best…and have fun. 

Today, take a second to thank your dad and maybe get the old man out for a pedal. Even if it’s just around the block or down the street for some ice cream, we are incredibly lucky to have a sport that we can share with the people we love for our entire lives. 

From everyone at the Iceman Cometh Challenge, have a very Happy Father’s Day, and we’ll see you in the woods soon. 

Favorite Segments: Rally Round The Rock

Favorite Segments: Rally Round The Rock

It’s not the hardest, most selective, or most brutal part of the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge. In fact, it’s one most riders look forward to. 

There are many, many tough segments on the Iceman Cometh Challenge course that feature every single year. They might be steep hills like Anita’s, challenging descents like the Water Bottle Hill By-Pass, or just really, really fast like Sand Lakes Road. But the one I’ve always focused on and looked forward to is RallyRoundTheRock. 

Since GPS head units starting offering Live Segments, we’ve all probably starred a few segments to chase. In a race, the Live Segment feature is almost more useful in simply reminding yourself when the next climb or choke point might be. For me, Rally Round The Rock was always a bright, loud ‘ding’ that not only was I past Williamsburg Road, but I was also nearing home turf and the Vasa Pathway proper. 

The segment is fast, and that’s definitely reflected in some of the top times posted over the years. Alexey Vermeulen set the KOM time by in 2016 at 2:51, a single second ahead of Alex Vanias on the very same day. Last year, Christy Keely took the QOM at 3:02, with a lot of riders coming in around that three-minute mark for the early waves and pro races. 

That means hitting the 1.1 mile section at twenty miles per hour! The segment includes a long straight section of quasi-singletrack that parallels Sand Lakes Road. It’s a slight descent that’s punctuated near halfway with a sharp, sandy right that shoots you across the road to the north. It’s another straight stretch before another right turn onto the gravel two-track. For locals, that two-track is the final few hundred meters of the Power Section, and the return home to the Pathway. 

For a lot of racers, hitting RallyRoundTheRock, whether they know they’re on it or not, mean you’re almost done with another edition of Iceman and another season of mountain bike racing. It’s often fueled by loud cheering at Williamsburg Road, and you’re often spurred on again at the Rock, where Sand Lakes hits the Vasa. 

If you need a little something to look forward to on race day, make sure you’ve got this queued up and remember, when you hit this segment, there’s no point saving anything; you’re almost done! 

Victory! We saved the trail!! Thank you everyone!!!

Victory!  We saved the trail!!  Thank you everyone!!!

Thank you everyone who took the time to e-mail the county commissioners or come to the meeting.  It was standing room only at the meeting.  After debate and public comment,  the Grand Traverse County Commission decided to sell the land to the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.  

Read the breaking story

Thank you Ice People,  GTRLC and GT County Commissioners!

May Ice Society Leaderboard: How Do You Stack Up?

May Ice Society Leaderboard: How Do You Stack Up?

May is prime time to rack up some miles, and the Ice Society sure got out and rode!

Our integrated Ice Society training leaderboard is a cool way to see how your training measures up to other Iceman racers around the state and around the world. All you need to do is link up your Strava account with your Iceman account and you’ll start showing up on the list. It’s always interesting to watch as training ramps up with the improving weather, and May saw a big jump in activities!

Paul Dodd was the lone rider to break the 4,000 point mark, with Markus Stumpp and our own race director Cody Sovis making up the top three. Those points are calculated based on miles, ride time, elevation gain, and effort level, offering up a pretty neat way to quantify riding of all kinds.

Two Iceman winners made the top ten, with Brian Matter at 3,028 points. Chloe Woodruff slid in the top ten, but did it was one very important distinction; some of her points came from a UCI Mountain Bike Short Track World Cup victory at Nove Mesto! She paired with Kate Courtney to give the US women three World Cup wins to kick off the season, the first victories in twenty years for American women. That’s a milestone for sure; we’re trying to figure out how to double the points from that ride!

To see the whole leaderboard, and see how you stack up in your age group or race category, just head to the Training Activity leaderboard and dive into the data!