Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge – One Wheel at a Time

Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge- One Wheel at a Time

There is a factor, an intimidation factor, for new riders when it comes to the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge. Maybe it is because the word challenge is in the title, or maybe it is the fact that a 30-mile mountain bike race through the Northern Michigan woods in the late fall is just down right crazy sounding!?!

Regardless, of why there is a little mystery or intimidation around this incredible athletic event, we want those who are entering for the first time, with little experience, or looking at trying to challenge themselves in the future to know that they absolutely can do it.

That is why, we have recruited a rider who has done only one Iceman Cometh Challenge before, and is in the beginning stages of riding to let us all join his journey as he trains for the Iceman 30! This gala as Steve “Iceman” Brown calls it, is the perfect year to have new people join us and see what this challenge is all about.

We will be following Matt Haase as he trains for his second Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge, on his social media accounts as well as all the Iceman social media accounts. Our awesome race director Cody Sovis will be giving him training tips and even take him on a training ride or two to prep for the race!

Let me introduce you to our guinea pig *ahem* I mean our newish Iceman rider. Matt Haase is a 31-year-old corporate pilot from Traverse City Michigan. Since learning to ride bikes at the age of 5, Matt has enjoyed biking and exploring mountain biking. While he has been riding on those two wheels for a while – 31 minus 5, well you can do the math, he would still classify himself an intermediate beginner as he says, “I still don’t know what I don’t know.” But through this process he will have some mountain biking education and you learn a thing or two along his journey as well.

In his adult years, he has grown to enjoy the social side of mountain biking a lot, meeting people on and off the trails but values the fitness aspect as well which will be part of pushing himself during training. He is trying to get training in about 3 days a week which as he puts it is a jump from his zero days a week now. I think we can all feel that at one point or another!

I asked Matt what is light at the end of the tunnel is, or what is he looking for most at the end of the race, “The Bell’s Beer” spoken like a true Iceman rider. Help us cheer Matt on in his training and his ride as his goal is to finish the race in under 2 hours and 30 minutes! Hopefully joining in on Matt’s journey can help motivate you to push through on your journey as well.

To follow Matt and his training follow Iceman accounts:

Facebook @IcemanTCMI

Instagram @icemancomethtcmi

Twitter @IcemanTCMI

Course Notes: Head(waters) For The Hills

Course Notes: Head(waters) For The Hills

Part of the fun of Iceman is that course is never the same. Even if 80% of the traditional 30 miles remains unchanged, we’ve always found a way to keep the remaining 20% exciting, fresh, and tough. This is is my first year designing the route that will bring over five thousand riders from Kalkaska to Traverse City, and it’s the new section that really embodies everything about our goals for 2019. 

Skiers know it, and so do plenty of trail runners and hikers. But mention ‘Headwaters’ or ‘the 5k’ to a mountain biker, and you get about a 50/50 split on them knowing what you’re talking about. I’ve been obsessed with this section of trail for a few years now. In our weekly Speed of Light ‘fake’ race in Traverse City, I’ve never been able to figure out a good, safe way to include it because there just wasn’t a starting spot that made sense. All winter, we ski Headwaters when we need a tough workout, and I try to ride it as often as I can. 

One of my goals for the 30th edition of the race was to make the race exactly 30 miles, but no matter how I routed it, I couldn’t get my perfect “30 For 30” to match up. Finally, it hit me! I need about three miles and, since my limited metric conversion skills could handle it, I had my 5k! 

It made more than sense when I thought about it beyond the arithmetic, too. This summer, Traverse Area Recreational Trails and Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association got to work on a two-mile Skill Building Trail at the Bartlett Trailhead. This two mile section is designed for kids and beginners to have a safe, accessible way to rip laps right from the trailhead. The trail reaches almost to Headwaters, and there’s singletrack that lets riders hop from the Skills Trail to Headwaters. It’s a natural progression that beginner riders will incorporate Headwaters into their riding as a bridge to longer, more challenging rides. 

Headwaters is really a series of hills, with two distinct peaks. Some of these trails are sandy, and we’re going to direct more of our trailwork to improving trails we have and can easily access, rather than cutting short trails that will only be used a few weeks per year for racers pre-riding the course. We want to make Headwaters a part of where we ride all year long! 

The final motivation was to make even more space in the final 5 miles to pass. For 90% of the field, the last twenty minutes of Iceman is a wild mix of passing and being passed, and even on wide trail, that can be tough, especially if you’re in a group of riders in a similar speed. Elevation is the ultimate selection; by the time you hit the finish line, Headwaters and the hills that follow are going to have you ahead of who you should be ahead of, and behind who you should be behind. There’s no hiding, but there’s plenty of space and time to get around people on these hills. 

And it’s going to make for one incredible finale, too. The entire section is six feet ride or more, with a number of short and steep climbs. It’s not just an ideal launching pad, it’s a series of ideal launching pads that will see the race leaders throw attack after attack at each other, albeit it with about 26 miles of tough racing in their legs already! Because it’s so close to the Bartlett Trailhead, it’s going to be a great place to spectate, and if I had a choice, that’s exactly where I’d be to watch the first waves and the Pro race come through. My bold prediction? This year, even the fastest riders will hit Timber Ridge in ones and twos. 

That’s because the climbing doesn’t stop with Headwaters. Riders then hit the Vasa CC Climb plus a few little top-secret wrinkles near the finish. The numbers tell the story; over 25% of the races total elevation gain comes in the final four miles! Don’t let that intimidate you, though; it just means the first twenty-six miles are easy, right?

You can check out Headwaters on Strava here.

Don’t Give Up: Transfers Are Open

Don't Give Up: Transfers Are Open

Sold out! The Bell’s Beer Iceman Cometh Challenge is full, but if you’re as determined as this little guy, don’t worry. Transfers are live and already processing. Head to the site, hit the Register tab and find Transfers. Once completed, you’ll be added to the queue of folks looking to get in. As riders transfer out, you’ll get in on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Note, the rider opting out will pay a $20 fee, which will be donated to Norte Youth Cycling and Grand Rapids Dirt Dawgs!

We work hard to make sure every single spot of the race gets into the hands of someone who wants to race. If you think you need to move your spot, the sooner you put it up for grabs, the better! 

Questions? Let us know how we can help. 

Under 200 Spots To Go!

Under 200 Spots To Go!

We’re under 200 spots to go, and we’ve got a challenge for you. 

Steve “Iceman” Brown has been trying to get in plenty of miles before we get really, really busy this fall. With registration taking off, we were talking about just how long it’ll take until the long race is sold out. So, in true Iceman Cometh Challenge fashion, we’re having a race. 

As of today, Iceman has 186 miles for the month of August, and there are now 167 spots remaining for the 28-mile race. So, will Iceman get to 200 before the race gets to zero? 

It won’t if Steve gives the new course a look! We spent the weekend putting in a big effort to take a closer look at a few changes at the start and final five miles of the race. Nothing is set in stone yet, but we’ve got a few wrinkles in place and a few favorite sections coming back in honor of the 30th edition of the race. 

All in all, the course is in great shape, although it’s at peak sand due to a very dry August. Things will firm up plenty after Labor Day, and we’re working with our pals at Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to do just a bit of trimming to keep the face-slappers at bay. The only spot to watch for is located in the Water Bottle Hill Bypass at roughly mile mark 9.7 from Kalkaska. There are two extremely big trees down that’ll need chainsaws and some very strong human to shift out of the way. 

Watch for more course updates AND to see if we can beat Steve to across the 200 mark! Let’s hope he doesn’t do his course inspection today! 

Always Back For More: Alexey Vermeulen Looks To Take The Next Step in 2019

Growing up in Michigan,  I always heard stories about the Iceman Cometh. The race made it into everyday conversation all the way south to Pinckney, the small town that I lived in. That wasn’t to big of a surprise though;  was home to the only 4-time winner, Brian Matter! All throughout high school, I wanted to go but never could because the cross country state championships always fell on the EXACT same day! I loved competing in those state championships, but deep down I was a bit jealous of everyone who got to go Up North and compete in Traverse City.

Since my first Iceman experience in 2013, I have been completely hooked. From the buzz of everyone getting excited to race, questioning what the weather will be like, buying new tires and gloves last minute, to the different people you meet from all across the nation…it allows anyone, of any age or level to get out and enjoy a beautiful race. It’s our Super Bowl, our biggest holiday. Iceman is special. Iceman is unique.

I have been racing professionally for the last six years around the world on the road and am now moving towards a career in the dirt. I know that my love for mountain biking began by racing from Kalkaska to Traverse City in the cold, the rain, and even in the snow.  I know I’ll be out there again this November, and every November for years to come. It’s the one race I won’t miss ever again!

Alexey Vermuelen is a former WorldTour professional cyclist. He’s now a professional mountain biker for Bianchi-Q+M Cycling and is based in Southeast Michigan. He’s a regular at the biggest mountain bike races in the United States and finished second overall at Iceman in 2018. We asked Alexey to share what the race means to him, and why he keeps coming back. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter