Last week, we made the call. No doubt the announcement that this year’s Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge wouldn’t happen disappointed a lot of people, but we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive calls, emails, and text messages in the days since our racers heard the news. Your support has made a very tough time so much better, and we can’t thank you enough for the donations and kind words.
There might be a lot of things to worry about now. We are more stressed out and anxious than ever before, and the consequences have much higher stakes than deciding which tires to run in a rainy edition of Iceman.
One of the things I’ve learned is that the busier you are, the more stressed you are, and the more things you’re juggling, the more you need to ride. Seriously. You aren’t going to find time, so make time to get outside, to ride your favorite trails, or discover something new. Turn up a new subdivision that you’ve never ridden before. Take a short drive and ride a route you’ve always wanted to, even if it’s just a trailhead or road a half an hour before.
Just riding can make you feel better, but there’s an added benefit, too. Once you’re pedaling, so many of the things we’re all worrying about ten to shift to the backburner. Even if it’s just for forty-five minutes or an hour, riding gives you a chance to look up from your laptop or cellphone, turn off the news and look around; the world is still turning. The sun is still shining. As real as those worries are waiting for you back at home, for just a short while, you can step away.
That’s why we’re giving you the 2020 course to ride. We hope you’ll check out the route and spend the next year wondering what might have been. Would you have made it through Make It Stick with the bunch? How many riders would make it to the base of Anita Hill together? Would Madeleine’s Trail be too soon to make the move?
Of course, we need to mention a few things. We really hope anyone choosing to ride the course this fall will keep any groups small, ideally composed of people from your own household of other riders you’ve ridden with recently. Please think before you travel from out of the area and be considerate of local guidelines, including mandatory masks at local businesses. We also don’t recommend carpooling, either from out of town or to drop cars in Kalkaska. Finally, the Kalkaska Airport is an airport; stay off the airport.
- Keep groups of ten riders or less
- Watch for road crossings
- Bring tools, spares, food, and water
First into the woods won’t matter too much on this route, with the race sticking to the wide two-track all the way to where it links up with the old course, a section known as JZ’s Party Zone. After a hard left, it’s a short and familiar stretch of singletrack and two-track all the way to Smith Lake Road.
One of the biggest changes to race happens right here. Instead of taking the hard right into the singletrack of Tornado Alley, you’ll stay on the Brown Fire Lane two-track all the way to Dockery before a right on the gravel to get back to the normal course. From there, it’s back into the woods for Make It Stick and a white-knuckle descent down the original Water Bottle Hill.
The next target comes after crossing Broomhead, where you’ll see all the hard work Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association put in to repair Hot Sister. Hopefully, you’ll get to experience this section as it was meant to be ridden; fast, fun, and dry!
After crossing Williamsburg like last year, Iceman gets turned on its head. Instead of going right on the Vasa…go left! This year was meant to be one for the big men, trimming the Boonenberg and shipping riders at full speed around to the 10k. It’s not all flat, though. After taking a right on Special K to the 10k, there are two sneaky, gradual climbs before you pop out back “on course” just before the run into Anita. It’s all familiar from there, with a left on Madeleine’s and down Wood Chip to finish with a left-hander up Ice Breaker!
There is plenty of great riding left to enjoy in 2020, so let’s all make the most of it. Go ride. Stay safe. Let’s be a part of the solution to this thing and let’s make sure we see each other in 2021!