It’s Iceman Week! For many of us, it’s like the week before Christmas, the Super Bowl, and National Pie Day all rolled into one. This isn’t a normal Iceman Week, of course, but nothing in 2020 has gone according to plan.
In spite of our best efforts and preparations, there was simply no way we could responsibly and safely put on this year’s race. Just as importantly, even if we had permission from local and state authorities, it would not have been in the best interest of our racers, our volunteers, our sponsors, or our wider community to bring thousands of people north. When the decision was made back in August, we anticipated a rise in cases locally and nationally right around this time. The current surge in cases exceeded our worst fears and confirmed that we made the right decision.
We also predicted that since we canceled the event, this first week of November would be the most beautiful in years, and we got that right, too. With temps peeking over 60 degrees and brilliant sunshine every day, it would have been a nice change of pace from setting up the start and finish venues in 36 degrees and rain. For racers, it would have been a well-deserved “Niceman” after the brutal conditions of 2019. You guys earned a little sunburn for this year!
Of course, we know that many of you are planning on heading to Traverse City to ride the course this week. That is the exact passion and enthusiasm for the race that has seen the Iceman grow into the can’t-miss, must-do event it is today. We wouldn’t be the biggest show in the state without your support, and to be honest, even 2021 would have been in jeopardy without the incredibly generous donations you’ve offered over the past few months. This year, and every year, we owe it to our racers that we get to come back and try to put on a bigger, better show the next time around.
However, we need your cooperation this weekend. The cancelation of the race was, in large part, due to the sheer number of out-of-town racers that could potentially import more coronavirus cases just as our local health situation spiked. That is, unfortunately, the case. Munson currently has 16 patients in their COVID-19 ward, nearing the maximum capacity of that facility. Traverse City has seen a steady increase in positive cases over the past three weeks, plus school closures and multiple public exposure sites.
Riding your bike in the woods is one of the safest activities you can do in a pandemic. Especially during a contentious election cycle, that’s something many of us have relied on to stay sane and functioning. But this weekend, we’re asking all of our Icepeople to do their part in making sure sacrificing this year’s Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge wasn’t a waste. We need all of you to do your part in reducing the risk of transmission; we don’t want this weekend to contribute to our region or our state having to take another step back in our fight against COVID-19.
Don’t carpool with anyone from outside your immediate household. If you’re coming from out of town to ride, please make sure your family sticks to its own vehicle. Additionally, please don’t drop a car at the finish and carpool to Kalkaska. The close quarters in a car for any period of time are extremely high-risk. It was one of our biggest concerns for race day.
Don’t travel if you’re sick or experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. If you aren’t feeling well, stay home, monitor, and contact your local health department for guidance about accessing testing.
Stay at least six feet from other riders at any time when stopped, including before and after your ride at Timber Ridge. Just because you’re in spandex doesn’t mean you’re superhuman. Please practice the same social distance guidelines on the bike as you would off, and that includes wearing a mask or buffer to cover your mouth and nose.
Don’t share food or bottles. Every group has a guy or gal who always forgets a snack. I should know; I’m often that guy. This isn’t the time to share anything. Bring your own Clif bar!
Be respectful of local businesses. If you’re from out of town, consider ordering curbside or takeaway instead of dining-in. One recent study found that positive cases were more than two times more likely to have eaten indoors at a restaurant in the two weeks prior to testing positive.
Be prepared for the ride. There are no aid stations set up, no one is sweeping; bring all the food, water, spares, tools, and supplies you’ll need to get out of the woods. If you anticipate having difficulties following the route, please consider waiting until next year. Additionally, understand the extra strain emergency services are under right now; any emergency extraction or injury takes valuable resources away from healthcare professionals already under stress.
Stay Off The Airport. Seriously. The Village of Kalkaska have been incredible partners for three decades, and they rarely ask us for anything in return. They’ve asked this; all Icepeople need to stay off the airport. Because it’s an airport, people.
Finally, be aware of the risks you take celebrating, too. If you do end your ride at Timber Ridge, remember that while your ride is done, COVID-19 isn’t finished with us. Spending time, even outdoors, in close proximity to others from outside your immediate household can transmit the virus and undue the sacrifice all racers made to keep each other safe.
This isn’t a time to give up on the measures we’ve all taken to ensure the health of our loved ones, our friends, and our wider community. This might be the year to stay home and rediscover a local trail you haven’t enjoyed in a while. If you do choose to ride in Traverse City, please consider riding solo or only with a few close friends.
We hope you’ll join us Thursday night at 7 pm on Facebook for a special Virtual Celebration Zone presented by Trek Bikes to see what the Iceman crew has been up to, chat with 2019 winner Alexey Vermeulen, Steve Brown, Brad White, and see who wins my bike Trek Top Fuel, along with a ton of other great prizes!
Thanks to everyone for their support this year, and we hope you know just how much it means to hear how you’re all missing the race in 2020!