2019 Pro Women Preview

2019 Pro Women Preview

The 30th edition of the Bell’s Iceman Cometh is going to one of the most exciting editions of the race yet, and one huge reason for that is the decidedly unpredictable nature of the women’s Pro field. Just a single rider returns from 2018’s top five, which means we’re in for a wide open race in which tactics and brains will be just as important as the riders’ legs. From across North America, the top mountain bike talent will descend on Traverse City to vie for bragging rights, a big payout, and an even bigger bottle of Bell’s beer. The field of 22 just might be the most evenly matched to date, and we’re expecting some incredibly close racing for 2019!

The Favorites

A multi-time Czech national champion and Olympian in mountain biking and cross country skiing, Katerina Nash is a true legend of the sport. If we had to pick a favorite to win this race, it’s most certainly Nash. More than capable of winning any event she enters, the experienced Nash will look to take her second Iceman crown, with her last win coming in 2017 in dramatic fashion, just ahead of… well, see below!

Rose Grant takes up the line in the stead of her Stan’s NoTubes/Pivot Bicycles teammates Chloe Woodruff and Sofia Villafane. After having to write-off her 2018 season due to injuries, Grant has stormed back in style, winning the Leadville 100 in 2019. Grant came tantalizingly close to winning Iceman in 2017, where she was narrowly beaten by Katerina Nash. Based on her run of form in 2019, Grant has every chance to take the win when she and Nash renew their rivalry on Saturday.  

Haley Hunter Smith had a breakout year on the World Cup scene in 2019, becoming a fixture at the front of the races and getting plenty of camera time. This is her first Iceman, so be sure to give Haley an extra big cheer as she charges up Icebreaker – maybe for the dream scenario of a debut win!

She may be from Cadillac, but we’ve been calling her a local hero for years. Kaitlyn Patterson was a late entry to the race, but the perennial podium finisher is back! She’s not just here for the beer, either. She put in a dominant performance at Peak2Peak two weeks ago, and she’s seen everything Iceman can offer in terms of competition, course, and weather. 

The Dark Horses

Keep an eye on Leia Schneeberger from Wisconsin. She put on a show at this year’s Peak to Peak, coming in second place behind a dominant Kaitlyn Patterson and ahead of a bevy of exceptionally strong riders. She’s had some great races at Iceman in the past, but Leia looks to be on a whole new level entirely this season.

Maddy Frank is the pride of Grand Rapids, MI and she’s coming back to Michigan for a run at the biggest race in the Midwest. A student athlete at Lindenwood University, Frank has had a fantastic season of training and racing at the highest level in the collegiate ranks. Can she parlay that additional experience into a top five in 2019?

The Locals

Susan Vigland is as fast as ever, and this could be the year that she pulls off a huge win for all of Traverse City. She’s cracked the top in this race before, and she only needs a few things to go her way to take a big step up to the top of the podium. 

Vigland will have her equally strong teammate, Bridgett Widrig, available to play the role of foil, or win in her own right. Widrig has been training exceptionally hard and has the Iceman course dialed in perhaps better than anyone else in the state. Few riders in the Women’s Pro field will have the benefit of having a teammate in the mix, so this is an advantage the Hagerty women will be sure to exploit. 

The Pro field also welcomes Shannon Kochis to the mix for 2019. Kochis, having podiumed in her age group in every previous edition of Iceman, she’s looking to test herself against the very fastest riders in the event. That’s what Iceman is all about; setting ambitious goals, testing yourself, and seeing where you end up. We love to see people stepping up to the big dance, Shannon!


The Pro Women leave Kalkaska at 2:33 pm, so be sure to make some noise for them as the come in just behind the Pro Men. You can view the complete entry list for the 2019 Pro women here, and check out the results of the Pro women race from 2018 here.

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

Pro Update: Howard Grotts

Pro Update: Howard Grotts

Specialized pro rider Howard Grotts won the 2016 Bell’s Beer Iceman Cometh Challenge with a time of 1:23:36 on a day that saw perfect “niceman” conditions.

He knows he got lucky with the weather but plans to return this year.

“No matter what the weather,” he added.

“I’d always heard about the race. Never had a chance to make it out, it’s kind of a fun time of year,” he said.

Coming at the end of the season he said conditioning is always varied amongst the pro riders, but the $6,500 payday for winning ensures the pros give it everything they’ve got when the tires hit the trail.

“Everyone is treating it as a fun race, but they put in a hard effort,” he said.

Grotts recently returned from South Africa and the Cape Epic stage race. He and his partner rode in support of Specialized Bike’s “A team”. They are allowed to help with a spare tire or bike in case of a mechanical failure. The team they were in support of finished the 7 day race in second place, 8 minutes down to the leaders.

Grotts is looking forward to a year of domestic races this year after racing UCI World Cup events in preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

“It’s a good time to step back from hunting UCI points,” he said.

He’s headed to events similar to Iceman to mingle more with fans in the United States.

“It’s an important aspect of being a pro racer, interacting with all the folks that are buying the bikes that I’m riding,” he said.

Entering his 6th year as a pro he’s still having fun and looking forward to races he plans to do for the first time this year, the Leadville 100 and the Breck Epic as well as the Epic Rides Off-road race series.

Grotts enjoys the early part of the race season.

“You constantly see results from training,” he said.

His weekly schedule includes two rest days, Monday and Thursday generally, sandwiched between rest days are an interval training day, tailored to whatever the next race is followed by a longer endurance day. For Leadville he’ll work on longer (30 minute) intervals, shorter races mean shorter intervals he said.

And yes, his job is still fun.

“Getting to explore new trails, whether they are in Africa or California, that’s probably the best part of this job,” he said.

Welcome 2016 Pro Men Racers

Welcome 2016 Pro Men Racers

Once again, we have tons of horse power about to push each other to the limits of their bodies and bikes.    Race starts at 2:30 in Kalkaska. Don’t miss it.


Troy Wells

Troy, 32, is returning to defend is 2015 Pro Men’s win.  Hailing from Durango, Co., and races for Team Clif Bar Cycling. He finished 3rd at the October 16th US Open of Cyclocross. Apparently he is one of the riders on the Team Clif Bar with the most nicknames. “The Bear” and Trois Biscotti” are two of our favorites. We’re quite sure he enjoyed the 2015 Bell’s Sunset After Party since he pretty much closed it down.  We couldn’t stay awake that late.

@tdub255

Russell Finsterwald

Finsty, 25,  finished 4th in 2014 & 2015. He comes from Boulder, Colorado and races for SRAM | Troy Lee Designs Race Team.   He recently finished 3rd at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals STXC race.  He’s been racing Iceman since the time when he’d try to get a fake i.d. to get into the After Party and now he practically owns it.   @finsty  http://finsterwald.bike

 Todd Wells

Todd Wells, 40, of Durango, Co., races for SRAM/Troy Lee Designs, and is just killing it this year.  Although we know he has a history of winning including fourteen National Championship titles across four disciplines. This year he’s finished first in the following races: 1st Sea Otter Classic XC, 1st at Whiskey 50 Off Road Crit, 1st Grand Junction Off Road 1st, Leadville 100 and 1st in the USA Cycling Marathon National Championships!  Be afraid other pro racers.  Be very afraid. Last year he finished 6th overall.  @yotwells

Brian Matter

Brian, 37, finished 7th in 2015.  In 2016, he’s won the Midwest MTB Classic Day 2, New Glarus Road Race and the Sun Prarie Cup.   After his win in 2014, Brian holds the record for the most wins at 4!  Will 2016 make it a 5th?  We can’t wait to find out.  Brian is sponsored by Trek / Bontrager / Shimano / Pro Gold / JTree / Rock Shox.  He also rocks the Bell’s After Party.  Don’t miss it.  Find him at b-matter.com/ and on Twitter  

@TheWiscoDisco

Travis (TJ) Woodruff

TJ , 33, races for his own coaching company Momentum Endurance, and Pivot Cycles, his best finish is 7th Always a solid rider, he’s not going to let any one take a break on Saturday.  His wife Chloe will be ripping it up with the Pro Ladies and was last year’s Champ.@tjwoodruff

 Ben Sonntag

Ben, 36, from Durango, Co finished 8th in the 2015 Bell’s Iceman and 5th in the 2012.  He rides for 9niner bikes/ Team Clif Bar Cycling.  He finished 4th in the US Cup/Bonlli Park XC #2. Welcome back Ben!@ZeGermanCyclist

Tristan Schouten

Schouten, 34, won the 2003 Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge.  He finished 11th last year. He hails Plymouth, WI and rides for Rolf Prima/Atitude Sports.@SchoutenTristan

 Brad White

Brad, 34,  resides in Holland, Michigan and races for UnitedHealthCare. He’s a former All-American collegiate swimmer and his renown sprinting skills have earned him the nickname “Captain America”. He won the Wilmington Grand Prix this year and has been spotted doing course recon.  @bwcycling

 Cole House

Cole, 28, placed 10th last year. He hails from Oneida, WI. This year he came in 1st in the Reforestation Ramble, 2nd at Treadfest, and 4th at Celtic Cross CX.  He’s raced every year since 2011, with his best result being 5th in 2014.  @Cole_House

Stephen Ettinger

Stephen, 27, finished 5th in 2013.  He is also a member of Team USA.  He comes from Cashmere, WA. He’s certainly looking for the top step this year.  He’s been spotted this week in the woods of Northern MI with the crew from Einstein Cycles. @settinger_

Spencer Paxson

Spencer (Bellingham, Wash./Kona Bicycles Factory Team) is new to Iceman but definitely not new to racing. He’s a 6x US National Team Member and 2x Olympic Long Team Member.  Welcome Spencer! @slaxsonMTB

 Howard Grotts

Howard, 23, was the only member of the 2016 USA Men’s Olympic Mountain Bike team. He is a newbie to Iceman. He races for Specialized and was 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships U23. Welcome Howard!  @HowardGrotts

Isaac Neff

Isacc, 30, rides for Neff Cycle Service.  He was 18th 2015 and 6th in 2014. In 2016, he finished 1st in the Midwest MTB Championships day 1. He says his bike and his body are dialed and ready for this year! @neff_Isaac

Rob Squires

Rob, 26, races for Holowesko-Citadel Racing Team.  He won the Fat Bike World’s this year.  It’s his first Iceman, but we think he’s gonna love it!  Welcome! @robthesquire

Payson McElveen

Payson, 23, of Durango, Co. races for  RideBiker p/b Sho-Air .  He finished 8th at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals, XC.  Welcome Payson!

Don’t forget our top local racers who know the course and plan on giving the pro’s a run for their money: 

Jorden Wakeley

Jorden is racing a new bike from Cannondale, for a new sponsor M22 and has a new hunger that he didn’t have last year.  He’s in this race to win it and we can’t wait to watch him try.  He finished 9th last year, has podiumed at many Michigan races this year including winning Ore2Shore and is the 2015 Arrowhead Ultra winner. @JordenWakeley

Alex Vanias 

Alex, (Team OAM Now), placed 12th last year and just won Peak2Peak.  He’s fast on skis and bike, don’t let his quiet personality fool you…he’s an animal.

Jeff Owens

Jeff will be racing for Keen Technical.  It’s his first time at the big dance but that doesn’t make him a wall flower.  Jeff is humble, but has a stamina and speed that is the envy of Traverse City.

Sean Kickbush 

Sean, (M22 racing) is part cyclist, triathlete, business owner, barista, and bartender but he is 100% a competitor. 

Cody Sovis,

Cody (Einstein Racing), won the Men’s Fat Bike division last year.  He’s no stranger to the Pro Race, but this year he’s rebuilt himself.  He’s faster. Stronger.  And quite possibly the funniest blogging cyclist we know.  Kolotc.wordpress.com

It’s gonna be good folks.  So, so good.

Welcome the 2016 Pro Women’s Racers

The Pro Women’s field is shaping up nicely with some familiar names and some new ones.  It’s going to be a great race to watch!

Chloe Woodruff: 

Chloe is returning in 2016 as reigning Women’s Champ for 2015! We are so glad she is back defending her title and we love seeing kill our course.   Sheis no stranger to Iceman as took 2nd in 2013, and has been racing mountain bikes since 2002.  She races for Stans NoTubes and rides a 9niner. And if you’re wondering about the After Party at The View in 2015… yup, she arrived late but won that too.  Find her at http://www.chloewoodruff.com/ or on twitter @chloewoodruff 

Amy Beisel:

Amy is making the trip from Gunnison, Colorado.  After finishing 6th in 2015, she’s back and ready for another shot at the top step of the podium.   She races Team RideBiker p/b Sho-air |Isoride |LIV. She credits her brother, also a pro cyclist, with encouraging her to buy her first mountain bike.  Amy is also the reigning Fat Bike World Champion.  You can find her on Ice Society and Facebook. 

Erin Huck:

Erin is coming from Boulder, Co. Erin finished 4th last year and knows what she needs to do to get the Ice Trophy!  She rides for SCOTT-3Rox. She took 1st at the 1st US ProXCT #1, Bonelli. Contact  here on Ice Society, http://erinhuck.com  or twitter @EEHuck

Catharine Pendrel

No stranger to being a winner, Catharine returns to Bell’s Iceman this year.  She won the 2013 Pro Women’s race but even more impressive is her winning a Bronze Medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Not only that, she also won her 3rd Overall World Cup title this year.  She races for the Luna Pro Team. It’s going to be a pleasure to see her in our Northern Michigan Woods again. 

Haley Batten

Riding with Luna Pro Team with Catharine is Bell’s Iceman newcomer Haley Batten.  At only 18 years old and an already impressive resume, we look forward to watching Haley for many, many years to come.  Welcome to Bell’s Iceman Haley!

Riding with Luna Pro Team with Catharine is Bell’s Iceman newcomer Haley Batten.  At only 18 years old and an already impressive resume, we look forward to watching Haley for many, many years to come.  Welcome to Bell’s Iceman Haley!

Also in the mix are Local Michigan Favorites:

Mackenzie Woodring, a member of the USA Paralympic squad with her tandem partner. They’ve won 4 medals including gold.  We haven’t seen her at Iceman in a while but in 2013 she placed and impressive 3rd overall.  Welcome back Mackenzie!

Susan Vigland, is the quintessential local sweetheart.  She’s raced Pro Women before but she’s back and faster than ever.  Don’t be surprised if 99% of the crowd is cheering for her!

Kaitlyn Patterson showed up at her first Bell’s Iceman raced last year and made everyone take notice by placed 5th!  She moved to Ann Arbor but has been on the top step more times than we can count this year.  We can’t wait to see what she has in the tank for this year’s Bell’s Iceman!