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! 

Get Full: Trek Top Fuel Offers Squishy Option for Race Day

As we roll into June, the days counting down to November seem to quicken pace. With better weather in the forecast and a full slate of fun rides and races filling up the calendar, there’s plenty to be excited about as we hit peak summer.

Here in northern Michigan, we’ve had a wet and chilly May. Those cold days are finally giving way to more seasonable and comfortable temperatures, and that’s gotten us all into the woods to explore the trails. We’re really to have miles and miles of trails, only a fraction of which feature on race day. Many of those trails are twisting, turning, hand-built trails, and that’s gotten a lot of us off our Iceman Cometh hardtail and onto something with a bit more squish.

Last week, Trek Bikes unveiled the 2020 Trek Top Fuel, and we really like what we see. The long-time consensus at Iceman has been that a hardtrail 29er is the proven way to go, and that’s probably still true. The line is a bit more blurred, however, with how light and efficient full suspension bikes have gotten in the past two or three years. We consistently see bikes coming out of the stand at 23, 21, even 20 pounds with 120mm front and 115 rear suspension.

The latest offering from Trek fits that bill. What’s got us even more excited is the number of builds. Whatever your budget, there’s a bomb-proof build ready to rock. With the right set-up, you’re definitely going to have way more fun, and not just on the first Saturday in November. As huge as Iceman is, getting a new bike that’s suited to the other 364 days of the year is the smart way to go, and for where and how we’re riding these days, full suspension is turning into a very viable option.

What are you looking for in your next bike? What tips would you give a rider looking to break two-hours at Iceman with a new rig?