Iceman Etiquette

Growing up, my dad would always leave my brother and I on the start line with two pieces of advice. As we fiddled with our gloves and gave our tires a final pinch, he’d slap us on the shoulder and say, “Hey, remember; it’s a race. But don’t take any chances”. Being punk kids, we’d nod and sort of shoo him away, rippling with pre-race nerves and a teenager’s embarrassment of having our dad hanging around on the start line.

Now, in my old age, I get what we he meant. This isn’t a spin in the County; this is the biggest race of the year for thousands of riders, and if you’re lining up, you’re there to try. Try to win, try to place, try to finish, try to have fun. The goals might be different, but there’s an effort that goes into getting from Kalkaska to Traverse City, and you owe it to everyone else on the course to respect that. There’s nothing for you to do but empty the tank and see what happens.

Of course, that sort of respect pairs with some basic etiquette that most mountain bikers are all too happy to practice. Cycling is a sport that lives and breathes because of countless unwritten rules and learn nuances. There are things you do, and there are plenty of things you don’t. It’s now, just as the jitters start to multiple and the nerves tighten up that it’s worth taking a deep breath and a step back to remember a few of those more concrete practices that are going to keep this race fun for everybody.

On Your Left. With 5,000 people in the woods, we can promise you two things. First, you’re going to pass a few people. Second, a few people are going to pass you. Knowing that, make an effort to overtake slower riders carefully and respectfully, and help those passing you by moving over whenever and wherever the course allows. Announce your approach, verbally indicate which side you’d like to pass on, and wait for the slower rider to verbally call you through. If you’re in a bunch, communicate how many riders might be passing with you. If everyone talks, stays calm, and does their level best to cooperate, then both the faster and slower riders are going to have a faster time in the long run. Do you know the best $8 you can spend this week at your local bike shop? It’s $8 on a nice, loud bell. Seriously.

Walk It Out (or Over). Some of the hills out there are brutal. Loose sand, big bunches, and the grind of a tough day in the saddle can turn these short, sharp inclines into formidable ascents. If you do need to walk, it’s cool. Once you’ve got your feet on the ground, make an effort to move as far to one side of the trail as you can to allow other riders with momentum to keep riding. Most walkers tend to move to the right, but use your best judgement about where to go to keep both yourself and other athletes safe.

Play Fair. We’ve got 55 waves slated for Saturday, and you’ve found a happy home in one of them. Start in that wave; as you know, starting early will get you DQ’d. Starting in a later wave is still not great as your time starts when your wave does. We understand things happen just know that you timing starts when your wave crosses the start line not your bike. Additionally, don’t try to line up in an earlier wave and then linger in the chute, assuring yourself a front row spot. There was a rash of this in 2018, and I’ve been deputized to put an end to it. If you’re caught, you won’t just get held back for your wave, you’ll be held back with me listening to stories about how fast I used to be. That’s a miserable way to spend a morning, just ask Steve Brown. Remember, riding with someone else’s number plate puts our medical and search and rescue team in a bad position. Doing so gets you banned for life, so don’t even try it.

Drop Out, Shout Out. Look, sometimes it just isn’t your day. If you do drop out of the race for a non-medical emergency, let us know. There’s a phone number on the back of your number plate to communicate your DNF. We can help you get to the finish by car, or you can make your way to the nearest aid station for extraction. You may have to wait a little while, but there will be snacks and a blanket for you, so it isn’t all bad.

Perspective. Look, we all want to do well, but remember why we’re all out here. For 99% of us, this is a hobby. That first place check spends quick, but how you act, how you treat your fellow racers, and how you represent your family, club, and community doesn’t go away. I couldn’t tell you what place I finished in a particular year, but I will never forget how I raced and the friends I spent an hour and forty minutes in the wood with. For the next year, you’ll remember what and how it all happened, not the digits on the results sheet.

Have fun, go fast, and most important of all, look out for each other.

Excuses for Why Your Iceman Didn’t Go to Plan: A Free List

Preparation for a race like the Bell’s Iceman Cometh is extensive. Our racers ride up to a few hundred miles per week, putting in endless hours of physical exertion in the hopes of a fast ride on one special Saturday in November. They open their wallets to make sure they have the best equipment, the lightest parts, and the most aerodynamic gear to ensure they’re leaving no watt unused. Months of preparation all boil down to how two hours unfold with 4,000 of your friends.

But sometimes, it’s all for naught and the race doesn’t go quite to plan. In this scenario, it’s just as crucial to be prepared for all of the uncomfortable questions post-race; mostly, “How’d your race go?”

To help you prepare for that question in the event of an off day, here are some free excuses to keep in your back pocket. For added effect, we’ve translated these excuses into their actual meaning for bystanders so they know what really caused you to finish 168th place ride in the men’s 56-57 year old class. 

  • Oh man, I was flying until Headwaters, and then the lights just went out and I bonked hard.

Translation: “I sucked wheel all the way to Headwaters and then got dropped like a sack of potatoes.”

  • My race went ok, but I got stuck behind people on a singletrack section and lost a ton of time.

Translation: “I sat-in and refused to take a pull on the front of the group on the fast flat sections, then complained people in front of me were going too slow in the singletrack.”

  • Legs just didn’t have it today.

Translation: “I drank way too much beer last night.”

  • My stomach didn’t like that new energy mix I tried.

Translation: “I drank way too much beer last night.”

  • I don’t really care where I finished. I was just out there to have fun, man.

Translation: “Maybe I should have done the Zwift races on the trainer instead of watching Golden Girls on Netflix all October.”

  • I didn’t do great, but it’s just because I haven’t had much time to train.

Translation: “I’ve been drinking way too much beer.”

Boom. You’re now completely prepared for the race and we can’t wait to see you in Kalkaska on November 2nd. At the end of the day, we just hope everyone makes it to Timber Ridge safely and has one heck of a good time. Whether you’re out there to take on Geoff Kabush or if you’re wearing a tutu and rocking a unicorn costume, we want you to make your Iceman Cometh experience your own. We’ll keep the fires roaring and the Bell’s beer cold for you. 

Iceman Update: A Crisp Start To The Finish (Venue)

Know what makes it really feel like the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge is just around the corner? 40 degrees and rain. 

I always smile the first time we see this kind of weather because of something my friend Sean Kickbush said while lining up at Peak2Peak a couple of years ago. We were doing that awkward dance before the Elite start; pedaling around in small circles just a few yards from the start line because we didn’t want to be the first to line up, but didn’t not want to be first, either. It was cold and, as if often the case, windy at the base of the ski hill. Nerves, as you’d expect, were frayed. Just then, ten minutes before the start, a few sprinkles fell, followed by something more steady. Sean, tense but smiling looked over and voiced his opinion on conditions. “You know what’s better than racing in 40 degrees? Racing in 40 degrees in the rain. Yeah, that’s a fun idea.” 

Of course, we all clamor to do it when it’s Iceman. Some of you nutcases even do your snow dances or hope for freezing weather. Once the gun goes off, the weather doesn’t matter. This is Michigan, and this is Iceman; we all know what we signed up for, and we’re going to give it hell no matter what. 

This past Sunday, a few of the crew made the short trip up to Timber Ridge to start preparing for 10,000 of our friends to party. It was the perfect Iceman morning; grey, cold, and just damp enough to control the sand. As I pulled in, a solid group of riders from all over the state were pumping up tires and sliding snacks into their pockets. I’ll admit, this weekend was the first time I had a fuzz of jealousy of the folks racing. Those guys and gals looked excited, eager, and ready for what is always an adventure. 

Instead, I joined Mark Frick and Dave Heim on breaking out the stuff that makes the Iceman Iceman; the banners. Well, they may not be the most important or exciting part of the event, but this infrastructure is precious. We popped open the massive shipping container and started organizing by the sponsor; a massive pile of Bell’s signs, Trek banners neatly stacked next to Bontrager, a bunch of BISSELL close-by, and the Subaru VIP signs next to the golden VIP Parking banners. Seeing the container slowly empty was a great feeling, but the real treat was when Mark rolled out the barrels. Literally. The Bell’s Brewery barrels, for me, immediately send a jolt of electricity through me; this thing is SO CLOSE!

Throughout the morning, we also got a few updates from Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association and their trails crews. They’ve been working every night well past dark to get some of the course’s re-routes finished up and packed in. Much of these re-routes will be flagged and started by the weekend, but there’s plenty more to do to get them up to NMMBA’s exacting standards. When you see a few guys in the woods over the next few weeks, make sure you give them a shout and say thank you! 

Last week, transfers officially closed, which means we’ll be polishing up wave assignments over the next few days. We’ll be doing what we can to get people where they should be, if not exactly where they want to be. Our registration crew has been getting 60-80 emails a day for the past two weeks with questions and requests, and they’ve given me two tips to pass along to those looking to skip up a few starting positions. First, just remember that we can only do so much shuffling. Second, Jessica and Denine like Two-Hearted Ale in a bottle. 

Finally, the weather. I’ll admit, I caught myself checking the long, long-range forecast the other day, and finally smacked my own hand away from the weather app. It’s northern Michigan; the weather is going to change a dozen times between now and November 2, and another dozen times during the race. Don’t sweat it. Just like the course, we’re all in the same rain, snow, wind, or heatwave, and we know it’s not going to stop you from finishing…or hanging around to party.

Your Best Race Day: 7 Tips for Iceman Success

Your Best Race Day: 7 Tips for Iceman Success

Your Best Race Day: 7 Tips for Iceman Success

By the Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center Physical Therapy Team in Traverse City, MI

 1. Train Adequately in a Realistic Setting

As the weather changes and available daylight wanes with each passing day, it’s very tempting to hop on your indoor trainer. However, even if you have a solid indoor setup that can seemingly mimic hilly conditions, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an indoor environment that can truly simulate the Iceman course. We suggest logging in as many trail miles as possible – though not just on any trail.

“This race is full gas from start to finish,” cautions Johanna Schmidt, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center who has completed Iceman six times. “You’re breathing hard the entire time so you’re not really prepping yourself properly on a single track.”

The avid cyclist – who also co-founded the youth-focused, cycling advocacy organization Norte with her husband Ty – recommends familiarizing yourself with the actual Iceman trail itself if you’re local. Still, the most optimal training can happen right in your own backyard. Schmidt says she owes her best race results (placing 6th) to combining both road racing and mountain bike training, including multiple treks up Wayne Street, a hilly road running alongside Ashton Park in Traverse City.

 2. Train on Your Race-Day Bike

Just as important as replicating your environment is training consistently on the same bike you’ll be racing with next month. This will allow you to be comfortable and familiar with the fit, the gearing, and the control of your equipment. Another bonus? Training on your race-day bike may alert you to aches and pains, such as knee pain, that the bike itself may be causing. These physical warnings can signal a few needed tweaks, such as adjusting your saddle height. And if your own adjustments aren’t hacking it, you still have time to seek help from a professional bike fitter in your area who can better pinpoint any biomechanical issues.

 3. Get a Tune-up

Perform a proper tune-up of your bike before the event. This includes checking the condition of the brakes, chain, and derailleurs. If you’re new to racing or just not mechanically inclined, it’s a good idea to have a professional do it.

4. Pace Yourself

It’s always critical to pace yourself according to your ability and the quality of your training. If you are new to racing or you are pretty certain you are not going to win the race or be in contention, then it’s probably not a good idea to start at the front of the line. “If you’re a first-timer or you’re not racing to win, seek out a group toward the back whose pace is more in line with your own,” says Physical Therapist Josh Thorington, PT, DPT, Manager of Rehab Services at Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center. “It will help you manage the race better. Plus, you don’t want to have to drop out of the race because you’re too tired from pushing yourself too hard at the start.” Regardless of your ability, remember that Iceman is a long race: don’t use all of your energy to the point that you can’t finish.

5. Dress Strategically on Race Day

It’s northern Michigan and you just never know what you’re going to encounter. Our advice? It’s easier to shed layers than it is to add them. Dress in clothing that you can easily peel off or slide down. Think vests that keep your chest warm but your arms cool, arm warmers (which you can slide down once you’re warmed up), and even clothing you don’t mind losing permanently should you need to lose a layer en route. Schmidt recommends underdressing, a tactic that has personally worked for her. “People tend to overdress,” she shares. “But when you’re overheated, it can be difficult to go fast. Even if it’s 40 degrees, a mile or two in, you’re already sweating.” In addition to a vest and arm warmers, Schmidt wears a jacket at the start line and gives it to a loved one right before start time. “Or bring something you don’t care to ever see again and discard it before you get going.”

6. Manage Injuries Now

As we mentioned above, pain can stem from something as simple as crank length. However, if you injure yourself or you’re experiencing pain such as a sore back or aching joints and muscles both on and off your bike, it’s important to manage your injury now. The rehab Team at Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center can evaluate you to determine the exact issue and provide interventions that will get you back in shape for race day. “Our goal is not only to get you back to racing pain free but to keep you racing pain free by creating a program that is tailored specific to you,” says Thorington.

 7. And Finally…

Don’t forget your helmet!

Get access to our enhanced rehabilitation services, including physical therapy, to help you get back to your everyday amazing! Find a Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center location near you.

About Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center

Specialized, coordinated care is what you can expect through Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center. This unique collaboration gives our region’s athletes access to one of the largest and most comprehensive rehabilitation hospitals in the United States. Learn more here.

Alexey’s Kids’ Ride Presented by Shimano and CLIF Kids

The Pros of today with the shredders of tomorrow! Last year’s runner up, Alexey Vermeulen, is back at the 2019 Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge, and he’s looking to do more than just hop up a step on the podium. This year, he’s gathered a few of his pals to lead a kids-only ride at Timber Ridge Resort from 3-4 pm to get the youngsters ready for the big day! 

Geoff Kabush. Brian Matter. Katerina Nash. Alexey Vermeulen. With just a few podiums between these guys and a huge depth of national and international racing under their belts, it’s a flock of pros your kids won’t want to miss riding with. Join us on Friday, November 1 for a thirty-minute, 2.5-mile ride through the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge finish venue. This ride is open to kids aged 9-15, and we’ll have a few volunteers to make sure the youths don’t drop the old guys. 

Back at Timber, Geoff, Brian, and Alexey will hang out to answer questions and chow down on some healthy snacks provided by our friends at Clif Bar. We’ll also have some prizes to raffle off from Shimano, ESI, Iceman, and more! It’s a great chance to get your photo taken with these Iceman legends and get ready for race day. Get the kids excited about bikes, about getting outside, and about being healthy. 

Alexey’s goal? To see kids fall in love with the sport and the race. In thirty years, we’re hoping these kids are bringing their kids to the same event and the same race and continuing the tradition of bikes, family, and great trails in northern Michigan. Let’s start something special this November!

To learn more, RSVP to the event on Facebook. Your child does not have to be registered to race to come ride, but make sure they’re dressed for the weather and have a helmet. 

One Gear, No Fear: Kyle’s Singlespeed Tips

Mud. Cold. Rain. Snow. Countless hills and one of the most competitive fields in the country. You wouldn’t think any racer would possibly want to make the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge harder. Then, deep into the race, you realize the guy or gal sprinting up every hill is doing it with just one gear. Singlespeeders are some of the toughest riders in the woods, and they’d tell you going without a derailleur isn’t much harder, just a different kind of hard. We check-in with Singlespeed wizard/legend/good dude Kyle Macdermaid on why not shifting holds so much attraction and the best ratio for the drag race between Kalkaska and Traverse City. 

It’s been a few years since I have raced Iceman Singlespeed, (but man do I miss it sometimes.) Many people believe SS is a lot harder than running gears, but to me, it’s never seemed that much harder. It’s harder at times and easier at others. SS forces you to use momentum, use your fellow riders (find a wheel when you’re at 120rpm and tuck in) and works as a natural rev limiter. On fast sections, you are forced to draft, or just rest a bit as you only have so much gear. Yes, the hills are going to be a battle, but you attack them and run if you have to.

The big question with SS is always, gearing, gearing, gearing. What gearing are you running? How many gear inches are you pushing today? What’s your gain ratio brah? For Iceman, my plan has always been to run a couple of hills. Event 1 is almost always a run unless you hit it really clear in your wave, as people slow down too much for an SS rider to make it up in the sand. I would plan on potentially having to run the top of Make It Stick if need be, and I always plan on running Anita’s. I made Anita’s once on 36×16 and it was some of the worst race strategies I’ve ever had. That level of effort, especially late in the race was akin to a race-finishing all-out-sprint effort, and I completely exploded at the top. I pulled 10 seconds back on the person I was chasing (Collin Snyder) but lost more than a minute from the top of Anita’s to the finish as I was so blown up.

Okay, as to my actual gearing advice for Iceman:

If you are a general racer, just looking to finish with a good time, I would suggest dropping one tooth in the rear over typical go to singletrack gearing. If you ride 2:1 or 34×17 normally, go to 34×16 for iceman.

If you are looking to podium Iceman in SS, (and it’s not a mud year) you are going to need a taller gear. I would say a minimum of 62 gear inches (or 36×16 on a 29er.) If you are really shooting for the win, you might be able to squeak it on 62 gear inches if you can really spin, but something like 64 or 65 would be better. If I were racing SS this year, I’d be on 37×16, running a 29×2.2 tire.

Some single gear race advice:

-You really need to work with your geared brethren. Even if you are running a big gear (64+ gear inches) you are going to be spinning out on fast sections like Sands Lakes Road, parts of the VASA, etc. If possible, try to latch on to a good group of geared riders during the flat/fast sections, (even if you have to sit up for a couple of seconds so they bridge to you.) Stay in the draft and then jump to the front of them when you hit the hills as they’ll probably dump gears and slow you down.

-Run Anita’s. Yes, it’s possible to make it up it, but run it.

And remember, even if some geared people beat you, (which they will) you’re still cooler as you did it on one gear.

Need help with your gearing? Check out this handy gear calculator to determine your set-up, or see your range with your current gears, too.

Iceman or Injury

Iceman or Injury

We all know that sinking feeling, when that twinge of pain has stayed with us a little longer than we thought it would. When we are starting to consider that a call to the doctor might be more needed than just a trip to Meijer. When you know you probably shouldn’t push through the pain this time.

This is unfortunately what happened to our wonderful amateur rider Matt, he graciously agreed to let us follow his training for his second Iceman race. After some pain in his ankle he went into the doctor and on his order Matt will not be racing in this year’s Iceman but hopes to be back with us next year.

I am sure two questions come to mind… first what happens to his race registration? And is anyone taking his place? Those are both great questions I am glad you asked.

If you find yourself in a similar situation to Matt, and cannot race in this year’s Iceman even though you have already signed up, you can do exactly what Matt did. Transfer out of the race, you can do that right from your registration on the website. There is a list of excited people who are waiting to transfer into your spot so don’t wait if you know you can’t race! Also transfers close October 11th so make sure you transfer out soon, to get your money back. You will receive your registration fee back minus $20 which is donated to youth cycling teams.

There will be someone taking Matt’s place, so you still have a virtual training buddy! Let me introduce…

Garrett Boyd, when he is not training for his next event you will find him at his day job as a Pharmacy buyer for Munson Medical Center. Not new to mountain biking but to mountain bike racing so break him in easy, but he should be able to hold his own! He has decided to take on the Iceman Cometh Challenge after completing the Ironman Traverse City, and he was looking for his next challenge. He is looking forward to getting out of his element and spending more time out in the woods as that is one of his favorite parts of mountain biking. He is training 4-5 times a week to try to accomplish his under 2.5 hour goal for the Iceman Cometh Challenge. Follow Garrett on Facebook or Instagram at gboyd03 to see how his training is going and pick up some extra tips! Good Luck Garrett!

Drop Bars: Good Idea, Bad Idea, GREAT Idea?

Drop Bars: Good Idea, Bad Idea, GREAT Idea?

Last year, Geoff Kabush won the 29th edition of the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge. This was no surprise. The kind of bike he won it on did, however, raise some eyebrows. 

Riding the Iceman on drops bars isn’t new; we’ve seen plenty of riders brave the course on cyclocross and gravel bikes over the years, with varying degrees of success. For racers with plenty of experience on skinny tires and the handling skills to throw themselves through sandpits and come out the other side upright, it can actually be an advantage to have bigger gears and a more aerodynamic position on the bike. 

New kinds of bikes are making drop bars more and more realistic for races like Iceman. With tire clearance for 650b wheels and 2.25” tires, they’re essentially putting mountain bike wheels on gravel or road bikes. Our course doesn’t offer rocky, rough terrain that demands suspension, and if you can do a dozen push-ups, you’re probably strong enough to meet the rigors of splashing down a few tree roots, even if your teeth chatter. 

We’ve already heard a ton of people talking about riding drop bars this year, and Kabush’s win last year is definitely a big factor behind the renewed interest. It’s something I’ve done plenty of times on Out’n’Backs and, I’ll admit, I loved having the big gears and smaller tires barrelling down Sand Lakes Road en route to the start in Kalkaska. 

My very first Iceman I decided to race the Pro wave, mostly due to spending a good fifteen hours the day before manning our booth at the SRAM Ice Cycle Expo all Friday. Pros have the luxury of sleeping in a bit! I lined up dead last, hoping to stay out of the way. I was the only rider on a cyclocross bike; next to me, coincidentally, was the first rider to ever to do the Pro race on a fat bike. Less than five miles in, I hit a root so hard that it bent by rim and the brake pad (and these were cantilever, remember those?) got stuck against under the rim. After a few minutes I got the wheel rolling, although the brake was ruined. At the very least, I was moving, but spent the rest of the day battling that fat bike not to get last. 

Since then, I’ve done the course on everything from 35mm cyclocross tires to thick, meaty 2.25” Thunderburts with drop bars, very similar to Kabush’s winning set-up. It is so fast on the open sections of the course, and if you have the right gearing, you won’t suffer at all on the climbs or descents. Where drop bars hurt you is when you don’t get to decide where to ride. Riding in a big bunch or group means you’re constantly switching lines, whether by design or at the mercy of a fellow rider. It’s in those moments where having a rigid bike makes you pay more; the speed-robbing root, bouncing through loose sand or along a deep rut. Suspension is really forgiveness, and with drop bars and your weight over the front of the bike, you pay for every single mistake. 

Can you race Iceman on drop bars? Totally. First, fit the biggest tires you can into your bike; most traditional cyclocross bikes can fit a maximum tire width between 38 and 43mm. Some can fit a 650c wheel with 27.5” mountain bike tires; that’s the way to go if you can! Get out as often as you can and work on your handling skills, and give the course plenty of recon rides to know where you want to be in each section. Additionally, ride the wrong lines, too, so you’re ready to recover from bobbles on race day. Can you win Iceman on drop bars? Well, are you Geoff Kabush?

The Top Secret Formula For Wave Assignments REVEALED!

The Top Secret Formula For Wave Assignments REVEALED!

It’s September and we haven’t had any need to dig out the shoe covers yet! Rest assured, the chill will descend on the Midwest soon, and you can expect to spend an extra ten minutes digging through bins and closets for your warmers, booties, covers, and coats. That first ride in the cold, in a misty rain, with squealing brakes and a generous deposit of sand coated on your chain; it’s a sign of the season. 

Just as important, and perhaps just as exciting, are two crucial dates for our races. First, transfers close on October 11. We really appreciate everyone who has transferred out so far, and we encourage you to do so if you aren’t going to make it. That $20 fee goes to support Norte Youth Cycling and the Grand Rapids Dirt Dawgs, two really cool programs that get kids on bikes. Additionally, you’re making a spot for another rider to race Iceman. For riders who have done this dance a time or two, it may not seem as big of a deal, but cast your mind back to your first timing lining up in Kalkaska; you won’t ever forget it. 

The second date is October 18, which is the latest date we hope to have wave assignments ready. Riders tend to think of wave assignments as a sort of Harry Potter-esque Sorting Hat; everybody wants to be in Gryffindor, everyone thinks they should be in Gryffindor, and a wave that isn’t to your liking is like getting Hufflepuff. (Sorry, Hufflepuff). If you don’t get this metaphor, ask your kids. 

First off, we hope you know that we spend a lot of time trying to get these wave assignments right. Over the years, we’ve adopted two formulas to put people where they should be, both from a competitive standpoint and from a safety stand point. Having riders of vastly different abilities and speeds on the same square foot of trail is the riskiest business, and it isn’t fun for either party. 

It all starts with the following:

Rider with past results:

Average overall place for up to the last 5 years, then doubling your best place of those results. Then those results are ranked and split up into the waves. The first 4 waves have 150 riders per wave, then the remaining waves have 80 per wave to allow room to manually move or place riders as needed.

Riders without past results, but with Strava data:

Strava riders are ranked by their total activity scores for the year. They are then placed by rank after the past results rider waves.

Using your five-year average helps us remove your worst results, whether it be a bad day, a bad mechanical, or season where you just didn’t get to train to your normal standards. We double your best result so that it makes the most of your very best day. 

For riders without a result or Strava data, we have a number of waves dedicated to specific age groups based on average and best finish times. 

The best way to influence your starting position is to race Iceman, but it isn’t the only way. There is certainly some element of ‘pay your dues’ to the system, but we take a lot of pride in working with races to look at their Training Score and helping them find a wave they will have a great experience being in. 

The other question we get a lot is how the Training Score is determined. Trust us, this took a ton of thought, trial and error, and tweaks to get right. The formula is as follows:

( Distance (Miles) + Total Elevation (Feet) + Moving Time (Minutes) ) / 20

A lot of riders say that you can skew the score by riding far, or climbing a lot, or riding a long time; the reality is that if you’re going big in any one of those categories, it’ll pay off. It’s not perfect, but it’s the same for everyone, and that makes it pretty darn fair. My tip? I took a look at my normal training ride and found it to have a Score of 80; that’s 90 minutes of riding, with 1,474 feet of climbing, and 30.8 miles. That’s a pretty doable ride for anyone, and if you need to knock off a little climbing, it won’t kill the score. Hopefully, that gives you some perspective on where your training is. 

As we ease into wave assignments, we’ve got a few things that will help make it go smooth. If you ride for a team or club, consider compiling all of your wave requests into a single email so we can process them all at once and do so with a few less emails to chase. Second, include a link to your Training Activity page so we can look at it without searching. Finally, relax. We’re going to do our best for you, and no matter what wave you end up in, you can still have a great race and a really good time. The course is fast, open, and challenging; we feel confident that by the time you hit Timber Ridge, you’ll be tired and ahead of every single rider you deserve to be ahead of. 

Questions? Let us know via email IcemanInfo@iceman.com and remember, we won’t be able to change your wave assignment until after they’re assigned. Until then, get training…and maybe take a second to look for your knee warmers right now!

#NovemberIsComing: Wes Sovis’ Wave Assigment Advice

Wes Sovis has been on every end of Iceman. From a Wave Two start to the Pro race, from being one of the most impressive rides of 2018 to walking out of the woods and climbing into a car at Dockery in 2014, Wes seems to experience the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge in extremes. 

While plenty of riders have ridden more editions of the race, few have tackled as many from as many angles. From the front of the pack to suffering and seeing dozens of riders go by, he’s gained a bit of perspective. Ahead of next month’s wave assignments, his tip for the race is especially prescient. 

I’d tell people is to not sweat your Wave or even your start during the race. There are 30 miles to show your stuff – wherever you finish, that’s where exactly you deserved to be. My best Iceman of all time was when I started in Wave 2. Even in Wave 3, I got to the finish line with absolutely nothing in the tank. Just ride your race and don’t get caught up in the craziness at the start. All those people who shoot ahead in the first two miles? If you ride your race correctly, you’ll see them again before the finish.

Especially with the course changes in the final four or five miles, there’s plenty of wide trail and elevation to sort things out before you get to Timber Ridge. Pacing yourself for the first 15 miles pays off in a big way in the final 15; ask yourself how hard you’re working, but more importantly, ask why. Did you just sprint up the hill and get five seconds ahead of a group that’s been trading pulls for a few miles? What was the point? I try to think of it as a time trial; it’s like spreading peanut butter on toast. You want it to spread evenly and not run out before you get to the other end of the slice.