For The Fun Of It: The 2020 Course

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.  Continue reading “For The Fun Of It: The 2020 Course”

30th Annual Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge Takes Off!

30th Annual Bell's Iceman Cometh Challenge Takes Off!

July. The very height of summer in Northern Michigan. Hot days, warm nights, searing sun and plenty of time between now and November 2…or so you’d think! Today, we had our first full staff meeting to bring you the 30th Annual Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge. From logistics, security, course marketing, shoot, even where we’ll put the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast, the first thing I’ve learned over the past six months is that there isn’t a detail, idea, or improvement that we leave to chance! 

One of the biggest things that makes Iceman so exciting are those little changes to the schedule or course. Starting in August, racers are putting in Out’n’Backs to scout out that new turn, climb, or descent that might give them the edge, or at least buy them a handful of seconds. Those recon rides are a part of the buzz, the excitement of the race, and a fixture for locals and a real treat for folks who make the drive to Traverse City to see the course for themselves.

Well, for the 30th ‘gala’, as Steve “Iceman” Brown has taken to calling it, we’ve cooked up something big. I was going to start this announcement with a pun, the best (worst) of which follow below:

  • I hope this new idea has wings!
  • The new start venue has taken off! 
  • 2019 will see all new heights! 

Due to the number of eye-rolls, however, I’ll just let this parachute down and land on you: we’re moving the start venue to the Kalkaska Airport! The Village of Kalkaska has been such an incredible host for years, and when we sat down about the move, they were way ahead of us. Not only was it on their radar, but it was also on their to-do list! They’ll be making some changes to allow for all of our parking, bus drop off, rider drop off, start chute and over a mile of the course to all easily fit on the airstrip! 

The move to the airport, from a racer’s perspective, achieves a lot of good. Logistically, every aspect of race morning will be easier; you’ll be able to park close to the start, warm-up on dirt roads, watch your friends take off (another pun, you’re welcome) for over a mile, and have access to vendors for your support crew. We’ve got packet pick-up and the Pancake Breakfast within site of the start banner, plus Porta Johns right where they’re handy as you line up. 

Additionally, the start has plenty of time to shake out. Since the move to the Fairgrounds, the Iceman start in every wave has felt a bit like riding in a mob of Black Friday shoppers; there’s not much of a lead-in before you slam into a narrow opening. It’s made the opening two minutes of the race more important than ever, but that can be frustrating when you’ve spent months training, just to get buried on the first bit of singletrack. 

Instead, you’ll have nearly a mile and a half of wide, fast riding on grass, gravel, and a bit of paved runway to sort yourselves out before slashing across Island Lake Road and onto a wooded two-track. You’ll have another three-quarters of a mile until you see singletrack, giving each wave roughly two miles to shake things out. The first ten minutes still matter a lot, but you’re going to slot in where you deserve to be. 

We’ve got a lot more to come about the race over the next few months, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated about some exciting stuff from Bell’s Brewery, Trek Bikes, and everything Iceman Cometh Challenge. Are you getting ready for November 2? You better be!

Course updates from NMMBA

Course updates from NMMBA

As the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association works to bring you the best Iceman Cometh Challenge course possible, we’re providing updates on current conditions through race day!

What a difference a week makes! Even with some warm temperatures, we saw just enough rain over the past ten days to have a huge impact on the course. In mid-to-late September, sand was the word, as it always is in early fall. This year was no different, and perhaps a touch worse; sections from Kalkaska to Dockery Road were, in the opinions of many, some of the slowest we’ve ever seen!

Luckily, a mix of cold nights and rain have gotten the course into great shape, and aside from the infamous sand pits that you just know are coming, there’s nothing out there that will make you feel like you’re at the beach.

Tom and the crew were out putting in the finishing touches on the new Water Bottle Hill Bypass. That new section of trail is bench cut and riding faster and faster every week. While it does criss-cross the old bypass, you won’t have any trouble staying on the right trail thanks to a few blue flags places at all the pertinent intersections. While the segment is too close to the previous trail to be accurate, this should give you a good look at where the bypass is on the course.

Another big confirmation from the weekend is that we’ll stick with the same Wall Bypass used in the 2017 edition race, taking a long, lazy bend left before the Wall and hopping on a few bits of two-track and singletrack before rejoining the 25km just about a half-mile from the infamous Boonenberg climb. That one-two punch is always tough, especially after a few fast miles from Williamsburg Road and onto the 25km itself.

Finally, the finale. While it’s unmarked and very tough to follow at the moment, you can count on a serpentine, sinuous sprint through some winding singletrack from the time you enter Timber Ridge, nearly leave it entirely, then come back to the line after going over and under two shipping containers!

While plenty of people were out enjoying the course, Melissa from Michigan Mountain Biking Association was at Timber Ridge helping put on the Iceman Clinic this past Saturday. 30 riders got a little instruction and a lot of confidence ahead of race day, and were treated to hot brats, chips, and a great time by MMBA and Keen Technical Solutions.