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.
It never gets old does it? It’s another great year of the men’s best mountain bike racers coming to race for the title of Champion of the 2018 Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge. It’s every man for himself out there. Check out the full sortable list of racers.
Winner for 2018. Kabush, 41, will be defending his 2017 title. We think his nickname (k-Boom) says it all but as a refresher, Geoff was the winner in 2013, 2nd at 2014’s “Mudman” and 3rd in 2015. The three-time Canadian Olympian currently rides for Yeti Cycles & MAXXIS. Kabush has been racing in Canada since he was 15 and is a 15-time Canadian National Champion. @GeoffKabush
Payson, 25, of Durango, Co. finished 2nd last year. Payson races for Orange Seal Cycling. He’s a 2x Marathon National Champion for 2017, 2018 and 1st at the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. He finished 6th in 2017 and when not riding likes writing, fly fishing and sports talk radio. @PaysonMcElveen
3rd Place for 2018. Brian, 40, and will be participating in his 25th Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge. After his win in 2014, Brian holds the record for the most wins at 4! Rumor has it he is hungry for more. He recently finished 3rd at the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. Brian is sponsored by Trek / Bontrager / Shimano / Pro Gold / JTree / Rock Shox Find him at b-matter.com/ and on Twitter@TheWiscoDisco
5th Place for 2018. Ben, 38, grew up in Germany but lives in Durango, Co. He finished 4th in 2017 and 5th in the 2016 Bell’s Iceman. He rides for 9niner bikes/ Team Clif Bar Cycling. Ben got an impressive 1st at Carson City Off-Road earlier this year @ZeGermanCyclist
Troy, 34, was our 2015 Pro Men’s winner. Hailing from Durango, Co., Troy races for Team Clif Bar Cycling. Wells recently got 2nd at a cross race in West Sacramento, but we have a feeling he wants to take that Ice Trophy home again. His bio states “Favorite rest days are on a beach somewhere drinking margaritas watching the sunset.” Come back to TC in the summer @tdub255!
Cole, 30, was 6th last year at Bell’s Iceman and is a 2 x National Fat Bike Champion. He hails from Oneida, WI and is probably hoping for snow on Saturday. According to Peloton Magazine, “House’s mother had given him the Indian name Tekastoslunti, which roughly translates as “floating feather.”” We’ve witnessed that. It’s amazing. @Cole_House
2nd Place for 2018.Alexey, 24, of Pinckney, MI finished 9thth last year and races for Interpro – Stradalli. He recently finished first at a brutal Peak2Peak race. Great to see him off the road and in the woods! http://alexeyvermeulen.blogspot.com/
Scotty Albaugh Jr.
Scotty, 25, of Waterford, MI made it into the top 10 last year. Let’s see what he’ll do this year.
Jorden, 28, finished 11th last year and is racing for Giant Bicycles/Northbound Outfitters. He finished his first ultra-marathon this year, so if he has a mechanical, he might just pick up his bike and run it in. And still beat most racers. He’s also the 2015 Arrowhead Ultra winner so you know the worse the weather, the stronger he is. @JordenWakeley
Finsty, 27, comes from Boulder, Colorado, and races for SRAM | Troy Lee Designs Race Team. Russell is a seasoned Bell’s Iceman veteran at only 27. He had some injuries in the last year, but we’re all glad he’s back and tough as ever. @finsty http://finsterwald.bike He’s also a darn fine photographer: Check it out! https://www.rfphoto.net/
Floyd Landis. Do we need to say anything more? Cool. Welcome to Northern Michigan Floyd and Floyd’s of Leadville.
Scott is a 3x Bell’s Iceman winner from the late 90’s and he is still one of the fastest dudes out there. He has his own bicycle company and after completing the LumberJack 100 this year, the Bell’s Iceman is gonna feel short! @QuiringCyclesLlc
Please welcome these Bell’s Iceman newbies:
David Zabriskie, 39 from Salt Lake City, Utah. He’s a newbie to Bell’s Iceman so everyone be really nice to him on the course. Mr. DZnuts https://www.dz-nuts.com/ has done a race or two in his time and is business partners with Floyd Landis. Welcome Dave Z.
Tristan Uhl Tristan, 30, from Smithville, TX races for Giant and Live Co-Factory Off-Road Team. Tristan has some impressive race results and they will not be overshadowed by his impressive mustache. Can’t wait to see what he can do on these cold, northern Michigan trails! @ biketuhl
Peter Disera 4th Place for 2018. Peter, 23, from Horseshoe Valley, Ontario, and races for the Norco Factory Team XC. He finished 1st at the Canadian National Championships in Canmore this year. Please note his bio says he is not a vegan!
Don’t forget our top local racers who know the course and plan on giving the pro’s a run for their money:
Jeff Owens, will be racing for Keen Technical. He’s one of those really nice guys who smiles while making his friends cry from pain while riding with him.
Cody Sovis, racing for 3T Q+M, has the impressive overall rank of 2nd for the Pro/Cat1 racers and was first last year in Ice Society. He’s fast and he’s funny. Check out his website: https://kolotc.co/
Braiden Voss, 16, returned home from the Miller School of Albemarle to race this year. That’s pretty cool. Watch out, this kid is the real deal.
Tim Pulliam, 44, made a last-minute call and stepped up to the Pro race. He’s fast and fit this year, and he’s racing for his company, Keen Technical.
Sean Kickbush, never one to register too early, is back in the Pro race and looking to break into the top 20. He races for 3T Q+M.
Today, Larry Warbasse racing for Aqua Blue won the US Road Cycling Championship. He now will have the honor of wearing the Stars and Stripes Jersey for a year. We hope we see that jersey riding around Traverse City some time soon!!!
Larry is quoted saying, “I’m in disbelief. I think this has been the best two weeks of my life.”
We believe it Larry. We never had any doubts.
Along with Larry, 2 other riders from Michigan rounded out the top 6. These include Alexey Vermeulen and Brent Bookwalter. Congrats men!
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.
The 2017 Bell’s Beer Iceman Cometh Challenge will be on Saturday, November 4th.
Registation for the 2017 Bell’s Beer IcemanCometh Challenge will open on Friday March 3rd at 11:00AM. Once again registration will be limited to first 4,500 Iceman riders and 400 Meijer Slush Cup riders.
Searchable results for the 2016 Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge are here. You’ll also notice your November Ice Society points are reset. That’s because we’re all back at square one, training for the 2017 Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge.