Another October, another Gears'n'Beers, and the excitement builds towards another Iceman Cometh Challenge!
A big thank you to everyone who ventured out this past Saturday for Gears'n'Beers, the official Iceman Cometh pre-ride. It was the biggest edition of the ride yet, with roughly 300 riders on hand to check out the course for 2016.
It was, fittingly, our first feel of fall, too, with temperatures down in the the 40s and a nice breeze out of the west, which made the 17 miles from Timber Ridge to Kalkaska just a bit easier. Over 150 riders did the full Out and Back, sent off by Ella from Timber Ridge and our pals Breanne and Craig Fortuna from Breakaway Cafe.
After wheeling into the Park and Ride along West Kalkaska Road, everyone gathered for last minute instructions, with the lot and some of those adjacent parking locations nearly filled up. It had the feel of November as riders got the legs warmed up. Einstein Racing-Short's Brewing racers spread out amongst the three groups to lead the way and offer encouragement to folks from all over the state, and some from as far as Ohio.
The sandiest section of the course comes almost immediately , and while it's certainly going to offer some challenges, there are only three truly terrible sand pits, and those are all in rather quick succession before riders hit Smith Lake Road. From there, things are mostly packed and faster than at the same point last year. Solid rain and cooler temperatures at the tail end of September have gone a long way towards smoothing out the rough stuff and wetting down the sand, a good sign with 3 weeks left to race day.
The famous Steve's Secret stays off the course for this year, as does the old singletrack section after Dockery Road. The singletrack after Broomhead, too, has been scrapped in favor of a prolonged venture straight along the powerlines there, sticking to the old two track from Icemans of old.
A new wall bypass is already in place, though by far the most interesting proposition will be the final design of the finish. With heavy logging operations in action around Timber Ridge, sections such as Madeleine's Trail and Icebreaker are being swallowed up by downed trees and clearing equipment. The likely result is a more direct finish than the serpentine, singletrack finishes of the past few years, though the hope is that Icebreaker can remain clear enough for use.
The Vasa itself has firmed up incredibly quickly after one of the driest summers in recent memory. The sandy months of July and August seem a long, long time distant, and the final miles of the race look to be very fast, especially the section from the 10km split to Timber Ridge. This same section serves as the start of Speed of Light, and riders will find it much faster than even the Vuelta Competition and World Championships in early September.