It's finally the year to give it a shot. We've been talking about it for a couple of years now, and it all came together.
I signed up for the Pro race this spring, but there was something nagging about not going back to the morning race and getting to ride with all my pals. Ever since I started doing Iceman, I've done the Pro race, and while it's absolutely wild to mix it up, albeit briefly, with some of the best riders in the world, it always felt like I'd missed out on how everyone else did. Most were done, showered, warmed up and ready to turn for home by the time I finished, and I never got a chance to hear how their day went or see them in action.
Of course, I've been lucky enough to see a lot of other action over the years. From Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski's wheel explosion, to the Todd Wells hole shot the next year, and of course, the Pro women catching me in my first two years, I've been able to jostle for position with world champions, national champions, Olympians, and world-class athletes on my home trails. I've always thought, why not? If Michael Jordan was coming to Traverse City for a three on three tournament, you'd want to play against him, right? Of course you're going to get dunked on. You're going to get beat. But that's a tremendous opportunity to see the best in action, and one I hate turning down.
Last year, however, we really wanted to debut Bearclaw Bicycle Co. in style, and so I was enlisted to try to win the fat bike class on a the final prototype. This "pre-Balthazar" was essentially the last draft, if you will, before our production bikes would arrive. Plus, our ricoCHET rims and Industry 9 hubs showed up on the Thursday before the race, too. Dan scrambled with his trademark calm to build the wheels, and put on some of my personal touches, like an elliptical chain ring and narrower, 170-specific crank that just barely fits around the chainstays.
We also had Mike Tettleton in town for the race, and he hoped on another demo bike. I had a great race, and Mike stormed through the field as well, giving us first and third in the category. It was a bit of a relief to take a win at Iceman, and the perfect way to show what our fat bikes can do.
But this year, we initially couldn't decide if I should ride fat again, or give the Pro race a shot with our new Little Chet B+ wheels. Jason Lowetz finally just said, "Why don't you just do both?", which was a terrible and brilliant idea. It's really motivated me this fall to be as prepared as possible to do the double, with some big miles and and a lot of gear testing to make sure I am as ready as the bike is to race two 30 mile races, possibly in snow, rain, or sun, just a few hours apart.
Thanks to Dan, I've got two wheelsets built up for the big day. My fat wheels are even lighter than last year, with I9 hubs laced up with Sapim CX Ray spokes on our ricoCHET 85mm carbon rims. Dan put some nice touches of color to the nipples, copying the colors of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster kit, with blocks of red, gold and purple to match the new decals on the frame. We called in Schwalbe's crazy light Jumbo Jim tires back into action. I tried to use as much of the same stuff as I could from last year, although the exact tires are now on the wheels of another Balthazar, #077, belonging to our buddy Brad Hochstetler.
My bike, #007, weighs in at 23 pounds, 6 ounces with its big wheels on, and just 20 pounds 9 ounces with B+ wheels. I have a final set of prototype carbon Little Chets with DT Swiss Comp spokes and I9 hubs. Schwalbe's Rocket Rons are perfect for TC, and they've really become the go-to for us at the shop.
The real test will be down to getting out of the elements after the first race, and luckily I've got a great crew. Lowetz is going to be at the finish to scoop me out of the snow or rain and get straight down to the shop to swap my wheels out and go through the bike again, with Dan and Ben tag-teaming that effort. I'll get warm, have my usual Breakaway Cafe lunch, and then try to rest as much as I can before we head back out to Kalkaska for the day's second round.