'Tis the season. In Northern Michigan, and indeed the entire state, the Iceman Cometh Challenge looms as something very much like a holiday each autumn. The first Saturday in November, unless the first Saturday is the first, is a special date circled by cyclists before most spousal birthdays, any family reunions and always before an anniversary.
The course, while challenging, isn't as spectacular as routes with equally large names. Leadville 100 has its charming downtown and astronomical elevation. La Ruta de la Conquistadors has its bridge crossing, steaming jungles and the exotic twang of foreign names. The Iceman has its mythic cold, its sand pits, and its sheer mass of humanity...but also something else.
The best part of the Iceman is the communal thrill. We feed off it. We exude an excitement that brings out the same enthusiasm in those around us. Age group winners and first timers can talk about it together, lose sleep of their tire choices, offer tips...it's Iceman! What tires are you running?
Last year, I was rather firmly in a physical trough after a long season of racing and riding. I was so bad I could barely keep up on the Gears and Beers Out and Back two weeks before the race. I was running on fumes, even thinking about staying home on Saturday. But a few days before, I joined some TC powerhouses on one final ride with Craig Webb, Keegan Myers and Sean Kickbush. On the way to Kalkaska, loaded into a van and bouncing along a 'short-cut' Craig knew, I found the 'holiday' spirit. We talked about the course, who was fast, who was fat, who had a shot, who had a sweet bike...all the stuff you gab about because you simply can't to ride your bike.
When you're up in TC, look around; there are bikes everywhere during Iceman season. There are probably hundreds of riders pre-riding the course, putting in a lap or two on the Vasa to get ready, or rolling the finish into Timber Ridge. The famous water bottle ICEMAN sign is as sure a sign of the season as Christmas lights or Halloween decorations.
Let yourself get excited. The feeling is electric. It's a rare thrill that is as contagious as Iceman Fever. Everyone here at Ec is certainly down with it.