No longer just an Iceman tune-up race, Peak2Peak is an animal all its own.

Starting out a few years back as a way for a few locals and a few out of towners to get their race legs back ahead of the Iceman Cometh, the drag race that is Peak2Peak is now a huge event in its own right. It’s got the right mix of trail, climbs, speed and singletrack to prep for the Iceman, sure, but this is the highest quality field short of a November race with current and former World Champions on the start line.

The course the fastest in the state. It really is. For the first seven miles, the average speed of the Elite Men should be up around 20 miles per hour, churning over a mix of paved road, wide open ski trails and a spacious sprint on black dirt heading to the Betsie River. It isn’t until Dead Man’s Curve, the abrupt right hander that keeps racers out of the river itself, that the brakes will be applied and the pace a touch lower. After winding back out of the river basin, it is another high-speed color tour on the west side of the mountain that leads toward the Crystal Climb. There’s a short singletrack climb on the backside of the mountain that could cause some slight gaps, but most of the time on the course is on the main ascent to the highest point in the county. At 287 feet of climbing in just under a mile, the climb averages 7.1%. There is one section near the middle that averages closer to 17% and hits 23.5% as the steepest portion. One thing to keep in mind: the time is on the climb. A gap of ten seconds might take a whole lot of effort to achieve on every other part of this course. Ten seconds on this climb is almost certain and riders who can’t climb it all-out each lap could easier lose a minute in a single climb.

The Men’s race is going to be a showdown between Jorden Wakeley and Mike Anderson. After Wakeley’s crushing win at Crybaby, the only question mark left was about Anderson. A mechanical knocked out Anderson and the mantle of Wakeley-fighter fell to BISSELL’s Alex Vanias and his teammate, Derek Graham. The two will have to ride perfect races again to be with Wakeley, though they could benefit if the Wakeley-Anderson battle gets bogged down. For those two, racing hard and keeping the race hard all the way through may be the only way to get rid of each other, though if they take full responsibility for the race, others may be able to hold on and threaten late. Look for Chris Fisher to make the most of any mistakes by the rest of the field. The course suits Fisher well and he showed some serious aggression at Crybaby, something that may pay off in a big way this week at Peak2Peak. A dark horse pick? Mac Brennan. To call a professional cyclist a dark horse just goes to show the quality of the Men’s field. BISSELL is going to be extremely dangerous.

In the Elite Women’s, it might be the most stacked field of the year. Eight riders will toe the line, including Sue Stephens and Johanna Schmidt. Erin Vicary, Stephens’ teammate, will be a crucial ally with Schmidt also gaining some reinforcements. Making a return to P2P to defend her title, reigning State Road Race champion Mackenzie Woodring is back to take on the dominate Stephens. Last year, it was a tactical affair for Woodring, Stephens and Schmidt and numbers won out. For Stephens, it’ll come down to either just riding away from everyone or playing it tactically and making the smart, surgical split of the field. Hagerty is offering up Melissa Ryba, fresh off a second place in the Expert field at Crybaby and riding on a course perfectly suited for her powerful riding style. Marie Dersham will also make the start and could figure in the final picture if she’s on a good day. Right now, Stephens is the big favorite, even if the defending champion is in the field.

Here’s some Strava information of TWO (count’em) laps on the course from this past weekend, ran at about 70% or so. There’s still time to sign up for the final 50 or so spots left, so click this thing right here.

Check back after the race for the recap and photos, and next week for the updated Top Banana Competition standings.