Almost too many contenders to count and that’s just the Pros. Here are a few Michigan threats for the Iceman’s 23rd edition.
It took a Flukinger, (Lukas) from Switzerland to beat American legend and all-around-swell-guy Jeremiah Bishop in 2012. Michigan has more than a few riders capable of surprising this year, and never before have so many concentrated so hard on this one race.
Mike Anderson, BISSELL. The leader and odds-on favorite to win the Men’s Top Banana Competion, Anderson has been winning since March this season. On the road and off, he’s been at the head of every event and most often dueling with Jorden Wakeley for the win. Anderson’s fall had only one low point, and even that was a mechanical that cost him a probably top three finish at the Crybaby Classic, if not a win.
Jorden Wakeley, Einstein Racing. Anderson may be winning the Banana Competition, but Wakeley has been on form when it counts. He rode away from everyone at races like Boyne and Crybaby, but it’s all been preparation for the Iceman. Ditching his trademark 100 milers and endurance races in favor of more XC events, Wakeley will be billed as the top Michigan talent heading into race day. After setting course records at the Speed of Light, which uses the last 8 miles of the Iceman on its route, if he can get to the VASA with the leaders he will be very tough to beat. No one knows those crucial final moments as well as he does.
Dan Korienek, Leadout Racing. The Bearded One just fired a warning shot 7 days out from the Iceman. He won this past Saturday’s Lowell 50 with a solo move ahead of some of the best riders in the Midwest, reestablishing himself as a danger man over fast, flat and sharp courses like that stretching from Kalkaska to Traverse City. The big man will be a force to reckon with over the open, flat parts of the course and may be able to sneak away if the big names are looking at each other.
Alex Vanias, BISSELL. The young professional is riding well off-road with great results at the Burg, Crybaby and Peak2Peak. Aside from Wakeley, no one has been as consistent and few have been able to climb as well as the Lion of Leroy over the past three months. Alongside Mac Brennan and Nate Williams, BISSELL have a plethora of young talent in postion Saturday, with Vanias boasting the best track record recently. His best bet is in waiting, watching, and popping out of nowhere late in the race out of a whittled down group of ten or less.
Mike Simonson, RBS Racing. The SiMonster’s love of gravel roads will be a comfort if the Iceman stays fast. He’s had success here, plus he’s riding very tough over recent weeks. If anyone is capable of beating the likes of JHK, Christian Tanguay or O’Dea, it’s a rider of Simonson’s quality. He’s be around at the end, and a smart race might end up putting him in the top ten.
Derek Graham, BISSELL. He’s out there. Lurking. Waiting. Ready to strike. Graham has been good, if not great, for most of the season, and his results have been improving this fall. He’s got numbers, with three other teammates all capable of making the final selections on the far side of Guernsey Lake Road and Williamsburg Road. If BISSELL carries a numerical advantage into the last few miles, they’ll be able to attack constantly. Look for an all for one, one for all approach.
Chris Fisher, Einstein Racing. Einstein’s second threat will come in the slender forms of either Fisher or Ryan Kennedy, though it may be Fisher’s experience on the big stage that makes him dangerous. The former Saturn pro and Tuesday Night Worlds hero will downplay his chances right down until he makes his move. He showed some aggression at Crybaby and turned in a great ride, though the conditions at Peak2Peak knocked him to the car early. Iceman is a road race in good conditions, and few people around will know what to do as the 2011 State Road Race Champion will when it really matters.
Brian Matter, Gear Grinder. He’s not technically from Michigan, but Wisconsin is close enough. He won the 2010 race in absolutely legendary style, taking a flyer and riding away from one of the most loaded fields in the race’s history. Hitting the Ice Breaker alone, he was so covered in mud almost no one could tell who he was. Matter will be looking for similar conditions and similar opportunities to get away this year.