It’s here. A Series of Bold Predictions for the 2012 Iceman Cometh Challenge.

After countless tedious hours pouring over results, weather reports, astrological charts, mathematical equations and caloric intake calculations, kolo t.c. can now safely predict the winners of the Men’s and Women’s Pro races. Using the very best information on hand and a bit of gut feeling, the Bold Predictions are a sort of barometer of fitness and skills that will result in eternal glory at Timber Ridge this Saturday.

For the Men’s race, it’s really a toss up. There is, in all reality, a total of 20 riders that are fully capable of winning this race. Some will do better in good conditions, some in bad. Some will do better in good conditions and in a tactical, road-like race with the singletrack coughing riders off the back. The weather in Michigan is useless to forecast, even a day or two out. Operating sheerly on chance, let’s say the weather ain’t so bad.

There’s a reason riders like ro recruit teammates, and BISSELL comes to the show armed with four options in Vanias, Graham, Williams and Brennan. While they have the numbers, they also will be able to shirk responsibility and force the big names to the front. If that happens, and they all survive the treacherous first stretch of singletrack, they’ll be able to launch attack after attack and force the likes of JHK and Russell Finsterwald to close any gaps.

On the other hand, it could break up in the singletrack, and if that’s the case, look for Jorden Wakeley, Ryan Kennedy, JHK, Troy Wells, Brian Matter and the other outstanding bike handlers to pull ahead. A rider like Wakeley knows the course cold and could use local knowledge to sneak away from distance. Especially in wet, bad conditions, a small group is always likely to happen.

So who will it be? Watch for JHK to get back to his winning ways in 2012. He’s got the form and the experience to ward off the massive wave of danger men taking the line. He’s also a rider that can win in any kind of race in any kind of weather. If the Flukinger Bros show up, they should be dangerous, but picking riders that aren’t on the startlist is too risky here. Here’t the Bold top five:

1. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski
2. Jorden Wakeley
3. Tyler Jenema
4. Eddie O’Dea
5. Sam Schultz

Schultz is the dark horse. He’s been better than JHK most of the year but has been resting a bit longer and it will be a toss-up to see if he’s still got his career-best early season form.

The Women’s race is one of the strongest and deepest in the race’s history. Heather Irmiger will be back to defend her 2011 title, but she’ll be facing one of the hottest riders on the planet right now in Georgia Gould (you thought I was going to say Batty, didn’t you?). Emily “E-Batz” Batty will be coming back from her August collarbone break, and while the course doesn’t suit her, she’s always got a chance to be there at the end. Judy Freeman will be in pretty solid form after racing in China for the past week, and should be one of the most experienced racers here along with Irmiger.

The biggest question marks of the day come from the dangerous local women. After her State Champion Road Race win and the resounding victory at Peak2Peak, Mackenzie Woodring is almost irresistible to pick for Saturday. The woman she beat at Peak2Peak, Sue Stephens, is also in great shape and riding on a course she’s well suited to ride well on. But it’s also the return of Chloe Woodruff, the Arizona rider, whose second place last year confirmed her status as contender yet again. She’s really on the same playing field as a Woodring or Stephens. For the local girls to fare well, they’ll need help.

Each big local team  has at least two riders. Einstein Racing has Woodring and last year’s 6th place Johanna Schmidt, while arch rival Hagerty Cycling has Susan Vigland and Lauri Brockmiller. Stephens will be flanked by Quiring Cycles’ Erin Vicary, a high finisher at every local race this year. All of these teams will have to send one up the trail and hope no one chases, or let one in the main group and refuse to chase down teammates if the chase group stays in touch. It will be a sort of all for one, one for all situation where sacrificing a top ten for one might give the other a chance at the win.

In any condition, I’ll bet 50% of all of my wealth ($27 at the moment) on a Georgia Gould victory. Her cyclocross double in Colorado this past weekend makes her impossible to pick against, and she’s easy to root for. Gould has been one of the class acts of the sport for a number of years and it really is a treat for TC to host her for the Iceman, win or lose. Behind her will be Chloe Woodruff, followed by the on-form Judy Freeman.

1. Georgia Gould
2. Chloe Woodruff
3. Judy Freeman
4. Heather Irmiger
5. Mackenzie Woodring

Here’s the official Iceman podcast, with big news about the race, expo, the Cherry-Roubaix and more!

It’s going to be a heck of a bike race. Please remember to stick around the finish area and cheer these riders in. It’s amazing to see such great riders come from all over to race here and we want to have them back, and nothing adds to the experience as much as outstanding applause and beer handups. Be loud, be positive and get your friends yelling too. Haul ass in your race!

Good luck to everyone racing Saturday and remember to have fun, be safe, and enjoy the ride.

(All bets must be in by Friday night at 7pm.)