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From here on out, the biggest names in the state will make final preparations before the Iceman Cometh. Here’s where they’ll pick their spots. 

There is no substitute for racing, and with the North America’s biggest one-day mountain bike race nestled at Timber Ridge in Traverse City, the whole state is getting ready to go. The success of specific training programs like the Eight Weeks To Iceman program from Brockmiller Elite Endurance, to riders essentially going back to basics in August to rebuild a base, to all sorts of personal preparations in between, the clock is ticking as loudly for everyone.

For riders looking to go toe to toe with the pros like Jorden Wakeley, Derek Graham, Mike Simonson, Ryan Kennedy, Dan Korienek and the rest, the races leading into the final days of the Iceman are crucial and important. More than a few have adopted cyclocross races as a way to hone in top end speed. From KissCross in Grand Rapids, the Ithaca Grand Prix of Cyclocross, to Cross the Bay Cyclocross, there are numerous options where an hour long race can be a torturous way to be ready for November 2.

Wakeley has already stamped his name at Breezeway Cross, and is expected to return for the second race, Northmen Cross, in Petoskey on October 13. The top end conditioning is perfect for a fast, quick Iceman where the Pros spend much of the race at or above 20 miles per hour before pouring into singletrack and more technical sections. Expect more and more racers of all skill levels to make appearances at Northmen, especially with the massive weekend afterward.

Crystal Mountain Resort is now home to one of the biggest cycling weekends in the state. Saturday is the big one, with Peak2Peak back as one of the final mountain bike races heading into the Iceman. The course is a flat, wide open sprint punctuated each lap with a grueling and selective trip to the top of the ski hill. Last year’s near-freezing, mud and rain fest was so severe that the race organizers cut the race a lap short, much to the relief of many a struggling rider. This year’s race may be even more important with racers missing out on the Crybaby Classic, which did not happen at all. It’s former early October date was ideal and gave Michigan a sort of Fall Classic Triple Header.

With Peak2Peak Saturday, there may be a few extra wheels on the start line for Sunday’s Crystal Cross. October 20 should be a brilliant time in Thompsonville, though racers will have little time to take in the colors on a course that has been scouted out and designed to be the most demanding on the circuit to date. Short, intense laps with a mix of high speed and tight turns make it a great way to add some more race miles for those unhappy with Saturday’s race.

October 26 is the final weekend ahead of the Iceman, and it’s also the final chance to race. Very quietly, the Lowell 50 serves as a great platform for a final test. The spring and fall editions of the gravel road race are tough and selective, and there’s no better way to see how the legs are really spinning than taking on the 57 or 36 mile races. Last year, Dan Korienek stormed to a win as his final preparation before a great outing at the Iceman.

Stay tuned for more race coverage every weekend through the Iceman Cometh on November 2.