2010 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike Stage 7

Once again, the Iceman Cometh is bringing in some of the biggest names in mountain biking. Here’s a short list of riders to watch this Saturday.

There are almost too many big-time, national-level riders to name drop, but here are a few you need to know, plus a few you’ll want to keep tabs on. The weather is looking solid for the weekend, which means the race should come down to who has the biggest engine and the best head on their shoulders. These guys and gals fit the bill.

Jeremiah Bishop, Cannondale Sho-Air. One of the classiest guys in the sport, JB is back for yet another Iceman. A fan favorite, is one of the most experienced Pros on hand for the Iceman each year. He’s gearing more and more to longer endurance races, but still has the snap for a 1:45 sprint from Kalkaska. He’s the guy who can attack from distance, using his knowledge of the course to maybe stay away solo.  The best way to stop him might be to tempt him with Krispy Kremes on the start line.

Lukas Flukiger, BMC. He’s won before, and on the World Cup level. He’s moved over from TREK with great results for BMC this season. The squad was put together perfectly, with Julien Absalon on hand and the smart signing of American Stephen Ettinger. Ettinger will make his Iceman debut in the stars and stripes of the US National Champion’s jersey, and with Lukas giving him some tips on the course, they’ll be the most powerful two-man team possible. They may have the most to play with tactically, and the firepower to make it work.

Todd Wells, Specialized. There’s nothing he can’t do. Like Bishop, he’s one of the classiest men on the circuit and knows what it takes to win even the biggest of races. He’s made a few Iceman starts and will have a knowledge of the course perhaps only rivaled by the locals. He’s put in a few cyclocross starts to get the legs nearly back to race condition, and if he’s anywhere near his usual form, he’ll be a podium threat.

Geoff Kabush, SCOTT. He’s probably everyone’s favorite Canadian, or at least in the top ten. Last year, he was second behind Schultz, but still seems to fly just a bit under the radar. That certainly suits him, and he’ll be much fresher in 2013 without the long strain of an Olympic year in his legs.

Emily Batty, TREK. She’s back. She bounced her way right out of your dreams and onto the podium last year behind winner Georgia Gould. Georgia pulled the plug on her season and won’t be back to defend her title, and with former winner Heather Irmiger retired, it’s all down to Batty to ride as favorite. Batty proved herself more than capable of holding onto the lead group over the flats and was one of the stronger climbers amongst that elite group last year. With no Irmiger she’ll have fewer options, but that may make it easier. Last year, the pair weren’t on the same page but neither wanted to step on each other’s toes. Now, it’s a drag race with no one’s feelings to hurt.

Cathrine Pendrel, LUNA. She’s just as Canadian as Batty, and she’s been here before. She’s won in the past and this year will try to keep the Iceman title in-house with Gould not defending. Her season didn’t go as planned, and her 2014 is starting now with Iceman as a training platform. Don’t ever forget that she’s a former World Champion, and that type never shows up just to ride. She’s here to win. Big.

Chloe Woodruff, Crank Bros. She’s back and she’s ready to rock. She showed she still has plenty of form on the season with wins back in Boulder on the cyclocross circuit. Chloe and her pro hubby Travis are big fans of the race and are treated as honorary homies each November. It’s about time Chloe cranks the podium, and maybe even jumps up to the top step.

Tomorrow, we’ll pick out some local Iceman contenders as Iceman Week continues.