There’s a lot of talent in the Mitten, and this could be the year they storm back to an Iceman title. Here are just a few of the big favorites that won’t have to drive too far. Relatively.
Last year, Sam Schultz tore away to win the Men’s title while Georgia Gould took the women’s. The local ride of the day went to Einstein Racing’s Mackenzie Woodring in fourth, but this year, the goal all-around is podium or bust. We’ve got some amazing depth, and these guys and gals should do the most damage.
Mike Simonson, 616 Fabrications. These guys loaded up over the winter, but Simonson is still top dog. With a welcome, if unscheduled, training block last month in his legs and a victory last week at the Lowell 50 he’s the trendy Michigan pick. On the heels of his Peak2Peak podium, where he was only behind Cole House and ahead of teammate Jorden Wakeley, 616 as a team looks dangerous. With fewer big pros on the line armed with teammates, it might fall to 616 to set the pace and, in doing so, perhaps sacrifice a rider or two in the process. It could be well worth the risk, however, with Simonson and House both on some of the best form of their careers.
Scott Hoffner, PriorityHealth. Close but no cigar at Peak2Peak, the 23 year old is in great form after a busy summer. He’s leading the Top Banana Competition with two races to go, and if the $5,000 purse isn’t motivation enough, the $1.73 worth of fruit certainly is. The course suits him, as does the style of racing, and if there’s a large group heading into the final few miles, expect Hoffner to be in it.
Brian Matter, GearGrinder. He may have moved to Wisconsin (of all places), but we’re still claiming him. He’s won this thing before and last year took third behind Schultz and Kabush. He’s a big favorite in the mud, muck and snow, but with pretty nice weather in the forecast, he’ll have to prove he can win this when it isn’t a frozen hellscape.
Ron Catlin, RBS. He was outside the top twenty last year, but it’s been 12 months. He’s one of the most powerful riders out there and has had a stellar 2013. No one has ridden as tough as Catlin and if he makes it through the dangerous first few miles in the right position, there’s no reason to think he can’t force the issue in the singletrack. Plus, he’s riding alongside teammate Greg Kuhn, which gives RBS some solid options to counter 616.
Marcus Bush, Synergy. He’s another home boy from far away. We’ll claim him as a Michigander, though he’s been crushing the cyclocross scene in Minn-e-SO-Ta. He’ll be making the trip over with the goal of a top placing, and with the course conditions simply awesome, his cyclocross bike might just be the secret weapon of the day. He’ll be the guy you can’t see-full camo kit.
Mackenzie Woodring, Einstein Racing. She’s been torching the competition on the cyclocross circuit, including a foray to China this year. Big Ring saunters back to Kalkaska a year after riding to an unbelievable fourth place and sparring with some of the best in the world. It impressed Georigia Gould, and it reminded all the Michiganders how lucky we are to have her around. She’s not just a local favorite on Saturday, she’s perhaps co-favorite next to Pendrel and Batty.
Sue Stephens, GRIT MTB. She’s the rider everyone measures up against. With Woodring doing cyclocross, it was again Stephens setting the pace at Big M, Battle and the Burg and then in second behind Woodring at Peak2Peak. The pair will renew their series at Iceman, and this time, it’s going to be amidst some of the best in the world. Last year’s battle was called off with Stephens sick on race day.
Lauri Brockmiller, Hagerty Cycling. She was third at Peak2Peak and has been targeting the Iceman for months. She’s made a living on getting other people ready for the first Saturday in November (unless the first Saturday is the first) so it’s hard to imagine she won’t be in perfect condition. She’s also got a lot riding on this, as she currently leads the Top Banana Competition. So. Yeah. Wow.
Cooper Dendel, Quick Stop. She’s from the U.P. She mountain bikes. And she can almost certainly beat you on one. With so much attention, well-deserved, on Woodring, Cooper’s seventh place was under the radar. It won’t be the same this year. She’ll be on everyone’s radar, and the only way she’ll lose focus is if there is a pile of pasties somewhere along the route. And there could be.