Some of the best races aren’t the ones you’ll read about in Cyclingnews. Here are a few riders that will contest their age groups with class.
One of the most exciting things of the 2013 Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge is the inclusion of the Ice Bike category. It took the race’s big bike sponsor, Trek, to have a model available for this to happen, but it just makes sense across the board. The Midwest is the hotbed of fat bikes, and Michigan has the snow, the sand and the trails to make it a great bike.
Riders have committed all out in 2013, and the Ice Bike category will be one of the hardest fought. The class was assigned wave 28, which means there are thousands of people up the trail ahead of some great riders. If we take some of these rider’s previous times, and even add a minute or two, it would be like starting solid wave one or two riders in the middle of the race.
Fat bikes will have the biggest advantage of the day, at least in one area. They’ll be able to pass anywhere the trail is wide enough for two handlebars to fit through. That means it will be a race to the singletrack sections, where other fat bikers could be caught in behind and gapped.
Ken Blakey-Shell enters as a big favorite on the day. The local rider has adopted the fat bike as a year round training bike and has put in hours around Arcadia and Big M this summer. He’s a proven Iceman racer, too, and knows the trails as well as anyone.
Jason Whittaker is another rider who has all but adopted the fat bike as a way of life. If he’s riding in the woods, he’s on a fat bike, and the Einstein Racing stud has set his laid-back eye on this as a way to test himself against other fat bikers. He’s one of those riders that would be in the first three waves based on previous times, and will be one of the strongmen that show the fat bike class could probably move up a few waves and not be any worse off.
Dan Jansen, Carey Grumelot, Whittaker’s Einstein Racing teammate John Ammond and Nick Boudjalis could all threaten in the Men’s Ice Bike, too.
If you need to know how seriously fat biking is taken up north, look no further than the women’s category. Einstein Racing is sending three of their fat bike specialists to the race, including the first debut from Arianne Whittaker in a number of years. They also field Chelsea Strate, who swept the Northern Michigan Fat Bike Series last winter and has yet to lose on a fat bike, ever. Stacy Smith is another convert, selling her mountain bike and opting to use her Mukluk as her sole bike in the woods.
They’re up against the incomparable Danielle Musto. The endurance racer and Salsa athlete was one of the first women in the state to mount up on a Beargrease, and it seems to take an awful lot to get her to ride anything else. She’s the marked favorite for Saturday, but with a thousand riders ahead, there are many pitfalls and dangerous en route. Ann Arbor’s Sarah Temby will also challenge, and may find herself as de facto teammate to Musto against the three-pronged Einstein Racing attack.
There are too many names in Wave One to list, but the honor of being first to Timber Ridge should come from this group. Tom Linck, Brad Lako, Jimmy McMurray, Collin Snyder, Ty Schmidt, Craig Webb and Tom White all have a shot, with Ron Sanborn probably wishing this race was about three times longer so he could have a chance to warm up.
Wave Two features Todd Anthes, the ageless Don Fedrigon, Jeff Owens, Warren van Middlesworth and the most interesting duo of the day, Sean Kickbush and Keegan Myers. The pair have a quarter as many race starts in their careers as Yours Truly has in the past three months, but they might well find themselves as the class of the first few waves. If this group gets broken up early, it comes down to the firepower in the front group. If these two, Eli Brown and a few strong others work, it’ll be lights out.
Wave Three goes to the young guns. Keep all eyes peeled, that’s right, both your eyes, on Jake Ellis, Bryan Carps, Alex Huyghe, Alex Schultz, and the young at heart Martin Vecchio. Those two Alexes are of particular interest, and, like the other first few waves, if the right group gets a slight gap with these two tucked in, it could be a ridiculously fast time from riders who might think they should be leaving Kalkaska a few minutes earlier. Tim Bottrell is also in this wave and the big guy in pink will be a powerhouse on the fast, flat sections. If anyone is looking for a good wheel to hop onto, look for a gigantic human being in a pink kit.
What riders are you looking at for big rides on race day?