This Saturday, the fever breaks and a few thousand people in spandex make the trip from Kalkaska to Traverse City in search of glory, beer, and a ride home.
It’s Iceman, folks. Everyone is buzzing with course recons, re-routes, wave assignments, and who is looking good for November 4. After a season of races, rides, and a few weeks of focused training, the nerds have the numbers and the dreamers have the hope that they’ll be ahead of that special rival, that certain someone, or done before that specific time.
With a course longer than in 2017 but on par with previous editions of the race, the 30 or so mile route includes a number of new re-routes that add some of the distance, but have a bigger impact in that they add more time. The new wall by-pass is a solid 4-5 minute segment, opposed to last year’s route that was under two minutes of ‘added’ trail, and much of that downhill.
Top times are expected to be in the 1:40 area, but weather could still play a factor. Rain on Saturday is expected to come later in the afternoon, posing more of a threat to the afternoon Elite start than the 9:30 opening waves. It will take a lot of precipitation to make the race as brutal and destructive as it was in 2014, but with consistently wet days all week, it’s almost sure to be greasy for everyone.
The weather, the start list, the conditions, and all the other talking points are going to go out the winter when riders actually line up, many of them forty minutes before their start. When the gun goes, it’s a barroom brawl, albeit it a largely civil and encouraging one. Wes already gave you some solid tips, so commit them to memory. Here are just a few more, in case you aren’t sick of them already.
- Wheelie Across The Line. There’s no better way to salvage a disappointing day than by showing your spirit isn’t broken with a Sagan-esque wheelie. Pop that sucks right over the timing strips, that are almost certainly slick as snot and treacherous as an unregistered foreign agent. You look cool as shit, the ladies love it, and there’s no way you’ll, say, crash, break your collarbone and receive some first aid in front of the USA Cycling livestream.
- Get To Kalkaska Early. If you aren’t reading this from the last stool at the Kal-Ho, you’re already screwed. Get there early, and post up on the start line so you know you’ll be at the very front of Wave 23. You wouldn’t want to let anywhere from one to 2,300 riders get ahead of you.
- Leave Your Bike On The Line. Wave Oners, listen up. Don’t wait around like some Johnny-Come-Lately; put your race bike on the line and go warm up on your spare bike. Then, right before the start, sidle through the crowd to the front row! Will your bike still be there when you get back? Not if I have anything to say about it.
- Fuel Your Fire Right. Carbo Load.
- Have Fun. First place or last, you have to go to work on Monday. Well, most of you. #LIFESTYLE
A few notes on the course this year, too. First, having Madeliene’s Trail back for the finish is way cool. The rough section of Vasa ravaged by logging has a pretty fast, smooth and obvious line etched in now, making the drag race back to Four Corners a real thrill again. That new wall bypass is about 60% the old, old bypass from 2014. It includes two short but taxing climbs that are a great combination before you spill over to the Boonenberg and Anita. Finally, that reroute by Dockery that removes Water Bottle Hill does not cut out Make It Stick. For the opening two or three waves, that’s still where gaps will be made, opened, and cemented. If there’s any place on the course to commit to a move that’s it; it’ll take a lot of chasing to bring a handful of strong riders back.