The Iceman Cometh Challenge celebrates its 30th year this fall in Traverse City. The Nov. 2, 2019, event marks three decades of the largest single-day mountain bike race in the country, with riders cutting through the Pere Marquette forest from Kalkaska to TC via a web of single tracks, two tracks and back roads.
This year’s milestone event brings with it a few key (grueling, beautiful) changes.
First, the event will bump up from its usual 27/28 miles to a full 30 miles in length.
“Yep, we’re going big for the big 30th edition of the race!” said Cody Sovis, race director. “A nice and neat ‘30 for 30’ is just too good of an opportunity to miss.”
The extra mileage isn’t just news – it’s grueling news – because the extra miles will come from the addition of the hilly Headwaters 5km trails near the end of the course.
“Expect a short loop of a few miles and a few hundred feet of elevation gain, all in the final four miles of the race,” Sovis said. “That means 25% of the climbing will be at the end of the race. The motivation is to spice up the finale for the amateur waves and provide a slew of potential launch pads for the pros. It’s also a chance for us to use support from the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association and TART to improve Headwaters for riding the rest of the season.”
Another, more palatable, change for racers is this: The start has been moved to the Kalkaska Airport, which will offer plenty of parking and wide open space for riders. The race sends off about 150 riders in 55 waves — every three minutes — for close to 3 hours, so the new start area will offer racers a chance to get in position before hitting the narrower trails. A welcome change for many!
The finish line will be at the usual Timber Ridge Resort in Traverse City. Spectators and racers can revel in the podiums, Bell’s beer tents and (short-lived) ice trophies.
Last but not least, the biggest player in the Iceman every year will be the weather. Racers can expect anything from 20-something and snow (a true “Iceman”) to 60-something and sun (a “NiceMan”) to cold, lovely rain (a “MudMan”). The perfect combination is a start in snow with a finish in the sun!
The 2019 race is sold out, with some 5,000 riders signed up. Of that number, the full 30-mile race will see about 4,250 riders, while the rest will saddle up for the shorter 8-mile Slush Cup or kids’ SnoCone races. However, riders can check the Iceman website often to see if any transfers that become available now through Oct. 11. The $20 transfer fee is donated to two Michigan youth cycling organizations. Norte Youth Cycling of Traverse City and Grand Rapids Dirt Dawgs both benefit from riders getting in at the last minute!
The real thrill of the race is that it’s something we can all look forward to.
“We see riders in their 80s and kids on their very first balance bikes,” Sovis said.
Visit iceman.com for full details on this year’s milestone Iceman.