Iceman Cometh veteran Brian Matter (Gear Grinder) rode to his third victory at the 21st edition of the race in Michigan on Saturday. Matter, who lives in Wisconsin about eight hours from the Traverse City race, outwitted the other favorites in the 27-mile point-to-point race.
Matter previously won the Iceman Cometh in 2004 and 2007. This victory was a sweet one from the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS) regular and national-level cyclo-cross racer.
"The level of competition was the hardest so far - with the roadies Jeremiah (Bishop), (Jeremy Horgan Kobelski) JHK and Todd (Wells). Many of them have been here before, but this year they all happened to come."
Matter and another WORS regular, Tristan Schouten were the two "local" Midwest favorites. They also had to battle Sam Schultz and about a dozen roadies from various pro teams such as BMC, although in the end, slippery conditions the day after snow had fallen turned out to favor the mountain bikers.
Experience paid off for Matter, who did his first Iceman Cometh in 1993. He says he's missed "maybe one year in there somewhere" since.
"The race panned out exactly how I thought it would play out," said Matter. "I know the course and general geography quite well. The last seven years, I've been doing it full on in race mode, going for the win."
"It started out fast on hard pack, two track. Drafting and staying toward the front were important," said Matter. "This year, I figured it'd play out different because there was a higher level of competition. The past years, it was JHK and Sam Schultz teaming up and beating up on the local guys."
"This year, I was the underdog and JHK and Sam were trying to beat up on Todd and Jeremiah and those two were marking each other. Tristan and I asked each other, 'how are we going to win this thing?'. We're Midwest guys, and we couldn't let these guys come and take our big prize money." US$10,000 was on the line for both the men's and women's races, with $3,500 going to the winner of each race.
Matter and Schouten did manage to snag the top prize money. After a series of counterattacks by the top racers in the lead group, Matter launched his own effort. The others, marking each other, let him get a gap and it was just enough.
"I knew Tristan wouldn't chase me down," said Matter. The others waited a little too long and Matter's move, with four miles remaining, stuck until the end.
"For the first three minutes (of my attack), I was seeing stars," said Matter. " After that, I took a few deep breaths and I followed the lead moto and pedalled as hard as I could."
Matter's win came after more than a month of cyclo-cross racing. "I did my last mountain bike race in early to mid-September," he said, "and most of that was on a full suspension bike". On Saturday, he was on a new bike, a hardtail, that he'd only ridden twice before race day - once last Wednesday and once Friday.
Matter got to share some time on the podium with mountain bike legend Gary Fisher, who was celebrating his 60th birthday.