In its 20th year, the Iceman Cometh is attracting 4,000 racers. The race is more popular than ever and reflects a strong tradition of racing in the Midwestern United States.
The Iceman is famous for drawing lots of spectators, too. "The Iceman is the only Midwest mountain bike race that I have ever done," said Sam Schultz (Subaru / Gary Fisher) of Montana. "I heard a lot about the huge crowds that turn out for the Midwest races but I didn't realize the extent of it until my first Iceman last year. The scene was good, with tons of amateurs and pros all mixing it up together. It seems like mountain bike racing in the Midwest right now is awesome."
Schultz's teammate Heather Irmiger, who grew up in Michigan, has also been impressed with the Midwest's racing scene. "I only have experience racing in the later part of the season, but these experiences have always been wonderful. The promoters and the participants are so enthusiastic - the attitudes at Iceman and Chequamegon have always taken me back to my roots and remind me why I started racing. In contrast to the National scene, the Midwest races I've done have that great festival atmosphere which equates to the perfect balance of serious competition and laid-back love for the sport."
Five-time winner Kelli Emmett (Giant), who is originally from Michigan, noted a contrast between what she's seen at the national level and the regional level. "It feels, sometimes, like interest in mountain bike racing has been going down lately on the national scene. There are fewer spectators at national events like the US Cup, and I think sponsorship has suffered. But that doesn't seem to be the case in the Midwest. The races I've done in the Midwest have had great areas for spectators."
Local Sheboygan racer Tristan Schouten explains why the racing is so good. "In our region we have the biggest series in the country [the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS)], good prize money, decent courses and great competition. For me, there really isn't a huge reason to do national level racing because there is no benefit to doing well, or what most people would consider as having done well. You could have a fantastic day at a national race and ride into the top 10 and you'd come home $1,000 in the hole and with nothing to show for it except pride. I might as well race locally against fast guys and win some money."
"Minnesota (MNSCS) has a lot of tough race courses that develop riders into all around cyclists and the WORS series attracts a lot of talented racers making for great competition," said Kyia Anderson, who lives and races in the region. "There are always some good, strong riders that come out of the Michigan scene as well and when some of these racers come together, you know that any one person can have a good day."
Local and national racing may overlap in 2010 with a possible national series stop. "I'm excited about the prospect of having another national race there in 2010 [a race at Mt. Morris, Wisconsin, hosted by WORS]," said cross country national champion Jeremy Horgan Kobelski (Subaru / Gary Fisher). "There's a great energy at all of the races I've done."
Part of what makes the Iceman so successful is its atmosphere. "The energy of this event is unreal and it spills into the post-event party," said 2008 winner Amanda Carey. "My hunch is everyone finally heard about the afterparty and signed up based on that."
"The festival atmosphere and great energy makes this one of the most fun events I get to do all year," said Horgan Kobelski. "I always look forward to the post-race party too - it's certainly one of my off-season highlights."
"Iceman is a good way to end the MTB season," said Schouten. "With lots of prize money to make us feel good, and one last chance to see friends again before the season ends."
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