By Brian Matter
The final race of the mountain bike season took place last weekend in Michigan at the Iceman Cometh Challenge; a 27 mile point-to-point mountain bike race (which is famous for epic, cold conditions) held traditionally on the first Saturday in November between Kalkaska and Traverse City. With above average temperatures and great course conditions the pro men and women set some blistering fast times at the November 5th event. Adam Craig (Giant) took home top honors for the men and Kelli Emmett (Ford/Specialized) for the women.
The competition was like no other Iceman before; a world champion, Tour de France finishers, Olympic athletes, NORBA national champions, three past Iceman champions, two Chequamegon champions and an Ore To Shore champion raced the event. The pro racers started later in the day so the other 2,000 competitors could turn into super spectators and cheer like crazy as the pros approached the finish in Traverse City.
The Iceman is a 27 mile point to point race starting in Kalkaska, MI and finishing in Traverse City . The pro men took off at 2:30pm with last year's champion (Brian Matter, PCW Cycling) taking the lead into the first singletrack. Doug Swanson (Trek Midwest) soon took over the pacemaking as the racers approached the first singletrack. National pros Jeremeny Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru/Gary Fisher) and Adam Craig started taking turns at the front as the group of leaders got smaller and smaller.
With such high speeds for a mountain bike race one little mistake and you are gone; both Matter and Horgan-Kobelski found this out the hard way. Matter's skewer was pulled open after some riders took a wrong turn and the group bunched up and crashed into each other. Soon after that Horgan-Kobelski overshot a corner when his stem twisted loose.
The two were soon working together chasing the lead group of 5 riders containing Craig, Swanson, Tristan Schouten (Trek Midwest), Canadian Jesse Jakomait, and Travis Brown aboard his Gary Fisher 29er. As the leaders approached the final miles of the race, Adam Craig started to pull away in the singletrack and Swanson would close the gap on the climbs. In the end, Craig proved the strongest as he cross the line riding a wheelie with a 14 second advantage over Swanson. Schouten attacked Jakomait to grab the last spot on the podium and Brown rounded out the top 5.
The women's race was won by two-time Iceman champion and Michigan native Kelli Emmet. Sarah Kylander-Johnson (Trek Midwest) finished second after a great season (First, Ore to Shore and second at Chequamegon) and defending champion Kerry Barnholt (Subaru/Gary Fisher) was third.
For more photos and full results (all 2000 of them!) from the Iceman Cometh, click here.