The Iceman Cometh is celebrating its 20th year on Saturday, November 7. The popular 27-mile point-to-point cross country race runs from Kalkaska through the Pere Marquette National Forest to Traverse City.
What makes the Iceman Cometh epic is its size and unpredictable weather conditions. The event is expected to draw over 4,000 racers. Though Saturday's forecast is for a balmly 57 degrees with a breeze and some sun, over the years, racers have battled sub-freezing temperatures, rain and several inches of snow.
"I can already hear the jokes about it being the 'NIceman Cometh'," said Organizer Steve Brown to Cyclingnews.
The race has grown tremendously in its 20-year history. "The striking differences between the first year and this year are the level of complexity and the technology involved," said Brown. "Twenty years ago, we weren't using cell phones. Now, what would we do without them? There are timing chips, too."
"Now it takes nine full days to set up the race and put it all together. This year, I have a guy whose full responsibility is worrying about the transportation with the buses. Twenty years ago, we had 35 guys and one woman racing. We drew a line in the sand and said see you in Traverse city. Find your own way back."
The course consists primarily of dirt roads, doubletrack, abandoned railroad beds, and the famous Vasa Nordic ski trail. It crosses only one paved road (Williamsburg Road at mile 16). In recent years, the course has changed very little.
"The first year was quite different, but for the most part, we've used the same general course every year," said Brown.
This year's Iceman will feature a race within a race. The 2009 Midwest Regional Championship will take place during the event with representative divisional winners from five states series competing to earn the title of Midwest Regional Champion. Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky are participating. Wisconsin has won the past two years.
The race is traditionally held on the first Saturday in November, except when that Saturday is November 1. Last year, 3,001 athletes from 36 states and Ontario, Canada, competed. Jeremiah Bishop and Amanda Carey won the elite men's and women's races.
Both will be on hand to defend their titles. 80 elite men and 40 elite women are signed up.
Carey has been riding well this fall, but she'll have some tough competition. Five-time winner Kelli Emmett will be there along with fellow Colorado Springs resident and former cross country world champion Alison Dunlap and current national marathon and cross country champion Heather Irmiger.
Another woman to watch out for is Jenna Reinhart. She'll be going for an unofficial Midwest triple crown title after winning the Chequamegon 40 and the Ore to Shore races earlier this season.
In the men's race, Bishop will compete against national marathon and cross country champion Jeremy Horgan Kobelski, Todd Wells and brothers Sam and Andy Schultz as well as past winners Mike Simonson, Brian Matter and Tristan Schouten. Like Reinhart, Matter has won the first two Triple Crown rounds. Others to watch include two pro roadies, Ben Renkema and Jacob Rytlewski, who are hoping their fitness will compensate for a lack of trail time, and the young Mike Anderson.
Brown predicts a total of 3,900 racers for the Iceman, 300 for the shorter Slush Cup and 300 children for the Snow Cone.
Racers will compete for just under $25,000 in cash prizes and $10,000 in merchandise.
For more information, visit www.iceman.com.