Colorado riders Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher) and Alison Dunlap (Luna) took home their maiden pro Iceman Cometh wins. The event was also part of the Midwest Regional Championship, and, for the fourth year in a row, Wisconsin brought the greatest depth and breadth of field to win the state-wide series.
“We didn’t have a full roster this year and quite a few of our racers were unable to make it due to illness or other issues, but Wisconsin riders probably had an advantage when it comes to racing experience,” said Don Edberg, director of the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS), America’s largest state mountain bike race series. Edberg, who did his part for Wisconsin by racing to a first place finish in the All Men 55-59 category, cited the number of racers at each WORS event. “Some people think that courses make racers,” he said. “I think when you’re talking about what makes a racer fast, it’s really about the people and the competition. The more people you are able to race against, the faster you get.”
In terms of quantity and quality, the competition at Iceman this year was as good as it has ever been. With 4,000 registered racers, the pro fields were not the only start waves to see an increase in racer turnout, although the addition of National Champions Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, former World Champion Alison Dunlap and international pro racers like Sam Schultz (Gary Fisher), teammates Kelli Emmett and Carl Decker (Giant), and 2008 Icewoman Amanda Carey (Kenda) attracted a flurry of media attention. The marked man and Midwest hope was Brian Matter (Gear Grinder) of Sheboygan.
Matter, a past winner of the Iceman and 17-time Iceman veteran, won at Ore to Shore and the Chequamegon 40 this year, and was crowned 2009 WORS Overall men’s champion in October. Matter was looking to win at Iceman with the additional motivation of a possible repeat of his 2007 Triple Crown title. For a select few men, the “Triple Crown” has been the icing on a great season of Midwest MTB racing; it is the unofficial honor bestowed on those who win each of the Midwest point-to-point races within a single season.
“I raced with Brian Matter a lot when we were juniors and earlier in my career and it's awesome to see him having so much success in the Midwest,” said Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski before the race on Saturday. “Repeating the Triple Crown would be pretty impressive. If he does, hopefully I can at least make him work hard for it!"
Horgan-Kobelski: Cool, calm and collects it
With repeated attacks launched off the front beginning around mile 17, Olympian and National Champ Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski made everyone work hard for it. Despite the smooth speed of the course this year, the front group shed all but six riders after the first of these attacks.
Two Wisconsin racers, Brian Matter and Tristan Schouten (Planet Bike), both of Sheboygan, and a Michigan hometown favorite Mike Anderson (Bell’s Beer) were in the lead group with Horgan-Kobelski, Carl Decker and Sam Schultz. Several riders attempted to launch counterattacks over the next 10 miles, but the lead group was still together, with Horgan-Kobelski leading and Matter second wheel, at Annie’s Hill, a steep wood chip wall that looms up at riders from around a corner with five miles to go.
The attack that stuck came in the last section of singletrack before the finish. Horgan-Kobelski made the winning move, and rode through the screaming gauntlet of Iceman spectators lining the finish chute wearing a broad grin, to finish 12 seconds ahead of teammate Schultz. Matter followed close behind in third.
Dunlap does it
In the ladies' field, Midwest hopeful Jenna Rinehart was looking to become the first woman to win a Triple Crown. Like Matter, Rinehart had to contend with a stacked field including the current National Champion, as well as former World Champion Alison Dunlap. Rinehart traded pulls with the five-woman lead group until near the end, but an attack by five-time Icewoman Kelli Emmett and counterattack by former World Champion Dunlap shook loose all but Heather Irmiger.
The three hit the climb at Annie’s Hill in a tight line with Dunlap in the front. Amanda Carey and Rinehart followed just seconds behind. Dunlap attacked again on a short, steep uphill and created a small gap, which she maintained to the line with Emmett sprinting just feet behind her the entire way.
“I could hear her breathing,” said Dunlap. Emmett and Dunlap are friends and training partners in Colorado Springs as well as frequent competitors, making their appearance together on the Iceman podium all the sweeter.
“I had the fitness I needed, but I didn’t feel like my top-end speed was there today,” said Rinehart after the race. “The attack by Kelli almost took me by surprise. Amanda was a little behind me, and we both worked to catch the lead group again, but it didn’t happen. This was my first Iceman, and it was a good race. I’m looking forward to doing this again.”
'Those fast Wisconsin riders' do it again
Matter’s third-place podium spot helped Wisconsin and the racers of WORS to best their closest competitor, the Ohio Mountain Bike Series (OMBS), although missing spots on the WORS roster made the competition closer than in years past. Even with fewer racers on the roster, WORS fielded enough podium finishers to hold off the competition and create some chatter on the buses back to the starting line.
“My whole bus was talking about those fast Wisconsin riders,” laughed one WORS racer at the awards banquet. Racers in the Michigan Tailwind Series represented for a third place finish in the Regional Championships, while DINO series riders from Indiana took fourth and the Kentucky KYMBA racers finished in fifth place.
With a US Cup race to be hosted by WORS in 2010 at the Subaru Cup, Midwest regional racers will soon have another chance to settle just who is fastest and to treat the National pros to a tour of some of the Midwest’s trademark tight, wooded singletrack and short, steep climbing, courtesy of the course at Mt. Morris.
“I'm always impressed with the races I've done in the Midwest - and I'm excited about the prospect of having another National race there in 2010,” said Iceman Horgan-Kobelski. “There's a great energy at all of the races I've done and they're all very competitive.”
|1||Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher - Subaru)||1:34:02|
|2||Sam Schultz (Gary Fisher - Subaru)||0:00:12|
|3||Brian Matter (Gear Grinder)||0:00:14|
|4||Carl Decker (Giant Bicycles)||0:00:21|
|5||Mike Anderson (Bells Beer)||0:00:28|
|6||Tristan Schouten (Planet Bike)||0:00:41|
|9||Graham Howard (Bissell)||0:02:34|
|10||Christian Tanguy (Fraser-Cannondale)||0:02:37|
|11||Colin Cares (Kenda Tomac)||0:03:15|
|12||Stu Alp (Norco Factory Team)||0:03:35|
|14||Michael Wissink (Specialized)||0:03:40|
|16||Greg Kuhn (Team Fraser)||0:03:45|
|17||Mike Phillips (Adventure 212 - Spec)||0:03:49|
|18||Brent Steinberg (Wolverine - Ac&f)||0:03:59|
|19||Scott Stewart (Bells Beer)||0:04:21|
|21||Darrin Braun (Adventure 212 - Spec)|
|22||Travis Saeler (Gary Fisher 29er Cre)||0:05:40|
|27||Andy Schultz (Kenda Tomac)||0:07:00|
|29||Robert Herriman (Wolverine Sports Club)||0:07:29|
|32||Timothy Carson (Pro Bikes/Cannondale)||0:07:50|
|33||Brad Wilhelm (Gary Fisher)||0:08:26|
|37||Bill Gallagher (Breakaway/Fisher)||0:09:02|
|38||Anton Varabei (Cycle Solutions - An)||0:09:13|
|46||Jeff Craven (City Bike Shop)||0:10:36|
|51||Chris Uberti (Panther / Rgf Pb Fel)||0:12:07|
|53||Ron Sanborn (McLain Cycle & Fitness)||0:12:28|
|59||Ben Renkema (Kenda Pro Cycling)||0:16:20|
|63||Aaron Rahim (Cyclepath Oakville)||0:19:47|
|64||Matt Battin (Bicycle Station)||0:22:15|
|67||Gregory Christian (Panther / Rgf)||0:27:29|
|2||Kelli Emmett (Giant)||0:00:01|
|3||Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher - Subaru)||0:00:12|
|4||Amanda Carey (Kenda Tomac)||0:01:13|
|5||Jenna Rinehart (Specialized)||0:02:05|
|8||Marne Smiley (Scott Bicycles)||0:09:09|
|9||Katerina MacHacova (Fraser)||0:11:51|
|11||Lindsey Kriete (Gear Grinder)||0:12:10|
|12||Danielle Musto (Kenda Tomac)||0:12:30|
|15||Kaitlin Michener (Bikyle)||0:16:39|
|16||Andrea Matter (Team Geargrinder/Trek)||0:17:30|
|22||Michelle Johnson (Trek Of Pittsburgh)||0:24:46|
|23||Nicola Fester (Founders/alger)||0:26:25|
|26||Lee Ann Beatty (Pro Bikes/Cannondale)||0:35:56|
|29||Jade Gianakopoulos (B1 Bicycles)||0:41:02|
|30||Meredith Link (Bicycle Station)||0:42:09|