Written by: Fred Dreier
The Iceman Cometh seems likely to live up to its moniker on Saturday, when some 2000 mountain bikers will start the 19th annual race along the northwestern bank of Lake Michigan.
The 27-mile race from Kalkaska to Traverse City has gained a reputation for chilly temperatures and variable weather. The National Weather Service predicts heavy showers and a high of 40 degrees, although temperatures will be much lower when the race starts at 9 a.m. start at Kalkaska middle school.
This year, organizers had promoted the pro race as a battle between two sets of brothers, Montanans Sam and Andy Schultz and Wisconsinites Jesse and Mark Lalonde. The Lalondes are locally famous for grabbing top results on singlespeed 29-inch bikes. The Schultzes both own U23 national cross-country titles.
That battle, however, will have to wait until next year. Jesse Lalonde (Gary Fisher) broke his collarbone at the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross opener in Louisville, Kentucky, leaving brother Mark to take on the Schultzes.
Mark Lalonde, last year’s singlespeed cyclocross champion, said he isn’t sure whether he’ll run a singlespeed setup for the race.
“The course is so wide open. Last year I was running the biggest gears of any course and was still spun out on some sections,” Lalonde said. “But it’s a fine line. If you go too big with the gear, you can’t get on top of it.”
Jesse Lalonde isn’t the only strongman to miss this year’s race due to injury. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) was slated to compete before suffering a ruptured eardrum.
The Schultzes will compete, as will Trek-Volkswagen strongman Jeremiah Bishop. Also expected is a cast of Midwest heavy hitters, including 2007 champ Brian Matter and ’06 champ Mike Simonson.
Five-time women’s champ Kelli Emmett (Giant) will not be in attendance. But Subaru-Gary Fisher rider Heather Irmiger will be, and is a favorite to win the women’s crown.
The Iceman features competition in 52 separate categories, with 30 waves of riders leaving in five-minute increments; pros take the course at 2:30 p.m.
And they’re not racing for free — there’s $35,000 in cash and merchandise up for grabs, with winning pros pocketing $2000 each. The 2008 Iceman is sponsored by Gary Fisher bicycles and Meijer stores.