TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (ST)– A feeling of warmth was in the air at the 22nd Annual Bell’s Brewery Iceman Cometh Challenge, the largest single day point-to-point mountain bike race in North America.
Maybe it was due to the unseasonable balmy, sunny fall conditions, which approached 60 degrees. It could have also been the result of the event’s new title sponsor, Michigan based Bell’s Brewing, who let the taps flow free at the massive finish line expo area resulting in a ten barrel high keg pyramid – the contents of which helped to replenish the bodies and spirits of over 4,800 racers.
No, that isn’t a misprint – 4,800 racers going off in 3-minute waves in a start that lasted half a day. The Iceman has come a long way, baby! From its humble beginnings in 1990 with 35 entrants and a $0 purse, to a total prize purse of over $54,000 today, including a $5,000 payout for the first place Men’s and Women’s Pro Class finishers.
With big money on the line it isn’t a surprise that in recent years the Iceman has been attracting more and more top USA national pros. This year was no exception, with recent Pan-American Games winner Heather Irminger and former USA National Marathon and Short-Track Mountain Bike Champion Jeremiah Bishop gracing the field.
So, what was new to the Iceman Pro Class this year? The podium went finally went global with Swiss National Lukas Flückiger (Trek World Racing) taking the overall Pro Men’s victory in a tight finish line sprint with 2008 Iceman winner Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale).
In the Women’s Pro Class, Heather Irminger (Subaru-Trek) finally got to take home the title of Icewomen, having had to settle for the Bronze Medal on the podium in two prior years. Irminger piped BMC Mountain Bike Development Pro Chloe Woodruff by 12 seconds and current UCI World Champion Catharine Pendrel by just over a minute.