TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan (VN) — The snow skipped the pro races this year, but the cold stuck around as Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) and Georgia Gould (Luna) won their races at the 23rd annual Bell’s Beer Iceman Cometh Challenge.
An overnight snowfall saw many of the early categories racing through a winter wonderland during the 29-mile point-to-point race in Traverse City. But by the time the pros took the course it was just plain cold, with temperatures in the 30s and 40s.
The men’s event saw a lead group of 15 pursued by another large bunch for much of the race. About 2km from the finish Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox Racing Team) led into the final singletrack section with Schultz close on his wheel, followed by Brian Matter (Gear Grinder) and Michael Anderson (Nuvo-Bissell).
When Kabush took one of the final turns too wide, Schultz slipped around to take the victory in what he thought was his fifth outing at the Iceman.
“It’s nice to finally pull off the win,” he said. “I just didn’t look back, went full throttle the rest of the way and managed to pull it off.
“It’s one of my favorite races to get to go to. I had a really good ride for myself at the Olympics and then I also won nationals in my hometown, and now this is a good way to finish the season.”
Kabush took second and Matter finished third to round out the podium.
Gould solos to victory
The women’s race also saw a lead group established early on. Up front were Gould, Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek), Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek), Chloe Woodruff (Crankbrother Race Club 11), Erica Tingey and Mackenzie Woodring.
Gould spent a lot of time pulling the field but eventually forged a gap over Batty.
“I just tried to be patient because it gets hillier,” said Gould. “Finally, I attacked on [Anita] hill. I figured if I got enough of a gap they would start racing each other and wouldn’t worry about trying to catch me.”
It worked, and Gould rode to a solo victory. Batty came through in second place and Irmiger took the final spot on the podium in a sprint finish with Woodring.
“I’m so impressed,” said Gould. “That was one of the top-three races I have ever done. Just coming in the last kilometer, the crowds, the barricades, it was just awesome. That was Olympics-worthy. I will definitely be back.”