Iceman 2018: A Recap and Reflection

Writing a recap for a race with 400 riders is one thing, but how can you accurately describe what happened in a race with over 4,000 spandex warriors taking part? It’s not exactly an easy thing to do. There are 4,000 different versions of a single race; some stories of triumph, some of disappointment, some stories of just wanting to get the line for a Two Hearted and a brat in a pretzel bun. All stories worth reading and sharing, especially the brat and pretzel bun one. Below you’ll find a very brief overview of some of the fastest races of the day, but it certainly doesn’t mean that anyone’s race was any less important. From everyone at kolo, we want to congratulate every single person who threw their helmet into the ring and took on the Iceman Cometh Challenge.

Pro Men

When Geoff Kabush posted on the ‘gram he was taking on Iceman astride a CX rig, a few eyebrows were raised at the decision. However, it wasn’t as crazy of an idea as some people may have thought. Many have used drop bars to great effect at Icemans past, including our very own Cody Bear; he rode the Pro race last year on his 3T. Riding a cross bike at Iceman is one thing, but winning on one is something entirely different. Could the crazy Canuck pull it off?

If there was a year for a drop bar bike, 2018 was it. A gravel road replaced the oft-sandy two tracks that create havoc the first few miles of the race in most editions, and even the trails in the woods were packed tight from a perfect blend of rain and tire traffic. As Kabush and Michigan’s own Alexey Vermeulen broke away from the front of the Pro field, the two-time Canadian CX Champ had just enough in the tank to hold off Vermeulen to successfully defend his win from 12 months ago. Brian Matter, racing his 25th Iceman, took third to capture yet another podium to go along with his four wins. Canadian MTB National Champ Peter Disera came away with a very impressive fourth place in his first attempt at Iceman, with Ben Sonntag from Durango, CO cracking into the last podium spot.

Just behind the rock stars of the American cycling scene, Michigan riders had a hell of a day. Grayling’s Jordan Wakeley took 13th, with the Pride of Suttons Bay, Braiden Voss taking 20th – and I don’t think the kid is old enough to vote yet. Braiden finished just ahead of the legendary Jeff Owens, who probably smiled and gave out compliments to riders the entire 28-mile race. Kolo founder, Cody Sovis, finished a very fast 33rd, with kolo rider Dan “Hottest Dad of 2018” Ellis taking home a very impressive 41st.

A special shoutout to Leadout’s Dan and Keegan Korienek. It was really something special to see father and son finish the pro race together, and doing so at the pointy-end of affairs, no less. I can’t imagine how proud Dan was to see Keegan’s years of hard work pay off with a spectacular 26th place finish.

Pro Women

It was a small women’s field, but what it lacked in quantity, it more than made up for in quality. Choosing a likely winner seemed almost impossible prior to the race, with folks choosing American Chloe Woodruff to repeat, others touting a win for former World Champion Catharine Pendrel. We also had people saying with conviction that Sofia Gomez Villafane, the Argentinian National Champ and Utah resident, was going to bring her serious CX speed to TC for the win. Amy Beisel was also tipped to be up front, and local favorite Kaitlyn Patterson is always a threat.

About halfway through the race, there was a decisive split in the field that defined the rest of the day. Woodruff, Pendrel, Gomez-Villafane, Beisel and Patterson made the split, leaving Traverse City’s big hope, Susan Vigland and Megan Doerr, chasing relentlessly from behind. Rachel Langdon rode on in no-man’s land, refusing to drop back to the group behind or give up on regaining the lead group.

Coming into Timber Ridge, Woodruff held a slender advantage over Pendrel and her Stan’s NoTubes teammate, Gomez-Villafane. As Woodruff pressed her advantage, Gomez-Villafane played her role of teammate perfectly, jumping Pendrel on the last climb into Timber to make it a perfect 1-2 for Stan’s Notubes-Pivot Cycles. Kaitlyn Patterson may have gotten the biggest applause of the day as she rolled in for fourth, with Amy Beisel maintaining her charge to the line to finish a very strong 5th.

Wave 1

With the course changes, the start of the race has never been more important as it turned out to be in 2018. Wave 1 is always quick, but the gaps formed in the first few miles of the race became race-defining for most of the day. A group of twelve or so of the fastest dudes around got away early, with Josh Zelinski and Dave “Sunset” Scott doing the lion’s share of the work to keep the front group away. Among that group was Virginia’s Ryan Beurman, who may have not been recognizable to others in the first group, but they’d remember him by the end of the day.

In the second group, Jon Zelinski did what he could to keep the chasers moving, without eating too much into his brother’s group’s lead. The second group on the road was as big as 25 riders after Dockery Rd, easily twice its normal size. At Broomhead, the gap to the group was a minute and a half. By Williamsburg, it was two minutes. There was simply no matching the pace of the front group, even with prodding accelerations by M22’s John O’Hearn and others. As the groups broke up over the final climbs of the race, it was Buerman taking the Wave 1 win, just ahead of Grand Valley State Alumni (I had a class with him!) Colton Lock, with Sunset Scott, Nick Wierzba, and Dan Hofstra rounding out the podium.

A special shout-out to the Cross-Country Cycle’s Joe Lampen in the wave 1 field for giving me one of his bottles halfway through the race. I lost mine about two miles in, and I was starting to really bonk. The sporting gesture saved my race – thanks, Joe! I drank about half the bottle, then gave the rest to Brent Wiersema, who had lost his bottle early in the race too. Carbon bottle cages look cool and are super light, but I think I’m switching mine out for an old-school aluminum cage; ain’t no one ever lost a bottle out of one of those things.

At the end of the day, the results are very much second in importance to celebrating bikes, healthy lifestyles, the outdoors, and our cycling community. I know it’d be easy to hang up your bike and throw on your snuggie once it gets a bit chilly out, so thank you to everyone who kept on training to make the trip up to TC for our own spandex-heavy version of the Super Bowl. It’s such a thrill to share our trails, our town, and our community with people from all over the world who share the same passion for riding bikes as we do. Thank you for being part of it, and we really hope to see you all again next year.

To Steve Brown, his staff, and the army of volunteers that make the Iceman happen, thank you so much for letting us feel like champions every November. Your work is appreciated more than we could ever say.

Until Iceman 2019, enjoy every ride.

kolo t.c. is a blog about amateur bike racing and amateur bike racers. Follow us on Instagram, FB, and join our Strava club.

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to Race Your First Iceman)

Whether someone talked you into it or you set the race as a fitness goal to build towards all summer long, it’s finally here. The Iceman Cometh has cameth. Er, arrived. If this is your first Iceman rodeo, it can seem super overwhelming and daunting. We wanted to help the newbies prepare for their first Iceman with some tips and tricks that we’ve learned over the years to help you and your buds have a fun time. After all, at the end of the day, it’s just a bunch of people wearing their spandex and riding bikes in freezing temps; here’s how to make sure your day in the woods with 4,500 new friends goes smoothly and safely.

Go to the Iceman Expo to Get Your Packet

On Friday, go to the expo to get your packet. Trust us. Picking your number plate up the day of the race is just another task added to an already hectic and rushed morning. Be sure to double-check that you get the right number plate – it’s not impossible to be given someone else’s on accident. It’s happened to me. The volunteers are working feverishly all day long, so a mistake is totally understandable; help them help you, man.

The other sweet thing about the SRAM Expo is all the vendors. If you forgot your gloves, your helmet, or maybe you want to upgrade to a new rocket ship the day before the race, the Expo will have it. And it’ll be cheap. Most vendors blow out their inventory at the Expo – I’m talking as much as 50% off clothes and gear. I once saw Kathleen Kerr leave the Expo with over 20 pairs of SockGuy socks for like $1.53 or something like that.

We’ll have a blog on the Expo itself next week. That’s how big of a deal it is.

Pack, Plan, and Prepare

Crucial to a positive Iceman experience are the 3 Ps; something I just made up. Before you go to bed, you should have everything you’re going to wear for the race laid out on the floor. You should also have everything you’ll need to eat and drink before and during the race, plus dry clothes for after. Again, avoiding stress the morning of the race is going to make your race so much more fun, and there’s nothing more annoying than showing up to Kalkaska missing your right mitten and racing in jeans because you left your bibs at home.

You should also know, by heart, which wave you’re in and when that wave takes off. You can check this info on the back of your number plate or on your Ice Society page. You need to get to Kalkaska with enough time to warm up and get into your wave without being rushed. If you want to be in the front row of your wave, you need to get lined up at least 30 minutes early – even earlier if you’re in the early waves. If you’re less concerned about getting in the front row, take the extra time to warm up and be ready to pass people early and often if you start at the back.

If you’re not on the front row and want to have a fast time, don’t panic! One of my best Iceman races ever had me starting on the back row of wave 2. Your fitness will show, for better or worse, no matter where you’re lined up.

#PROTIP: Plan your bowel movements to take place well before you arrive in Kalkaska. The porta-john seats are super cold in the morning. 

Race with Your Brain. And Your Legs.

Don’t forget, the race is about 30 miles long. Every year, I pass a ton of people who have completely blown up, with snot and spit hanging down their faces and staring 1,000 yards into another dimension of pain, and they’re only at Williamsburg Road. That’s a tough place to blow up, since the longest, most challenging hills are yet to come, and these riders are already buckled. It’s easy to get carried away by adrenaline and excitement at the start of the race, but it’s crucial to know your fitness. You should constantly be asking yourself, “Can I do this effort all the way to the finish?” If you quickly answer yes, go faster. If it’s a hard no, ease up. The ideal answer to this question? “Maybe?”

The race can get a little backed up in the singletrack sections, but don’t freak out. Every wave is going to deal with a brief slow-down in the tight stuff. You need to be ready to pass the second the course opens up. And if someone wants to go around you, let them. Then hop on their wheel and save your energy. You’re going to have a much faster race by cooperating with the riders around you versus if you piss them off. Play the game and you’ll all go faster.

This is a pretty simple overview, I know. But hopefully, it drives home the point of planning ahead, being prepared, and minimizing your stress before the race. Having your head in the right place before the gun goes off means you’re starting with a figurative head start.

See you all at the finish, and bring your I.D. so you can celebrate with some Bell’s.

kolo t.c. is an amateur blog about even more amateurish bike racing. Follow us on Insta, FB, and join our Strava Club. If you really like clicking on things, click on the DONATE button for our friends at the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association.


My First Iceman

In 2010, Cody and I stood on the infamous Icebreaker climb to watch the Pro men and women finish up a particularly frigid and muddy edition of the Iceman Cometh. The crowd went wild when a Brian Matter stormed up the short, steep climb completely covered in mud and barely recognizable. The cream of the American mountain bike racing crop followed shortly behind, including my childhood heroes Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Jeremiah Bishop. The atmosphere on that little hill in the middle of the woods was electric; old and young, men and women, drunk and sober, we all soaked up the excitement and fed off the race’s energy. Frozen feet and numb hands be damned; this Iceman thing was something special.

Once Cody and I were back in the car and warming up while driving home, we agreed that we wanted a piece of that experience while in spandex. Training for Iceman 2011 started the next day.

The Build Up to Iceman 2011

We’d been getting back into bike racing the year before, after the first two years of college added $25K in student loan debt and about 25lbs. After Cody ballooned to 196lbs. (he’s now 145) we sort of said to each other, “Shit, man. We gotta do something about this.” We got back into it at Barry-Roubaix, then upgraded our bikes to be somewhat competitive during the summer of 2011. I went with a 2010 Cannondale Trail SL, sporting triple front chainrings, plus a rigid Niner fork that was all the rage at the time. I think I paid $1,800, but that was before the student loan people got their 8% interest. It probably turned out to be the most expensive bike I’ll ever have bought.

Cody and I were young, pretty fit, and having a blast working, going to school, and training, with Iceman being the main motivator for the fall. When we registered, we signed up for our age group, then went about figuring out how to get into the Pro/Cat 1 race. Turns out, it’s pretty simple. Win something. At Peak to Peak, I won the Expert 29 and Under group by 6 minutes, then won my age group at an exceptionally muddy and miserable Lowell 50. Cody was hot on my heels, and we were stoked when our upgrades requests were approved. We’d made the big show, but we really didn’t have any idea what we were getting into.

Racing Pro at Iceman

Racing pro at Iceman is a really unique experience. In the morning races, Kalkaska is a hive of activity, with over 4,500 riders and innumerable supporters buzzing around in eager anticipation. Not the case in the pro race. The town is empty, except for the 200 or so pro men and women. We have these massive parking lots to ourselves and time to kill, so it’s cool to spin around and just take it all in with no stress or hurry. Or, just play catch with your dad while you wait for the start, which I did one year when the weather was 70 and sunny. Years with that kind of weather are very few and far between.

2011 was particularly surreal experience at the start in Kalkaska. Our race transport that year was my Dad’s 1988 Chevy Celebrity with over 200K miles. It’s the pinnacle of American luxury cars, if you ask me, but it had nothing on the rig that parked right next to us. The Trek-Subaru team and Trek World Racing teams pulled in, and out climbed all of our heroes of the day; Jeremy Horgen-Kobelski, Heather Irmigr, Sam Shultz, Lukas Flukinger, Matthias Flukinger, and a host of mechanics and support crew. My dad couldn’t help but snap a picture of their super-pro set up right next to our Chevy.


The race itself was a blur. I’ll never let anyone forget that I beat Jeremy Horgen-Kobelski that year. It mostly had to do with him being taken out less than 300 yards into the race and completely destroying his bike. But I’m still going to count it. The speed of the race was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I was completely pegged, even while in a draft, and I could barely hang on to the guy in front of me. For reference, this battle for life and death was taking place in like 80th place. I was completely empty, ready to vomit and cry at the same time when we took a familiar right turn onto Smith Lake Road. I felt like I had been waterboarded and my legs were swimming in lactic acid, and I was only 3.5 miles into the race. It was just unreal.

JHK iceman
Just meeting one of my heroes. JHK was a super nice dude.

It might be hard to imagine being proud to finish in 90th, but I was pretty pumped about my ride that year. I got to line up with actual professional bike riders, plus the fastest dudes and dudettes in Michigan. I was especially geeked to have my name in the results on, even though you had to do a lot of scrolling to get to it.

iceman emmett
American mountain bike legends, Kelli Emmett and Heather Irmigr.

Pro or age group, class winner or DFL, Iceman really is something to be experienced. When I tell people I have a race in November, sometimes in the snow, and it’s from Kalkaska to Timber Ridge, they sort of just stare at me like I’m a fool. Then I have to explain to them it’s not just me. 4,500 of my best buds are going to join me for a day of fitness, outdoors, and celebrating life in Northern Michigan. Sometimes, they come out to watch me race. The next step is predictable. The following year, they’re out there on the start line, wanting to get in on the fun.

See you all in Kalkaska very soon.

kolo t.c. is a very amateur blog about even more amateur bike racing. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, or join our club on Strava

BEE’s Eight Weeks To Iceman: A Case For Structured Training

For years, riders in Traverse City queue up and elbow for prime spots in Lauri Brockmiller’s Eight Weeks to Iceman. With riders like Nick Wierzba, Tim Pulliam and others making huge improvements from the structured program, we thought October a prime time to see what all those riders are doing in “The Hive” right now ahead of not just Iceman, but Peak2Peak in two weeks.

Continue reading “BEE’s Eight Weeks To Iceman: A Case For Structured Training”