The ‘Iceman’ MTB race in the USA carries a somewhat mythical status among the North American MTB community. The annual 31 mile point-to-point race from Kalksaka to Traverse City in Northern Michigan has grown to become largest point to point race in North America with nearly 6000 competitors attempting the trail through sweeping singletrack, dirt roads and snowmobile trails in the back woods of Northern Michigan.
The 2014 event was the 25th anniversary of the Iceman, and to commemorate the special event the weather gods produced some memorable conditions for the hardy souls who lined up at the start line. With the temperature never emerging past 2 degrees Celsius, and constant precipitation diverging between rain and snow, the once hard packed, fast trail was turned to an unrecognisable cold mess of boggy mud and ice.
The conditions got the better of many riders and bikes alike across the day, with those best prepared and accustomed to the conditions prevailing. The PRO men’s and women’s fields are always of a stacked variety at the Iceman, one of the biggest prize purses for any 1day MTB race in the world draws some of the biggest names in XCO from across the globe. 2014 was no different, with Trek factory racing flying in Aussie superstars Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson for the race.
In all categories it was a desperate dash to the first singletrack to avoid getting caught behind any inevitable carnage in the field. The trail had become so slippery that over half an hour was added to the usual winning race time. This year, three of North America’s MTB tough men came into the finishing circuits ahead of the field. Canadian champion and defending champion Geoff Kabush, his countryman Derek Zandstra and local hero Iceman legend Brian Matter.
In a blowing snow storm Matter had the legs of the Canadians this year. In the women’s field It was Georgia Gould from LUNA womens team who rode most of the course solo to claim a convincing win over Canadian Emily Batty and Kelli Emmet in 3rd.
The appeal of this race will continue to stand strong among the offroad fraternity. Although not particularly challenging in terms of distance or course profile, the challenge of the ‘Iceman’ lies in the conditions as its name suggests. For the thousands of competitors who crossed the line on November 8th covered in mud and facing gale force snow blown winds, nothing but satisfaction greeted them as most scrambled into cars and showers then re-emerged in their thousands to the ‘beer party’ and to cheer on the pro race. Michiganders are renowned for their hard working and down to earth nature, this race is a perfect metaphor for the lifestyle up here. Hard, honest and fun!