Wow – So pumped I don’t know where to begin. My goal this year was to win the Triple Crown and have a repeat performance of my 2004 season 10 years later. I was a bike length away from accomplishing that goal…
Of course I also wanted to win another Iceman and become the only 4 time winner in the mens race.
As I was preparing for Iceman I felt like everything was going against me. My dog Oscor was diagnosed with Cancer the week prior and I had to cancel my trip to Cincy, I did a local CX race instead and my pedal broke which made me really nervous about my 2nd set of pedals on my mtb bike, I crashed pretty hard and broke my race bike during my final training ride the night before I was scheduled to depart. All stressful things in there own special way. I had fleeting thoughts that I might never win Iceman again with the increasing level of competition every year and my increasing age!
Luckily I have an awesome wife who is a nurse and is giving Oscor the best care possible. Luckily I have and awesome CX mechanic who helped out with the broken bike. Luckily Matt O from Trek Factory Racing helped me with a pedal swap 30 minutes before the race started! Luckily I have done this a time or two and I knew I was fit and just had to make it to the start line.
I arrived to TC Thursday night at about 8pm and just walking in the front door of the Grand Traverse I felt more relaxed, almost at home. I still remember to this day back in 1993 walking in the front door and going up the glass elevator to my room with Dan from the Village Cyclery in Pinckney, Andy, and the Buermans for my very first Iceman. This year was no. 21! Hard to believe.
Friday I headed out for my standard pre-ride from Williamsburg Rd. I ran into Cole and Tyler and we had a pretty good ride into Timber Ridge. This year I studied the finishing circuit 3-4 times knowing it would come down to another tactical battle no matter what the conditions. After the recon I cruised back to the hotel on the road. I would have told you I wasn’t feeling the greatest after the pre-ride if you were a close friend, but to everyone else at the expo I said I was feeling great and ready to rock! It was awesome to be at the expo seeing all my friends and fans both old and new. Trek, Bontrager, Pro Gold, Jtree and Clif Bar, 5 of my major sponsors were there in attendance. It was so awesome to have their support. Leaving the expo and walking up the steps I could feel the fatigue from the pre-ride in my legs!
Although my pedals seemed OK in the pre-ride I was still really nervous about them making it through what was sounding like some really gnarly conditions on race day. Or maybe it was just me being nervous about the big race itself and the windy, rainy, cold, with lots of intermittent sleet and snow weather. The war stories were filtering in about broken chains, derailleurs, and fading brake pads. Deep, heavy, yet slippery and gritty Iceman mud. Sounded like my kind of stuff. I made some last minutes adjustments to my bike….I raised the stem by a 1cm headset spacer and I lowered my saddle 3-4mm’s. A much less aggressive position that had me more upright and balanced on my bike versus ready for an aerodynamic high speed race. I ran into Matt O in the parking lot at the start and he saved the day with some fresh XTR pedals! Not something I would ever recommend…changing shoes and pedals 30 minutes before the start….but something I had to do for peace of mind. I got in a short warm up(10 minutes) and headed to the start line.
I knew once I was on the line everything would be OK. The nerves would cease and instinct would take over. I’ve toed over 1000 start lines in my career and it feels pretty good standing there getting ready to do battle. I had a great start, but was pretty boxed in as the course pinched to go through the gate by the high school. Luckily I found an opening and jumped across the pavement and into the race course in 2nd place behind Cole House…the man who beat me by a bike length at Ore To Shore. The mud definitely changed the game compared to previous years. Instead of dicey high speed two track it was a slip and slide with really only room for one rider. I couldn’t believe it when 4 miles into the race a group of 6 had a huge gap. New territory for me at Iceman! Usually the entire field is still together at that point in time. Finsterwald, Kabush, Zandstra, Cameron Jette, and Cole. 3 Canadians on the same team. Finsty and I on Trek’s and Cole and I Midwest buddies, but were Finsty and I really working toether? And would Cole really help me out? Then Isaace bridged up…awesome. Isaace is a coahing client and another Midwest guy in the lead group. We traveled to St. Louis together 2 weeks ago…maybe he would help me out in a jam? I knew it was going to be tough to beat the Canucks. Kabush won last year and well its Geoff Kabush and Zandstra was coming off of his best season every with an impressive start at Whiskey 50 and multiple top 15 World Cup results.
Luckily early on we dropped Jette so it was just 2 team mates. The section near Dockery Rd was crazy. I didn’t pre ride and had only heard bad rumors of deep ruts from all the logging. Kabush was leading and it was like it was his back yards singletrack. He knew every line. I didn’t even think we were on a race course. It was like a war zone, but we all survived. Kabsuh, Zandstra, Finsty, Cole, Isaac, and myself. With about 15 k to go Isaac dropped a chain and was gone. Cole had been sitting on the back the entire race. Saving energy or suffering? Soon after Isaac was gone we hit the Vasa and the games started. We had all survived the mud, now who would survive the hills and the tactics.
I was often the aggressor. Launching attack after attack. It was either A or B. A) I was the strongest or B) I was smoking myself! We crested Anita’s hill at 10k to go. Everyone was gassed yet together. More attacks, more games, more strategy. We crossed 5k to go and the pace slowed. I wanted to make it to the Ice circuit in the lead which meant I needed to be 1st or 2nd into the singletrack descent before the Ice Breaker climb. I battled Kabush for Zandstra’s wheel and headed up the final climb with what felt like a small gap behind us. The Ice Breaker is 2 tiered and on the 2nd tier I made my move. Around Zandstra and into the circuit! Sweet…..now just don’t get passed. I would recover in the tight singletrack and punch it like there was no tomorrow anytime the trail would open up. I held off Kabush who was on my wheel and attempting any pass possible until the last bit of singletrack. I knew there was one small greasy climb to go…I hit it with speed and had my gap! No crashing, under the tunnel, into a wave of massive noise and across the line for my 4th Iceman win!
My first Iceman was 1993. I was 15. I’m not sure of the result, but I know it was no better than mid pack in the Beginner 18 & under category. I only had shorts and had to buy a pair of tights, which I still have today, from Brick Wheels the night before the race. I raced aboard a $400 Haro Impulse with a rigid fork which I bought after saving money from a summer working at the Pinckney Inn. The next 2 years I raced in t-shirts or long sleeve t-shirts that acted as base layers. I think I finally did a top 10 overall in 1996 and in 1998 I nearly won, but was too inexperienced. That race winning mistake has served as motivation for many years and since then I have won the Iceman in 2004, 2007, and in 2010. After 22 years(I missed either the 2001 or 2002 version), lots of miles, lots, of racing, and lots of sacrifice and hard work I have done it again. A huge thanks goes out to all those who have cheered me on along the way, who have supported me, and encouraged me to keep chasing my dream. The dream of a 15 year old kid from Pinckney wanting to win the Iceman!