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Tag Archives: Kalkaska
The fall cycling season is typically capped off with my traditional trip up to Northern Michigan for the Iceman Cometh Challenge mountain bike race. Brent and I headed out early Friday morning for what was to be a re-run of the first day of our Michigan trip back in August–drive to Fort Custer Recreation Area outside of Battle Creek to ride the buff singletrack there, head over the Kalamazoo for lunch at Bell’s Brewery, head up to Grand Rapids for a quick refreshment at Founder’s Brewing, then continue north to join the main festivities.
I decided to ride on my Salsa Fargo this year. I’ve given it a good workout on lots of singletrack the past two seasons, but this was its first race experience.
We woke up to some rain and wet snow in Traverse City on Saturday morning, but when we drove to the start in Kalkaska, it remained somewhat cold but sunny and dry. Brent took off in Wave 12 at 9:33am, and I followed soon after at 9:36am.
After a tough race here in 2010, I felt I had to redeem myself and turn in a good performance in 2011. This year, I didn’t feel I had anything to prove. I just wanted to have a good ride and a good time and race my own race. I felt I prepared well for the day’s conditions, with my SmartWool Cuff Beanie under my helmet, DeFeet DuraWool liner gloves under regular short-finder cycling gloves, SmartWool liner shirt, long-sleeve Century Cycles wool jersey, Ibex wool bib knickers, my new Surly Chainsaw tall wool socks, and Lake MX-100 cycling boots. I had on my Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket for the start, but I ended up pulling over about 5 miles into the race and stuffing it into my jersey pocket. I was completely comfortable for the rest of the race.
The Fargo performed well on the course. The rigid fork didn’t feel like it beat me up as much as my rigid setup did back in 2010, and being able to ride in the drops to power through the dirt and gravel road sections was a huge benefit. As I’ve mentioned before, the bike climbs like a billy goat; among the many short, steep climbs on the course, I only had to dismount on one of them, and that was due to a flubbed shift.
About halfway through the race as we approached Traverse City, we got into the snow zone, which made some of the course a little more soft and squishy than usual, but the firm Michigan mud was nothing compared to the sloppy Ohio mud.
I did the usual leap-frogging against the same handful of recognizable riders throughout the race.
The course ended up as the longest ever, about 30.5 miles, so times were a little longer than usual. I ended up at 2 hours, 31 minutes, and 7 seconds, about a third of the way down from the leader within my age group, so I was satisfied with that.
On our way home on Sunday, we stopped to ride the Potowatomi Trail at Pinckney State Recreation Area, followed by post-ride dinner at the new Grizzly Peak Brewing Company in nearby Ann Arbor; about as perfect a combination of biking and beer that you’ll find anywhere in the world.
The Iceman Cometh Challenge is a mountain bike race traditionally held the first Saturday in November. The 27-mile course covers a combination of twisty singletrack, fast doubletrack, dirt and gravel roads, and cross-country ski trails between Kalkaska and Traverse City, Michigan.
This year’s race was my third time in the event, and usually marks the end of my racing season. This time, it was my first race since coming back from a broken collar bone.
During the drive up to Michigan the day before the race, I made a pit stop at the brewery in Frankenmuth, one of the towns we stayed in during my coast-to-coast bicycle tour, to relive a few not-so-old memories.
In Traverse City, I met my friends Stacy and Brad from Portland, Maine. Brad’s parents were kind enough to let me stay at their house in Traverse City, where we also visited with Brad’s brother Ross, his wife Lynn, and their sons Cameron and Joey.
I finished the race with a time of 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 30 seconds, about 15 minutes faster than last year’s race. I placed 64th out of 163 entrants in my class (Sport Men Age 35-39). Click here to see the complete results.
After the race, we took a drive out on the beautiful peninsula that extends out into Grand Traverse Bay, and watched the sunset. That evening, we enjoyed dinner at the North Peak Brewing Company.