TRAVERSE CITY — When you take part in the Bell’s Beer Iceman Cometh Challenge, or even when you sign up for the event months before, you never know what you’re going to get weather wise.
That will be the case even in the hours leading up to the race.
The forecast for Saturday is calling for overcast skies with a 60 percent chance of rain. The high is expected to reach about 45 degrees. With rain expected to fall today as well, riders could be dealing with wet, greasy, muddy conditions along parts of the 29-mile course from Kalkaska to Timber Ridge Resort.
As is to be expected from the Iceman — the last race of the season for many cyclists — it’s best to be prepared for any and all types of conditions. Last year a light dusting of snow greeted riders in the early waves.
“The possibility of snow accumulations certainly is always there,” said Scott Quiring of Manistee, a three-time men’s pro champion who will compete in the Tandem division with his significant other Kristina Peek this year.
“The couple first years I did the race, then in 1995, it was a good 6-8 inches of snow at the finish. Those race conditions were so extreme. Your whole drive train would freeze up. Instead of having 18 gears to choose from, or whatever you might have at that particular time, you were kind of locked into one gear, hoping it was the right speed. Those were survival of the fittest type races where it brings out the zany people because the conditions were pretty extreme.”
Certainly there’s no reason for riders to be expecting anything that extreme Saturday, but the recent bout of wet weather could make things interesting. Even on the Iceman web site, it states “it might be a wild one...” when describing the possible weather for this year.
“The thing about the pro race is that’s it’s in the afternoon now so they probably have a pretty clear path, other than the fact that it might be knee deep in mud from all the people going through,” said Quiring, who captured the men’s crown in 1994, 1995 and 1999.
Mike Simonson, the 2006 men’s pro champion from Oxford, says the trail conditions depend on the type of terrain at various parts of the race. He believes, because of the rain, certain areas will be perfect to ride
“Usually, because the terrain is real sandy up there, when you do get rain it usually mats everything down,” he said. “The course kind of firms up. In the last few years they’ve added quite a few single tracks, so when you get up into the trees it gets real top-soily. When the top soil gets wet it gets muddy. You might have some mud back there, but anything that’s sandy will be nice and matted down by the time we go over it.”
Approximately 5,300 riders will be taking part in the 24th annual event, which includes an eight-mile Slush Cup and a kids Snow Cone race. There will be more than 50 different waves, starting at 9 a.m. The pro riders will depart from Kalkaska around 2:30 p.m., with the completion of the race expected around 4 p.m.