In a few weeks, the road groups ride will start to get smaller. After next weekend’s Cherry-Roubaix, more and more riders will be staring at the calendar and wondering, “Maybe I should give the Iceman Cometh route another look?”
The Cherry-Roubaix might be slated for early August, but for our cycling community, it’s the last page of summer.
Sure, there are plenty of sunny, even sweltering days left for the month, and we’re occasionally treated to stunning Septembers and even some pleasant October days, too.
But even if the season hasn’t turned, attentions have. We’ll hit the hills of Leelanau County with all our might, but once the ride is over, there starts an unavoidable countdown in our heads.
This year’s Iceman is a big deal. The race is celebrating its 30th edition and a stunning growth from a few dozen riders to an internationally-known race with 5,000 mountain bikers dashing from Kalkaska to Traverse City.
It’s a pilgrimage, really; every single person has a different reason for taking the start line, for pushing through, and for coming back year after year.
For some, it’s a race that serves as the ultimate measuring stick.
Those are the riders who look online or grab the race’s seasonal publication, the Glacier Gazette, and scan the results to see how they stacked up against their pals, acquaintances, or rivals.
For many more, it’s an accomplishment just to finish. They might have a personal best in mind, but in an event that’s built around variables outside of a rider’s control, every pedal stroke is a prayer to fate.
Mud, rain, ice, snow; even the innocent stick through a spoke or derailleur can end the ride.
It’s a race of community, of some incredible athletes, but also an incredible amount of luck. Every edition is a sort of roll of the dice.
That’s what drives the countless out-and-back rides that will undoubtedly start after Cherry-Roubaix.
With a new start venue at the Kalkaska Airport and some rumored tweaks along the 28 mile route, riders will ride out from the race’s finish at Timber Ridge along sandy gravel roads, only to turn back and ride the course home. It’s a procession of preparation ... and a chance to pick up all those sticks.
Summer isn’t over yet, but locals know ... November is coming.