TRAVERSE CITY — Saturday marks the 29th annual running (or pedaling, rather) of the Iceman Cometh Challenge, and the course has taken shape — looking fast and furious.
Fans will have a chance to see some of that action from an up-close point of view on Sunday, Nov. 25 on CBS Sports Network, when Iceman will be featured at 1 p.m. on television.
Race director Steve "Iceman" Brown said eight static cameras will be placed at various points of the course, and 16 professional riders will wear Garmin cameras to provide actual first-person footage from Saturday's race.
"The big thing is it has the potential to introduce the Grand Traverse region to a national audience," Brown said. "To tout the quality and excitement of the event. The Leadville 100 (a Colorado-based race) — those guys are out there for 8-10 hours, with 20 people at the finish line. Iceman, there are thousands at the finish line. There is a lot of excitement to capture."
Brown said the agreement came together because the Iceman webcast team does a lot of work with CBSSN and motorcar racing and felt Iceman would be a good fit for the network.
As for the race itself, Brown said several weeks of rain packing down the sand and training cyclists wearing a definite groove over the 30-mile journey from Kalkaska to Traverse City's Timber Ridge Resort.
Brown figured the weather effects on the track could impact the fastest times anywhere from 5-20 minutes.
"When the locals started riding the course right after Labor Day, is was super dry," Brown said. "They called it riding on the beach. The rain and cold weather and lower sunlight allows all the two tracks to set up that much better."
That's good news for more than 5,000 racers who will compete over a minimum cash purse of $61,430, with $6,000 each going to the professional male and female winners.
Geoff Kabush (1:36:19) and Katerina Nash (1:52:23) claimed last year's championships.
The first wave, which typically includes the fastest amateurs, takes off from the Kalkaska County Civic Center at 9 a.m., after which 50-plus waves will follow throughout the day, capped by the professionals at 2:30 p.m.
Riders will cover dirt and two-track surfaces, in addition to traversing abandoned railroad beds, Pere Marquette State Forest and the Vasa Nordic ski trail before finally hitting the finish line.
Brown did admit Iceman has altered its finish line once again to throw curve ball at riders.
"We changed up finish line to keep riders thinking, 'How did I get here? Where am I going now?'" Brown said. "It allows me to use a little creativity."
Weather for the event isn't forecast to be all that different from the very first Iceman in 1990. Cloudy, low- to mid-40s — relatively mild weather compared to the occasionally nasty first November Saturday, which have included snow storms and bitter cold.
Outside the weather, last year's event included the first visit by the United State Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), as part of USA Cycling’s Race Clean program, to collect urine samples from six random athletes. One amateur athlete, Craig Webb, declined to provide a sample. USADA sanctioned him with a four-year suspension from competition.
Brown didn't know if USADA would have a presence in 2018.