Believe it or not, leaves on my street are changing, the girls in TC have already broken out their UGGS and North Face jackets, and inquiries for Pumpkin Spice Lattes are spiking at Breakaway Cafe. The slight chill in the air means Out and Backs are here, and it’s time to think about your goals and training for Bell’s Iceman Cometh.
Ask any experienced rider and they’ll tell you the same thing; winning your age group in November is decided by your training and racing in September and October. The events you select in the eight weeks prior to the Big Dance will factor heavily in whether you place as high as you’d like to on November 2nd, or you end up being pack fodder and, worst of all, last back to Timber and all the beer.
Selecting Your Races and Rides
We’re so lucky to have a veritable feast of races and rides in the fall, so choosing which races to do might be more difficult than the races themselves. From the Alma GP of Cyclocross to the Gravel Grinder, it can be tough balancing training, racing, and recovery. Here’s what I have tentatively planned as my race and group ride prep.
Why am I not racing more? Well, life. Work. Money. But fortunately, no matter where you live, you’re likely to have an event or two to get to to hone your form before November 2nd.
Out and Back Kick-Off Party with Keen Technical Solutions – Traverse City, MI (9/15)
The dudes and dudettes at Keen Technical Solutions are way into this whole bike riding thing. They’re also into food, which has time and time again proved to make for one hell of a fun time. On 9/15, they’re organizing three different groups to do the first “official” Out and Back of 2019. No matter your fitness level, there will be a group for you to ride and vibe with. We’ll meet and regroup at Timber Ridge for brats, beers, and war stories and get ready for our best Iceman yet.
Get the full scoop on their FB event page.
Bear Claw Epic – Cadillac, MI (9/28)
The Bear Claw Epic is one of my favorite races of the year. The course is the Cadillac Pathway, which has seen a dramatic change for the better over the last few years due to the tireless effort of the NMMBA folks based in Cadillac. The course is the perfect mix of climbs, descents, fast two-tracks, and some super fun, twisty singletrack.
Each year, there are almost as many volunteers as racers, making this easily one of the most well-run and organized races on the calendar. All the proceeds from the race go right back to the Cadillac Pathway, so it’s as much a good cause as it is a good workout.
Peak to Peak – Thompsonville, MI (10/19)
Peak to Peak is sort of a last chance dance for folks to check their fitness prior to Iceman. The course is almost pan flat for 10 of the 11 miles per lap, with a massive ascent of Crystal Mountain to keep things spicy. This is a great race to learn how to play your hand in a group, know when to pass and when to draft, and with a race time for Expert/Elite at 2:15 and over, it’s a great test of fitness prior to Iceman. Since this year’s Iceman course is especially hilly at the finish, getting smacked in the face with a 450+ foot ascent at the end of a long race is a great dress rehearsal.
Other Bike Races in Michigan in 2019
Want more? You crazy little sadist, you. Here are a whole host of other races to help you prep. These races are worthy of being season-defining goals in their own right, so get after them and take home that $5 trophy. Remember, racing is about getting the best out of yourself. So train hard, eat right, and you’ll be surprised just how fit and fast you can be.
Uncle John’s Dirty Ride – 9/8 (St. Johns, MI)
Luton Park TT – 9/8 (Rockford, MI)
Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival – 9/14 (Hayward, WI)
Lord of the Springs – 9/14 (Middleville, MI)
Marji Gesick – 9/21 (Ishpehming, MI)
MMM Gravel Grinder – 9/28 (Boyne City, MI)
Custer’s Last Stand – 10/5 (Augusta, MI)
Hart Hills Gravel Road Race – 10/5 (Hart, MI)
Virtue Gravel Fondo – 10/6 (Holland, MI)
The Lowell 50 – 10/26 (Lowell, MI)