(Kind Of) Iceman 2020: What You Need To Know


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There’s no Iceman. But there will still be plenty of Iceman. 

With the race canceled, there won’t be 5,000 people bringing their COVID-19 to the start line in Kalkaska, or the bars and restaurants in Traverse City post-race. Still, there will be plenty of people putting in a race effort on what would have been the 2020 course. If you’re one of those people, here’s a look at what to expect. The GPX file you need is right here.

First, don’t go onto the airport. Seriously. It’s an airport. Shouldn’t need to be said, but last year, in the days leading up to the race and before the wonderful folks at the Village at Kalkaska closed it down with the FAA, riders were riding on the airstrip. 

The big first change of the route for 2020 comes right as we smash into the woods. Instead of the lazy left hander onto singletrack, stay straight on the two-track until it links up with the ‘old’ course; it’s a tight left, but then you’re off the two-track and flying west for the first time. 

The last few weeks have been gloriously soggy and plenty cold, and reports from the woods say that it’s done a lot to firm things up. That’s most useful in the next stretch of the course, which comes off the singletrack and throws riders back on Smith Lake Road before the famous left turn onto Brown Fire Road. That stretch is still a little sandy, with some of the worst Sarlock pits made more dastardly by frequent ORV use, but the rain has really helped firm it up. 

Stay Wide. The next change is to stay on Brown Fire Road instead of taking the singletrack we’d usually hit before getting to Dockery. This change was primarily due to the planned two-start-lines-with-alternating-waves scenario we had planned. Doing the #MATHS, we found that the fastest of one wave would most likely catch the slowest of the wave ahead of them right around this point. So, instead of having them slam into the back of other riders in the tight stuff, they’d have plenty of room to pass here. 

Once on Dockery, it’s a right turn and slightly uphill on the gravel road before rejoining the normal route with a left turn and an appointment with Water Bottle Hill. 

Instead of taking the NMMBA Water Bottle Hill Bypass we’ve used the past few years, 2020 was back to basics. Again, a bit part of this decision was based on the projected waves. This is sort of the backend of one wave catching another, according to our #MATHS, and a relatively long stretch of singletrack with a few short climbs isn’t an ideal spot to have waves coming together. The plan is to alternate between the Bypass and the OG route each year…maybe. 

After Make It Stick! and hopping onto Sand Lakes Road, it’s the same as you’ve come to know and love for a long, long way. That does include the new Hot Sister Section. After last year, we’re really happy riders get to see this section in incredible shape and how locals have been enjoying it for the second season now. Tom White and his TCTN posse put in a lot of work to make repairs after last year’s mud bog, so when you see the up.bike sign, pin it; you’re about to have a ton of fun. 

Across Williamsburg, things are only getting faster. Instead of taking a right at the Rock on the Vasa 25km, it’s a left turn. Because, why not? It is incredibly fast here, with a slightly downhill trail over about two miles, though there are just a few short little inclines to keep you on your toes. 

After taking the right turn onto Special K, it’s a long and gradual climb all the way to the Nipple, where the race would normally. Initially, I didn’t think this part of the course would play much a factor, because the incline never gets all that steep. After riding it, though, it’s much tougher on tired legs than you might think, and if you’re going through a rough patch, it would be very easy to lose time and be dispatched from a bunch. This is also the section that has seen plenty of logging activity, so watch for lumberjacks and deep tracks at any trail intersections. 

There will be a year, friends, that Anita Hill is not in the Iceman. I know; sacrilege. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that’s part of why the Tour skips doing Mount Ventoux or Alpe d’Huez every year. All of the bigger riders, the rouleurs who have battled on the 13% slope, will, one year, have their time to shine. 

This is not that year. Anita is in, but recent work from TART and the Vasa grooming grew have it smoother and with better traction than we’ve seen it in a long time. 

No Headwaters this year, but don’t be surprised to see that back in the mix over the next few years. Stay left at the powerline crossing; all the of Speed of Light crew have to ignore the urge to go right and skitter over the final peastone descent to the finish of SOL. 

After slamming over the Vasa CC Climb, you’ve got a date with Madeleine. The Trouee de Madeleine’s is a personal favorite of mine, and it’s a great little sting in the legs before curling back toward Timber Ridge. Last year, we went up Mount Vent Poo, but for 2020, it’s down Wood Chip before a left up Ice Breaker and straight to the Timber Parking lot. 

With no race, let’s all do our part to make canceling the race effective in limiting the spread. It would be a real shame if anyone riding the course next weekend contributes to already rising number of cases in Traverse City and, indeed, across the state. If you do ride, please make the sacrifice of our event worthwhile by doing the following:

  • Don’t carpool with anyone from outside your immediate household

  • Don’t travel if you’re sick or experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms

  • Stay at least six feet from other riders at any time when stopped, including before and after your ride at Timber Ridge

  • If stopped, consider wearing a buff or neck gaiter to wear as a mask

  • Or, just bring a damn mask

  • Don’t share food or bottles, because cooties

  • Be respectful of local businesses. If you’re from out of town, consider ordering curbside or takeaway instead of dining in. Taproot and Brew both do a great job. 

  • Be prepared for the ride. There are no aid stations set up, no one is sweeping; bring all the food, water, spares, tools, and supplies you’ll need to get out of the woods 

If you have course questions, email me at csovis@iceman.com and I’ll help as much as I can!

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