November 5th marks the 33rd edition of the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge and one of the most exciting Pro fields in several years. It’s not about the imports; this is the best year for a local winner in decades, with a half dozen legitimate local favorites in the men’s field and, arguably, a third of the women’s in the mix for a Michigan win.
What It Will Take to Win
This year’s course is made somewhat tamer with Make It Stick! carved out due to logging damage. There’s slightly more singletrack in 2022 than previous editions of the race, but less elevation. Knowing when to hit the front and when it’s (somewhat) safe to sit in and conserve energy will play a key role, especially with the promise of more #TACTICALS than ever.
How the Locals Can Win
Ever heard of a wink and a nod? While only a few of the local riders are on the same teams, there will likely be an arrangement made on the start line. If locals don’t chase locals, there’s a chance of one move sticking long enough to get away, especially if the moves start far enough out. Watch for riders to look for daylight in the Sand Lakes/Broomhead area; that might be a great place to watch this year if you can make it.
(Un)Related: Making an Iceman: Wes’s Iceman Training
Women’s Pro Race Favorites
There are 19 women signed up for the Pro/Cat 1 field in 2022, a far cry from the goal of 100 by 2024 set by the previous race director. Still, it’s a small but tough crowd, led by a defending (and retiring) champion and several youngsters hell-bent on upending the results sheet.
The defending champion will make the Iceman her final professional race and TC is sure to send her off in style once she makes it downtown to the afterparty. Whether she’ll have the Ice Trophy in tow is certainly open to debate. She nabbed a podium at Leadville in August and the four-time national champ will look to be in the mix on Saturday.
If she’s in the lead group with under 5km to go, she’s got it. How she handles chasing early could dictate the entire race.
The 23 year old looks set to be an Iceman fixture for the next decade. She was fifth in 2021 but only Grant is back from the riders who finished ahead of her. She’s a three-time national champion and brings the Stars and Stripes jersey to TC this year.
With a strong showing at Cheq 40 and a win at the TCTF, she’s got to be one of the top favorite this weekend. While more singletrack might suit her better, like Grant, if she’s around near the end, she’s got a heck of a chance.
Finishing just out of the top ten last year, Kochis is back for another run at an Iceman podium. She’s a singletrack expert and while singletrack sections might be a plus for other riders, Kochis will have no choice but to make the most of them, especially before Williamsburg Road.
Marie Voss and Emma Schwab
Both could easily find themselves on the podium…and why not win it? Voss and Schwab have the engines to go long, and with such a small field, a late move (10-15km to go, perhaps) could see a chasing group of less than 10 riders mark each other right out things.
- Five Star: Grant, Blunk
- Four Star: Abby Snyder, Heather Compton, Medema
- Three Star: Voss, Kochis, Schwab
Men’s Pro Race Favorites
If there were a year to put some money on a Michigan rider, this is it. By our count, there are at least a dozen legitimate podium contenders from the Mitten state. Even more exciting? The #YOUTHS. There are a TON of riders 25 and under racing Pro this year, which means we should have a dedicated crew of elite racers trading elbows for a decade or more in the years ahead.
The defending champion finished on the exact same time as the rest of the podium in 2021 and with a tight, sinuous singletrack finish (read: slow, bumpy and impossible to pass) riders won’t want to wait until the line to make their move. Paton has shown the punch late, but he may need to be judicious earlier in the race to watch how things shake out with multiple attacks from his rivals.
He’s probably hoping it rains. No rider on this list benefits from a wet and muddy Iceman like Matter and he wouldn’t mind a few days of rain as he looks to add yet another Iceman win. Number five could be in the cards but it’ll take all of his experience and feel for the race to pull it off.
The Kona rider seems to have a bit of a crush on Iceman, eschewing a weekend of cyclocross racing to join us in TC again this fall. He’s been a blast to watch and, alongside Matter, was bumping bars in the three-up sprint alongside Paton in 2021. It might be tempting for a rider like Werner to go earlier in the race, but he’s also the most explosive rider in the bunch. He has the flexibility to go with a move early or wait for a late charge and be equally dangerous.
With so many locals to choose from, Olshove might be the cream of the crop. He’s had a stellar season at the Elite level, but for a TC native, Iceman is the measure of success. There’s no doubt he has the engine to be with the leaders but he’ll need plenty of tactical nous to win, and he hasn’t needed to play games consistently in the past season or two. Never discount youthful exuberance, however; mark him as a lock for the top ten.
A Wink and a Nod
There are a bevy of locals with a chance to perform well this weekend, including Garrett Jenema, Max Meyer, Nick Stanko, Lowell 50 winner Keegan Korienek, Matt Acker…if Michigan wants a win, there will need to be a bit of an agreement.
Michigan doesn’t chase Michigan.
If only someone would say it out loud…or put it online.
- Five Star: Paton, Matter, Alexey Vermeulen
- Four Star: Werner, Jorden Wakeley
- Three Star: Olshove, Casey Hildebrandt, Nolan VanderZwaag
The People’s Champion
kolo t.c.’s own Tim Bottrell is making is Pro category debut after one of his best seasons to date. T-Bott, a.k.a Timbo Slice, might not win (but hey, he’ll try) but he’s flying the flag for a lot us very amateur bike riders on Saturday. Make sure you go C-R-A-Z-Y for Tim and everyone wearing the kolo t.c. Racing Blue jerseys this weekend!
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