I have been looking forward to racing in Iceman for a few years now and was very excited for the opportunity to race this year. Since Michigan is my home state I am very familiar with the race and crowds that it can bring. The race certainly delivered on all fronts; crowds, participants, cold, snow, mud and tons of fun.
Since this was my first time racing Iceman and the promoters dropped racing class as a definition for starting order, I was in the 28th start wave. The 28th wave was an "unseeded" start wave which included only riders who had not raced Iceman in previous years. All previous years starters were seeded by their prior finish times. Coming into the race I had no idea how this was to eventually effect my result.
I knew this race was shaping up to be fun when the snow began on the Friday drive up to Traverse City. The temperature had dropped to just about freezing and then got below 32 overnight. I awoke to frozen earth, cold temps, and a clear sun filled sky. My start time was 10:28am Saturday morning. When I arrived at the start there were hundreds of people milling around in the start zone and everyone was doing their best to keep warm. I followed my normal warmup routine but shortened it up by about ten minutes due to cold toes. Before the start I added 3 sets of toe warmers to my riding shoes which made for a bit of a tight fit but fairly warm toes.
Off the start I set the pace in the front of my wave and easily made the it first into the single track which was a mile and half from the start line. Immediately I knew what I was going to be in for as I came up behind the previous wave that had started 3 minutes earlier. This set the tone for the remainder of the race, "passing left", "passing right". Since close to 1900 riders had started in 27 waves in front of mine it was going to be a day of passing. The course was incredibly fast with all double track and singletrack which made for safe and fairly quick passing. The major slow downs took place in the singletrack where hundreds of riders were getting jammed up all together in a long line of wheel to wheel bicycles as far as I could see. In the spirit of the event no one was complaining only enjoying!
As the race progressed the ground softened up and exposed the normal Michigan riding conditions which consists almost exclusively of sand. At this time I was totally stoked to have Pro Gold lubricants on my drivetrain. Pro Gold http://www.progoldmfr.com/ kept my Scott 29er running smooth and fast for the entire race.
I rode a very strong race feeling good the entire time despite the slow downs, stops and starts, I ended up finishing first in my wave and 13th in my group. However, I was not able to compete against the seeded riders in my group who started in waves 2 through 5. I am already looking forward to next year and a Seeded start time.
Velonews posted a great video of the race recorded by a rider in same start wave.