In the weeks prior, I had been really trying to focus on training for the event. Actually to the point, that I probably side tracked some of cross races. But this is one of the biggest cycling events in the state, the country, North America! And I have been the brides maid 2 years, and wanted to finally get a big one under my belt. at this point I knew I could win this damn thing, but everything needed to click!
Things were going well and I was feeling good the week of the race. I was feeling relaxed but excited to get up to TC, and go through the yearly festive rituals. DC and I headed up early Friday morning and it rained the entire time! This could be a really good sign, as the course is usually really loose and sandy. So some rain would make it fast! We met up with Mike Wissink and got a mid day pre-ride in at the end of the course. Yup, it was fast and dialed, and the forecast was beginning to look better for the start of the race. Also, my legs were feeling strong and snappy! I could not wait to race! We settled in at the expo for a few hours, and then prepped the bikes and gear for an early morning departure.
Race day - It was still sprinkling when we got up. Temps in the low 40s and it was perfect for my 8th shot at an ICEMAN win. This year I had a detailed plan. Be on the front row. Make it through the middle school fence in the top 15 group. Hit the first section on 2 track up the sandy climb in the top 10 group. and hang on to DC's wheel to the end! In addition, Brad and I were going to try and work with each other for the entire race is we were both on form.
I got a quick pre-ride in and rode to the start line about 20 mins before. Perfect on the front row right next to DC, and Brad at my side. Also, being in Wave #1, I was surrounded by fast as hell guys like Jarod Makowski, Mike Wissink, Cory Stange, Rob Selle, etc. So finding fast wheels early in case I had to pull out a plan B would be easy. The clock counted down and we were off! The buzz of knobby tires was deafening! There was instant chaos as guys were leaning on each other, Rubbing elbows, buzzing wheels and flat out cutting each other off all at 25 mph! I stayed near the front, and pedaled hard. As we turned to the middle school, I made my way up to the Sharp end of the peloton to avoid any bottle necks through the hole in the fence. I went through with Brad and DC clean! 1st goal accomplished. we then hit the 2 track sitting somewhere in the top 10-15. Things were going well, and DC and Brad were near by. There were some big mud puddles to work around that made things interesting at times, but I was still able to push the pace hard and stay with the lead group. A few more miles in, guys were starting to pop on some of the early climbs. We would pick them off one by one. And then at times, a few other guys would crash and go down in the slick corners. I had to avoid several crashes in front of me. A few miles before Williamsburg Rd., a group of 5 riders containing DC, Mike and a few others were off the front with a huge acceleration. Brad and I settled into our own group with Cory Stange and Jamie Parker along a few others. Brad and I controlled the pace, and worked to take pulls for the rest of the race. We were ticking like a Swiss watch! It was perfect. It also gave us a chance to talk and encourage each other along the way. When we got to Williamsburg Rd., Brad was on the front and signaled that he was going to make a dig, He accelerated up the next few climbs and I followed. Then when we hit the flat section, I came around and took a really hard pull. This shattered everyone that was with us expect for Jamie, and a small group of riders was just ahead of us. Jamie made a move to get around us and try to bridge the gap to the next group. Shortly after a rider in a casual green t-shirt came from behind and around us. Not realizing it was Ty Schmidt, we let him go. This is probably the only mistake we made all day.
We continued to lay down the hardest pace we could and finally caught the group that was dangling in front of us. It made the pace even faster. This group contained 2 Hagerty racers, and not knowing if one of them was Ty, Brad had to be aggressive and begin throwing in attacks. I stayed near the back and was ready to help cover any moves if needed. I was on my limit as the biggest climbs of the race were upon us. With about 2 K to go. One of the Hagerty guys made a move. I jumped to chase him down, and yelled at Brad "You gotta go!" He jumped and came up behind me and onto the Hagerty riders wheel. We were all back together again. Through the tunnel near the finish line, and back out to the final slick section on single track, I was completely spent! Knowing we had a huge gap, no one for me to chase down in my age group, I was content to roll across the line knowing I did everything I could to try to get my 1st ICEMAN win...
We rode well. In fact it may have been the best performance both of us has ever had. I gave Brad a hug and thanked him for his help! We both thought we had done enough. Hell we were right behind DC, and Wissink at the end. How could that not be enough? And we realized we just finished in the top 10 of wave one! It had to be enough. Then we found out the the guy in the green t-shirt was Ty. So it was a bitter sweet celebration for Brad and I knowing we let him slip away. But that is racing.
Once the results were posted and sorted out, it was confirmed! I did it! I was an ICEMAN Champ! And I beat my nemesis Ross Clark by almost the same 3 min margin he be me last year. I was stoked. I finally was able to lay out a very, very hard personal goal and achieve it down to every last detail!
Thanks for everyone that has cheered me on along the way and helped offer their encouragement, advice, and support. It means a lot to me.
Special thanks to Jeff and Brad for helping me along the way to actually get to this point and pull it off! You both helped keep my head screwed on straight and stay focused since I pulled the plug in July and got back on track. So thanks again.
Finally, thanks to Macomb Bike and Mike's Mix, and Apto Cycling for all the support you have given me throughout the year. Knowing I got support like you behind me makes all this easier!
DC - another ICEMAN win!
Mike Wissink - another SS ICEMAN win!
Joe Sidel - 1st ICEMAN win!
Alex Gonzales - 1st ICEMAN win or 2nd place! (still pending offical word)
Pat Russel - Best even ICEMAN Finish with 2nd!
Brad Lako - first ever ICEMAN podium with 2nd! But it was much more than just a 2nd. It was the icing on a great season. And the spark to go after Ty for the win next year!
Congrats to everyone else for other podiums, personal, best or just finishing. there are so many I want to call out, but you will get a personal congrats the next time I see you!