Colorado riders Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher) and Alison Dunlap (Luna) took home their maiden pro Iceman Cometh wins in Traverse City, Michigan on November 7.
The event was also part of the Midwest Regional Championship, and, for the fourth year in a row, Wisconsin brought the greatest depth and breadth of field to win the state-wide series.
“We didn’t have a full roster this year and quite a few of our racers were unable to make it due to illness or other issues, but Wisconsin riders probably had an advantage when it comes to racing experience,” said Don Edberg, director of the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS), America’s largest state mountain bike race series. Edberg, who did his part for Wisconsin by racing to a first place finish in the All Men 55-59 category, cited the number of racers at each WORS event. “Some people think that courses make racers,” he said. “I think when you’re talking about what makes a racer fast, it’s really about the people and the competition. The more people you are able to race against, the faster you get.”
In terms of quantity and quality, the competition at Iceman this year was as good as it has ever been. With 4,000 registered racers, the pro fields were not the only start waves to see an increase in racer turnout, although the addition of National Champions Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, former World Champion Alison Dunlap and international pro racers like Sam Schultz (Gary Fisher), teammates Kelli Emmett and Carl Decker (Giant), and 2008 Icewoman Amanda Carey (Kenda) attracted a flurry of media attention. The marked man and Midwest hope was Brian Matter (Gear Grinder) of Sheboygan.
Matter, a past winner of the Iceman and 17-time Iceman veteran, won at Ore to Shore and the Chequamegon 40 this year, and was crowned 2009 WORS Overall men’s champion in October. Matter was looking to win at Iceman with the additional motivation of a possible repeat of his 2007 Triple Crown title. For a select few men, the Triple Crown has been the icing on a great season of Midwest MTB racing; it is the unofficial honour bestowed on those who win each of the Midwest point-to-point races within a single season.
“I raced with Brian Matter a lot when we were juniors and earlier in my career and it's awesome to see him having so much success in the Midwest,” said Horgan-Kobelski before the race on Saturday. “Repeating the Triple Crown would be pretty impressive. If he does, hopefully I can at least make him work hard for it!"
Horgan-Kobelski: Cool, calm and collects it
With repeated attacks launched off the front beginning around mile 17, Olympian and National Champ Horgan-Kobelski made everyone work hard for it. Despite the smooth speed of the course this year, the front group shed all but six riders after the first of these attacks.
Matter and Tristan Schouten (Planet Bike), both of Sheboygan, and a Michigan hometown favorite Mike Anderson (Bell’s Beer) were in the lead group with Horgan-Kobelski, Decker and Schultz. Several riders attempted to launch counterattacks over the next 10 miles, but the lead group was still together, with Horgan-Kobelski leading and Matter second wheel, at Annie’s Hill, a steep wood chip wall that looms up at riders from around a corner with five miles to go.
The attack that stuck came in the last section of singletrack before the finish. Horgan-Kobelski made the winning move, and rode through the screaming gauntlet of Iceman spectators lining the finish chute wearing a broad grin, to finish 12 seconds ahead of teammate Schultz. Matter followed close behind in third.
Dunlap does it
In the ladies' field, Midwest hopeful Jenna Rinehart was looking to become the first woman to win a Triple Crown. Like Matter, Rinehart had to contend with a stacked field including the current National Champion, as well as former World Champion Dunlap. Rinehart traded pulls with the five-woman lead group until near the end, but an attack by five-time Icewoman Emmett and counterattack by Dunlap shook loose all but Irmiger.
The three hit the climb at Annie’s Hill in a tight line with Dunlap in the front. Carey and Rinehart followed just seconds behind. Dunlap attacked again on a short, steep uphill and created a small gap, which she maintained to the line with Emmett sprinting just feet behind her the entire way.
“I could hear her breathing,” said Dunlap. Emmett and Dunlap are friends and training partners in Colorado Springs as well as frequent competitors, making their appearance together on the Iceman podium all the sweeter.
“I had the fitness I needed, but I didn’t feel like my top-end speed was there today,” said Rinehart after the race. “The attack by Kelli almost took me by surprise. Amanda was a little behind me, and we both worked to catch the lead group again, but it didn’t happen. This was my first Iceman, and it was a good race. I’m looking forward to doing this again.”
For complete results with photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.
|1||Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Gary Fisher - Subaru)||1:34:02|
|2||Sam Schultz (Gary Fisher - Subaru)||0:00:12|
|3||Brian Matter (Gear Grinder)||0:00:14|
|4||Carl Decker (Giant Bicycles)||0:00:21|
|5||Mike Anderson (Bells Beer)||0:00:28|
|6||Tristan Schouten (Planet Bike)||0:00:41|
|9||Graham Howard (Bissell)||0:02:34|
|10||Christian Tanguy (Fraser-Cannondale)||0:02:37|
|1||Alison Dunlap (Luna Chix)||1:46:40|
|2||Kelli Emmett (Giant)||0:00:01|
|3||Heather Irmiger (Gary Fisher - Subaru)||0:00:12|
|4||Amanda Carey (Kenda Tomac)||0:01:13|
|5||Jenna Rinehart (Specialized)||0:02:05|
|8||Marne Smiley (Scott Bicycles)||0:09:09|
|9||Katerina MacHacova (Fraser)||0:11:51|