I still wonder what I was thinking when I registered to the 2011 Iceman earlier this year, just minutes after the online registration opened? I guess I forgot how cold it can be and how the lactic acid has the legs seized up and the heart beating at maximum cadence.
Let’s sum it up:
- I don’t like this race to be so pushed back after the summer racing season
- I don’t like cold weather
- I don’t like flattish course
- I don’t like the mass start where everybody is fighting for position
But I know exactly what I dislike the most: being 7 minutes behind the winner’s time at the 2010 Iceman. This year, it was all about redemption and finish 3 minutes or less behind the winner.
The preparation to the Iceman started back early September; instead of completely stop riding after the last N.U.E. race. I kept the legs spinning. By no mean, I can call this training. I was riding along having fun in the nearby parks that are Bloomer Park and Stony Creek Park. The trails there are not the most fun trails to ride in the nation but I challenge anybody to build better trails with the type of terrain we have. My hat down for the trail coordinators!
Now, two weeks prior to the Iceman, I beat myself to go back into training mode. The temperatures were already too cold for me to ride outside. When temps are in the 50°F and I am already a “no show”. Only one option: kill it on the trainer.
At the start line, I assessed my chances. I like to compare myself to a solar powered machine tuned for warm/hot temperatures. Well, the sun was out: Great! – Warm temps? Not quite to my standard but above average for that season: I’ll take it. Overall it should be a good day.
Every year, it seems that the competition intensifies. This year besides the regular faces, the Flueckiger Brothers racing on the World Cup Circuit were there…
I tried to ride closer to the front for this edition of the Iceman. Well, that is a skill I might never hone as I screwed up the start again and ended up around the 30th position with 1 mile completed. From there, it was pretty much a long struggle for 2/3 of the way. Our group will pick up few strangled racers and they would eventually be able to connect to our group or be left behind. Mind you that nobody could reach back to our group and get away at the front.
When Troy Wells was in our group, he did an excellent work at the front. I envy his strength on the flat trails. I was seeing stars just by staying in his draft. I cannot imagine what kind of power he might have. He struggled a little bit in the climbs but was it because he is not such a good climber or because he pushed so hard on the flats?
At some point, we reached back to Matthias Flueckiger from the Trek World Cup team along with another Trek rider: Matt Shriver. They were not riding extremely fast and I ended up leading our group for a kilometer or so. At each uphill section I could either ride at front or cover attacks from both Matt. With only 3 kilometer to go, Nathan Guerra attacked as well and a group of 5 was spawn: Nathan Guerra, Isaac Neff, Matt Shriver, Matthias Flueckiger and I.
The spectators were very loud and numerous: it was great to focus on something else than the pain in the legs. I was riding behind Matthias and this kid is good! I was way pass my comfort level following him in the technical trail. Fortunately, the Specialized Stumpy 29 was keeping me upright and close to his wheel.
As we came to the sight of the finish line with 50 yards to go, I was satisfied finishing a couple of seconds behind Matthias. I settled to roll behind him. Sprinting is a dangerous maneuver and I did not feel to take any risk especially when I completed 99.9% without hurting myself. Why risk kissing the ground for a 19th place rather than a 20th place?
My mind was moving faster than my legs and with only 40 yards to go, I convince myself to try to out sprint him. When will be the next opportunity to beat a World Cup racer? I launched my sprint, came super close to nail him at the line.
I did not stay at the finish for the results or to know if I got in front of him or not. I just rolled to the bus shuttle that would bring me back to my car; 28 miles away from here. Only when at home, I realized that we were sprinting for 8th place; not the 20ish position I thought we were. My late surge was not enough to beat Matthias however the results gave us the same finish time. To be honest I would love to see the photo finish just to witness how close it really was: my guess less than a tire width.
Anyway I was a little disappointed by myself: the price money for 9th place is good enough to pay for gas; the money for 8th would also have paid for my dinner! And there is no doubt in my mind, I had the legs to get it done. Overall I am very satisfied with my race result; it is well within the 3 minutes interval I gave myself (1min9s). Great time! I’ll race Iceman again if I have the opportunity.