Iceman Cometh Riders Prepare to Compete in 29th Annual Ride from Kalkaska to Traverse City
Twenty-nine years and counting, and this weekend marks another Iceman Cometh Challenge. The mountain bike race brings thousands of riders and spectators to Northern Michigan.
Volunteers and staff have spent the last two weeks working around the clock all along the iceman race course. Maggie Parks has been working at Iceman for the last two years. “You know, all the groundwork has been laid. The course is great, everything is kind of as it should be. Now we’re just putting in the last missing pieces.”
Parks echoes the sentiment felt by many of the crew members, riders, and spectators: the Iceman is just a different environment. “It’s a legend. As soon as you get to Timber Ridge you can just feel the electricity, can feel the excitement again. Today, the day before, everyone excited and amped up and with a forecast like we have for this weekend it’s gonna be epic.”
Dylan Rickard has been helping with the Iceman for fifteen years, since he was just twelve years old. He’s seen a lot of excitement, and a lot of different weather over the years. “I’ve been through a lot of sleet and snow and rain on these days and right now we’re looking at partly cloudy and mid 40’s. That’s pristine. The course will be really really fast. The pros will be excited. We’ll see some good times this year.”
About 5,000 racers have registered for this year’s Iceman Cometh Challenge. It’s a nearly 30 mile race from Kalkaska to Traverse City, and each of these riders have a story. But for six-time racer Steve Wickham, the seventh story is all about riding this race in memory of his best friend. “My best friend Big Dan Morley passed away after a three year battle with throat cancer this past July. And I will be wearing his Team McClain race jersey in the race tomorrow.”
For Wickham, and Dan Morley’s friends and family, it will be an emotional race day, remembering the man who inspired so many. Dan recruited Steve to join him in the Iceman, even though Dan didn’t even own a mountain bike at the time. “In 2011 he sent me a picture from almost this very spot. He texted me and said ‘we’re doing this.’ And I said ‘we’re doing what?’ He said ‘the Iceman. It’s a mountain bike race.’ Wickham and Morley raced together every year since 2012.
“Dan raced last year breathing through a hole in his neck. He finished. He was a hero to many of us, all of us that know him. And a lot of people will be racing for Big Dan Morley tomorrow.”
And many will be cheering on all the riders who start at the Kalkaska Civic Center, and cross the finish line in Grand Traverse County.