By Collin Snyder, Team OAM NOW Elite Men’s cyclist
Some races, it’s all about tactics. Being in the right spot at the right time. 2014’s Iceman was not one of those races. With temperatures hovering in the mid 30’s and rain starting the night before and lasting late into the day, this year’s edition was a test of determination, grit, and survival.
The typical race day preparations went out the window as a steady drizzle greeted racers as we made our way to Kalkaska. The crowd of riders warming up down M72 were absent this year. When we arrived at the start, riders were huddling in the warm, delaying the inevitable. I throw an extra jacket and some huge gloves on and tried to do a small warmup without getting completely drenched. I tool around and swing by the start area. I figured with the nasty conditions, people would skip the normal race to the start line 30 minutes before the gun. I was wrong. I figured the gains in a couple positions would be offset by the early onset of hypothermia so I continue riding. I finish my warmup and make it to the line with a little less than 10 minutes to go which put me near the back of Wave 1. Eying the competition, my former team mate and last years Single Speed winner, Joe Sidel was nearly all the way to the front. I had my work cut out for me.
When the gun goes off, it was the normal 28 mph sprint for the first half mile of pavement. I did my best to gain as many positions as my 1 gear would take me. By the time we reach the first dirt section, I was near the front third of the field. Riders splashed through the infinite number of mud puddles covering everyone in a fine layer of mud. Instantly, everyone’s brakes start making a horrible grinding noise. This was just a small preview of what was to come.
Despite the weather, the dual trains down the opening two track were moving at full steam. I fought for position and moved up when I had the chance, but within the first 5 miles, the field had started to thin. I made it up to Joe and asked if any SS’ers were up the road. He says he tried his best to hold onto Greg Kuhn’s wheel, with no luck. Him and a small train got away and were way up the road. Once we arrive to the first single track section, traction all but disappeared. Riders became nervous and large gaps started to open up. At this point, it was a replay of last year between Joe and I. We work together/punish each other for the next 45 minutes. Both Joe and I’s brakes start going south and made the downhills nerve wracking at best. Normally, to move fast on a SS, you have to do a constant spin, spin, coast sequence. There was none of that today. With the soft trail and brakes that sounded like they were never fully retracted, only option was solid tempo riding. If you let off to coast at all, you’d ride backwards. It was ugly.
Shortly after Willimsburg Road, along the flat open powerline section, a group of 4 geared riders opened a gap on Joe and I and he shrugs and signals he can’t close it. This was it. I put my head down and get in time trial mode. I close the gap and ride their wheels for the next couple miles. When we got to the next single track section, I felt like these guys were holding me up. When we made it to the next climb, I made my move and pulled away from the four. I was on my own. For the last 10 miles, it was just me. My cadence felt good, and I knew that just maybe I could catch Kuhn up the road. I knew as long as I stayed upright on the descents, a podium was in the bag…easier said then done as, by this point, my brakes were completely gone.
Now it was just survival time. The trail had gone from bad to worse, and I was maybe in 10th place out of wave one. I can only imagine how bad this was going to be after 5000 more riders had passed through. The single track in the final couple kilometers had become un-rideable. I was riding one legged, trying to keep it upright. When the trail went up I had no traction so running was the only option. With 2k to go, someone yells Kuhn was just up the road. I’m in near panic mode. I give it everything I have left, but it was just a bit too late. I stop the clock at 2:05:15. Turns out, i was nearly 2:30 behind Greg, but a solid time none the less and good enough for 2nd place. Big congrats to Greg Kuhn of RBS Racing for having nearly the fastest non pro time, on a single speed no les,s and Joe Sidel of KLM Coldstone for holding onto third.
This is one of those races that you won’t forget. When I got home my bottom bracket was nearly seized and 3 out of 4 brake pads were down to the backing. My wheels are making a nice clicking noise each rotation and my clothes had about 10 pounds of dirt on them. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
This is the type of race that makes for stories you’ll talk about for years. Remember that one ride that you did a couple years ago where everything went okay, your bike worked flawlessly, and you got a somewhat respectable time at that one race? Of course you don’t. This one on the other hand neared Epic status. Did you miss it this year? If so, pray for horrible rain next year so that you can join the fun and tell glorious tales to your grand kids about how you survived treacherous downhills with no brakes while experiencing the early symptoms of hypothermia. Until next year.
I’d like to give a huge shout out to all the OAM NOW rider’s who braved the weather along with anyone who raced. This was a year to remember.