Course Design

Mud, Sweat and Beer Trail Day: Thanks For All Your Help!

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It was a busy weekend on the trails! From our trail day to course marking we got a lot done thanks to a lot of hardworking people!

Mud, Sweat and Beers is just days away, and that meant this past weekend was crunch time to clean up and clearly mark the 2019 route. Tom and the crew have put countless hours of thought and planning into crafting a course that offers just a bit of everything, but without some rakes on the ground, it’s all just imagination and theory.

Sunday was all about getting things done. The short section of private land that links the Holiday Village neighborhood to the Vasa Pathway always needs a bit of work, but after a long winter and with a few twists added, it needed more attention than usual. Luckily, we had a few folks raise their hands and hit the woods with us. We spent a few hours raking and clearing from the pavement to the power lines, offering riders a safe, fast trail to link up the opening few miles of the race to the real meat and potatoes of the 2019 course.

And that’s where McLain Race Team took over. They had nearly their entire team out marking the course, putting up pink Stout and blue Pale Ale arrows, taping tight corners, and adding a racer’s perspective the the course that we’ll all really benefit from on Saturday. Board member Steve Mentzer and a dozen other riders handled one section, while the Ernsts and another crew split off to cover more ground.

Of course, it wasn’t all work. Sunday was one of the last nice, sunny days in the forecast leading into race week, which meant it was the last chance to recon the course. The Norte crew had dozens of kids riding the Stout and Pale Ale course, putting in some impressive times and showing everyone how to really rail the singletrack. There were all sorts of groups soaking up the sun and making notes on important sections trail that might play a big role in on Saturday.

Thanks to everyone who dedicated their free time to helping us get things primped and primed, and to everyone who went out and made all that hard work worth it! DIg what we’re doing? Make sure you re-up or join NMMBA and help support more work just like this all season long.

Tom White's Mud, Sweat and Beers Preview!

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It’s becoming a tradition just as exciting as race day itself! Tom White talks you through the 2019 Mud, Sweat and Beers course!

Things have changed a TON since the first few editions of MSB. Those races rarely strayed far from the wide-open and fast Vasa Pathway, and while still absolutely thrilling, those events didn’t offer riders much more than a tease of singletrack. When NMMBA stepped up to help design a course, the goal was always to ask more of the rider. We wanted to balance a safe, fun, and accessible route with something that would challenge more than just the engine of the rider, but also demand some amount of technical skill and tactical nous as well. We think our 2019 is the best iteration of MSB yet!

Tom’s turn-by-turn narration is included below, and we also have a file that includes much of the course available here. We do want to stress that riding on private property anytime outside of race day is prohibited. You can access the course from a number of places, and if you hop on the 25 km from Bunker or Timber, you’re going to see markings in no time.

Tom White’s MSB Turn-by-Turn

- Same start and finish as last year.
- Ample passing for the first 5.5 miles.
- The first piece of single track after the private land is the "F-Bomb"
area.  We plan to revamp this crappy section so it flows.
- This will flow into the "Das Boot" section and into the always popular
Jam Sesh single track.
- A fun portion of the winter sports trail is next.
- The course opens up to the rolling part of the the 25K and then into two
rolling hills in Jack Pine Valley.
- A very short single track takes you out of Jack Pine and onto another two
track to intersect the new section of VST by Post #5 (Saplings).
- The "saplings" section transitions into a 1 mile section of new single
track in Strombolis Lake (we will build in April).
- Same gas line and single track as last year (The Other White Meat).
- A 3/4 mile section of Sand Lakes Road is next to allow for passing and
roadie power to shine.
- New section of VST (Ditch Pickle and Tingling Bits) is next.
- After Tingling Bits we transition to some bits and pieces of unmarked
single track and then onto a downhill piece of Perch Lake Road.
- Then it is back into unmarked around Perch Lake and onto the two track
that will take you to the base of the Wall.
- From there we hit a portion of the Vasa 25k and then turn left onto a
seldom used piece of Tom's Cruise.
- Next we hit the Vasa 10k, then two tracks to the private land for a open
and high speed finish.
- There will be a safer merge with Pale Ale riders.
- Approximately 23.5 miles long.

Want to help Tom, Mike, and the whole TC Trail Crew get the course ready for race day? Join us at Mt. Holiday on Sunday, April 28 at 12:30. You can stay up to date on the game plan right here.

Iceman Course Update for October 15

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As we work to bring you the best Iceman Cometh Challenge course possible, we’re providing updates on current conditions through race day!

What a difference a week makes! Even with some warm temperatures, we saw just enough rain over the past ten days to have a huge impact on the course. In mid-to-late September, sand was the word, as it always is in early fall. This year was no different, and perhaps a touch worse; sections from Kalkaska to Dockery Road were, in the opinions of many, some of the slowest we’ve ever seen!

Luckily, a mix of cold nights and rain have gotten the course into great shape, and aside from the infamous sand pits that you just know are coming, there’s nothing out there that will make you feel like you’re at the beach.

Tom and the crew were out putting in the finishing touches on the new Water Bottle Hill Bypass. That new section of trail is bench cut and riding faster and faster every week. While it does criss-cross the old bypass, you won’t have any trouble staying on the right trail thanks to a few blue flags places at all the pertinent intersections. While the segment is too close to the previous trail to be accurate, this should give you a good look at where the bypass is on the course.

Another big confirmation from the weekend is that we’ll stick with the same Wall Bypass used in the 2017 edition race, taking a long, lazy bend left before the Wall and hopping on a few bits of two-track and singletrack before rejoining the 25km just about a half-mile from the infamous Boonenberg climb. That one-two punch is always tough, especially after a few fast miles from Williamsburg Road and onto the 25km itself.

Finally, the finale. While it’s unmarked and very tough to follow at the moment, you can count on a serpentine, sinuous sprint through some winding singletrack from the time you enter Timber Ridge, nearly leave it entirely, then come back to the line after going over and under two shipping containers!

While plenty of people were out enjoying the course, Melissa from Michigan Mountain Biking Association was at Timber Ridge helping put on the Iceman Clinic this past Saturday. 30 riders got a little instruction and a lot of confidence ahead of race day, and were treated to hot brats, chips, and a great time by MMBA and Keen Technical Solutions.

Iceman Course Design: Steve's Secret Bypass

If Steve’s Secret was already by-passed, does that make this a double by-pass?

Some of our most dedicated board members and volunteers were out the woods this weekend, but leaving their riding for Sunday. It was rather timely, too; the first really autumnal morning of the year, complete with the first blush of color in the spruce and oaks, made the morning’s work feel more like Iceman season than we’ve seen yet!

The day focused on cutting in roughly .4 miles of trail to bypass Steve’s Secret, a well-worn section of the Iceman Cometh Challenge course that has been in need of improvement for some time. It’s a section that the race has already spent time avoiding in previous editions of the race, perhaps most noticeably in 2015, the year after the incredibly wet and muddy Mudman race.

If you blocked that out of your memory banks, don’t worry. We called on super-domestiques Kyle Macdermaid and Dan Ellis, along with Tom White and Mike Walters, to get the new half-mile in shape for the up-coming pre-rides. The goal is to balance the terrain and conditions on the ground with the needs of such a big event. With 150-person waves starting just a few miles away, we have to expect a pretty steady steam of riders with very difference paces, so there’s plenty of room to pass for much of this fresh-cut section. Coming just after Dockery Road and before the Three Sisters, this is a crucial stretch in the race, and we expect plenty of folks will want to give it a look over the next month.

There’s a lot more work to do, but your support makes it possible! If you’re ready to check out the 2018 course before race day, make sure you join kolo t.c.’s Out’n’Back on October 13 at 9 am from Timber Ride. Not sure you’re ready for a full Out’n’Back? You can also join the MMBA Clinic that same day to learn some skills and take a look at the Slush Cup course. There will also be food from Keen Technical Solutions and a lot of great folks there to ride!

It’s awesome to see the mountain bike community already excited for Iceman, and we’re working hard to make every inch of the course not just nice for race day, but nice for the whole month of October!

NMMBA Steps Us As The Stewards of the Iceman Cometh Course

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This is a really big deal. For 2018, Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association will be the go-to organization for all-things course design for the biggest race in North America, the Iceman Cometh Challenge. 

For nearly 30 years, the Iceman Cometh Challenge has been a legendary part of the mountain bike season not just in Michigan, but for riders across the country. At nearly 5,000 riders, it's the biggest one-day point-to-point mountain bike race in North America, and we don't always appreciate just how lucky we are to have an event like this in our own backyard. From World Champions to the best racers in the Midwest, and from first-timers to the local heroes, Iceman is more than a bike race; it's a pilgrimage from Kalkaska to Traverse City, a turn from fall to winter, and a bridge from one racing season into the next. 

We also don't always realize just what a monumental task it can be to maintain a safe, fun, and sustainable course, and as a part of our race course design expertise, we'll be working to bring you the best possible course for 2018. Steve Brown and his team of Ice-people have asked us to help get the course into shape, and we're honored to have the opportunity to help create a course that Northern Michigan can be proud of. 

A big part of Iceman and the full experience starts well before race day, and we realize that weekly Out'n'Backs are a fun and important part of training for November. You may have already noticed that huge swaths of the course are clear of face-slappers and downed trees; we've had crews in the woods addressing these issues and more for a few weeks now, and we'll continue to keep the course clear all September and October. We want to offer the course to riders locally and to those making the drive to Traverse City for a recon and help every accomplish the right of passage that is your very first Out'n'Back. 

Stay tuned all fall for more course updates, and make sure you join us and our pals from kolo t.c. on October 13 for the BIGGEST Out'n'N'Back of the year. One week before Peak2Peak and three before Iceman, it's the perfect time for riders of all abilities to give the full Out'n'Back a go, especially if it's your first time. By that time in the fall, you've had plenty of rides in to get fit, and the October 13th ride is a great chance to see where you're at. 

Not ready for a full 43 mile mountain bike ride? That's totally cool. Michigan Mountain Bike Association is hosting a clinic session and pre-ride of the Slush Cup the same day, also at Timber Ridge. You can gain some comfort, skills, and confidence from experienced riders, and meet some friendly folks stepping into Iceman action right alongside you.

Ready to ride? Here's the most up-to-date GPX file of the 2018 course. Note, there are plenty of changes to come, but this will hit 95% of the trails you'll see on race day!