Traverse City is one of Michigan’s best cycling destinations, and the great riding gave birth to the team of Hagerty Cycling. With sixty members and enough podiums this season to make Mark Cavendish blush, the Blue Train is well represented from spring until fall, both on-road and off.
Hagerty Cycling’s Tim Barrons is one of the funniest and fastest guys in town, and also serves as the team’s president. This fall, he has been preparing for his fourteenth Iceman Cometh. Tim has been around the sport for a number of years and has seen the Iceman grow from a small-time test to a national event, drawing some of the best professional cyclists in the country to beautiful northern Michigan.
GTMTBA: How did you hear about the Iceman? Is this your first Iceman?
Tim: I did my first Iceman in 1997. I have done it every year except for 2008 when I had to take some time off the bike due to a neck injury. I guess that means that this will be my 14th Iceman. Wow, that is a lot. I heard about the race because it is the race to do if you are a MTB racer in Michigan… hell, in the Midwest. I am more of a roadie these days but still look forward to riding in the woods in the fall, nothing compares to flying down a dirt trail, winding through some screaming fast single track. It always gives me “perma-grin”.
GTMTBA: What have you heard about the race in particular that drew you to first sign up, and what is it about Northern Michigan that makes it an attractive place to ride a bike?
Tim: Living it Traverse City, I have always known about the race. I used to live near Timber Ridge Resort up until 2001. We road our bikes on literally 100′s of miles of single track, the VASA and all over the trails in the Pere-Marquette State Forest. This was back before there was an established marked loop. There were no GPS devices, so riding in the woods and getting lost in the VASA territory was a thing we did on a regular basis. It was by far the best place to live and ride for an aspiring cyclist. The Iceman was in my backyard so I have always known about it. I knew about the race before I was even a cyclist, so for me it was a no-brainer to try the race.
GTMTBA: Over 4,500 people will race on November 5th. Why are you putting yourself through the torture? What is your goal for this season?
Tim: I put myself through it because I love every second of racing. I love the pain, the preparation and the camaraderie of riding with others.
I guess I don’t really have any goals. I would like to say that I want to beat my last year’s time but the course always changes, weather conditions always play a part and times are hard to compare from year to year. My main goal is to feel good. That usually transitions into a good time for me. Last week during an “out and back” training ride, I felt awesome. Pedaling hard over the tops of the hills, and settling into a good rhythm on the flats. That is my goal, to feel like I did last Sunday. I rarely feel that good in a race. I normally go off fast trying to gain good position in the first few miles. Then, somewhere around the first longish two-track after Smith Lake Road I try to settle into pace. Ideally, I find a group that is going the same pace and myself and can ride with the same 4 or 5 guys for the majority of the race. This happened to me last year and it is much better to ride with others with similar fitness, it helps you keep your inertia rolling and if the other cyclists are positive and share the work, it can be a good motivation to work together.
GTMTBA: Why do you think this race gets so much publicity and draws so many people, in spite of an average course and the crazy cold weather?
Tim: I think that the fact that the Iceman is a point-to-point race, the time of year and the area all contribute to the popularity. For many, it is the last race of the year, and a great goal to keep you riding in the fall months. The course is always challenging and the finishing miles on the VASA are some of the most fun riding you can find on a MTB.
GTMTBA: Guys like Todd Wells, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Jeremiah Bishop and a whole lot of other pros have come to the Iceman. How much fun is it watching the pros and getting to see how they ride, what they ride, etc.?
Tim: It is the one of the highlights. It is always a blast to watch them finish. Our favorite thing to do is hike out to the last hill coming into Timber Ridge and watch the faces of pain as they climb to the finish. Last year by the time the Pros raced, the course was a mud bog, and when they finished you could barely see the sponsor logos on their jerseys. You could just make out the whites of their eyes and tongues hanging out of their mouths as they busted up the hill. The look of pain on their faces is great, it reinforces the fact that the pros work harder than anyone out there. They understand pain, how to deal with it and to race while completely on the rivet. It is easy to think that the pro racers make it look easy, but when you see them finishing the Iceman you know they are suffering just like the rest of us… they are just better sufferers.
GTMTBA: Are you afraid? Nervous? Excited? What has your training consisted of as you’ve prepared for the Iceman? Any other races?
Tim: I never get nervous but that may be because I don’t really set any goals for myself. I’m sure it makes me not as competitive or as fast but I have a hard time psyching myself out and being on edge for something that I love to do. I am totally excited and can’t wait to be in the middle of the race!
Training has been moderate, I think I have done 4 out-and-backs. One solo, that was a good day. I train my weaknesses, which has typically been the tops of hills and keeping my momentum going. I need to work on the transitions, going fast up a hill and then getting back into rhythm without slowing down. I ride 2-3 times a week at the State Hospital (Grand Traverse Commons Trails), and do repeats on the hills with a focus on the top. I did Peak2Peak this year, and had fun. I guess I consider it a training race but, to be honest, it was just a ton of fun and as it gets larger it will become a race to train for.
*Main photo is of Tim Barros at the 2011 Peak2Peak Mountain Bike Classic. Photo credits: Jody Hofstra.