The entire SKJ family ventured to Traverse City, MI this year so Sara could give the Iceman a go. The biggest draw for Sara is the simple fact that there is a women's only start and the overall race tactics play out without the aid of men. Of course, it is always a bonus to get to toe the line with Olympians/World Cup medalists/multiple time Canadian National Champions like Emily Batty and Cathrine Pendrel - not to mention a cadre of other fast pros from around the country.
In order for us to get ready to travel 10+ hours from home we have a week-long packing extravaganza, plenty of bike maintainace, extra school prep since I have to take a personal day and general mass chaos trying to pack the old Volvo with enough supplies to get us out of any potential bike failures. Thankfully Kiera is a travel queen as long as she's got a pile of books and a few toys.
Steve Ferguson, a good buddy from Marquette, MI graciously offered us a room to sleep in on the way out and back, making this Iceman the easiest to date. THANKS STEVE! The big bonus was getting to catch up with him and hearing about all the great mountain bike trails around his area. The only drawback is we arrived at his place pretty late Thursday and Saturday evenings so we didn't get to spend as much time as we would have liked in Marquette.
The 2:30 pm race start on Saturday made for a long wait for Sara but it allowed me to explore the endless singletrack with my running shoes. I couldn't believe how much there is and I didn't realize the North Country Trail made its way through this part of Michigan (one bonus of not racing). We ventured over to the start venue and Sara layered up and got in a good warm-up while Kiera and I read stories in the car trying to stay warm. I ventured out to the start once the men were off and they called up plenty of women but not Sara. Even though she's done the race three times prior, getting second twice, that's not enough to get a front row start. Nonetheless, she worked her way up to the front group where she stayed until almost the halfway point before losing Cathrine and Chloe Woodruff(who had a fantastic race, by the way) when she found herself behind a gal that struggled in a singletrack section allowing a gap to open that ended up being too wide to bridge back up to a group of three. She wasn't all that worried though since Emily Batty was with her and Sara figured the two of them could work their way back up to the gal in third. It would be for not however, and Emily and Sara ended up working together the remainder of the race with Sara getting the upper hand in the finishing sprint, nabbing 4th overall.
I can't say that it surprises me that Sara is able to mix it up with the top pro women in the sport. She has always been extremely strong on the bike and she has a ton of race experience from her years as an Elite Nordic skier. Sara continues to be motivated to race her bike with races like the Iceman around.