Motorpacing for the Iceman
The Iceman Cometh is the largest one-day mountain bike race in the United States. It attracts over 5,000 racers and takes over the small Michigan town of Traverse City each year in early November. As its name indicates, the dirt trails are often covered in snow and, yes, even ice.
It is truly an epic event in every sense and it attracts some of the fastest mountain bike athletes in the world.
Last year was my first time racing the Iceman Cometh. I remember lining up next to the then world champion and being overwhelmed by the speed and aggressiveness of the racers. It was an eye opening and humbling experience that left me with two enduring thoughts. First, those girls are fast. And second, I can't wait to come back next year!
Iceman is not an overly technical or steep mountain bike race. What it is, however, is fast. I knew that in order to train for that sort of speed on a mountain bike, I needed to do something different. I began to ask myself what would force me to go faster than my normal interval and speed-work training. What would build speed and power into my legs that my normal training couldn't? The answer was motorpacing.
Motorpacing involves pedaling behind a motorized scooter at a high rate of speed. Because of the draft that is created by the scooter, the cyclist is able to push a larger gear at a greater velocity. The benefit to doing this is that it most closely resembles a true race situation where fluctuations in power and accelerations occur at a high rate of speed. Improving leg speed will make for more efficient racing.
How I Did It
I worked with a local coach, Danny Kam, in Las Vegas who has a motorized scooter specifically designed for motorpacing. The scooter does not have a large engine, so it does not accelerate quickly, which is important when speeds change. The scooter also has a large aluminum roller on the back to keep the cyclist from hitting the scooters tire if he or she gets too close, which happened more than once!
The scooter driver put my cycling computer on his handlebars to monitor my pace for me. All I did was try and continue to pace behind the scooter. The driver did the rest. He told me if my cadence was too low or too high, if my shoulders were tense and when it was time to slow down. It was a great way for me to include a high-paced workout into my schedule that my year-round coach (Lynda of lwcoaching.com) gives me.
Did It Work?
My motorpacing training was perfect for Iceman Cometh. The race starts out with some very fast accelerations, and the ability to be comfortable drafting off of competitors is essential. Once the accelerations taper, the speed stays incredibly high (my average speed for the race was around 15 MPH). Motorpacing helped me have the confidence to keep that speed and power output at a maximum.
I also feel that motorpacing made me faster and stronger. Last year I was dropped out of the lead group of racers rather quickly. This year I stayed with the lead group for most of the race. I finished in sixth place, just behind three olympians, and last year's winner. Motorpacing will for sure be part of my training for next year!