BY DENNIS CHASE
TRAVERSE CITY — Luke Mullis deserves an A for effort.
The 14-year-old Rochester cyclist was cruising along in Saturday's Iceman Cometh when disaster hit about six miles from the finish.
"I had some dérailleur problems," he said. "It sort of pretzeled itself. I had to run the rest of the way. I could still go downhill without pedaling, but for everything else I had to run. It was hard. Just to finish was good."
Mullis said he was doing "quite well" prior to the mishap.
"I planned to finish in just over two hours," he said. "Then this happened and it really slowed me down."
Mullis finished in 2:46.
CHANGE IN WEATHER: Riders were greeted by the first snowfall of the season in Traverse City.
"Wow, the weather was absolutely fabulous (Saturday) morning," race director Steve Brown said. "It was gorgeous with the snow in the top of the pine trees. The Pere Marquette Forest just absolutely lit up. The snow made for some very challenging race conditions. It was pretty slick in certain spots, but in other spots it was just wet and sandy. It took a lot of bike handling skills."
The snowfall came as a surprise to Portage's Laurie Armstrong, who was competing in her fourth Iceman.
"I thought it was supposed to be 40 degrees," she said. "That's OK. That's what it's all about though, having fun.
"Overall, I'll do it again next year. Absolutely. It's all about the camaraderie. It's awesome."
FIRST-TIMERS: Ben Adams, originally from Petoskey, was among those competing in the Iceman for the first time.
"It was rough," the 25-year-old said. "It was long. I got to mile 20 and it was like, 'I'm tired.' I thought if I got that far I'm not going to quit now. I'm glad I finished. That was my goal."
Adams finished in 4:39:07.
Two area homeschoolers, Nathaniel Saldanha and Ian Durand, came in five minutes apart — Durand in 2:29:20 and Saldanha in 2:34:19. They ride for the Hagerty race team.
"It was a nice challenge," the 14-year-old Durand said. "It was a very good experience."
Durand didn't know his time afterwards, but he didn't seem to care.
"I'll be happy with whatever," he said.
The 15-year-old Saldanha had trained on the course prior to racing it for the first time.
"It was tough, but I passed a lot of people," he said.
When asked if he was pleased with his time, Saldanha responded: "Not really. But I felt I did my best."
SIX STRONG: Six riders have done all 23 Iceman Comeths — Lars Welton, Pat Hall, Eddie Andres, Chad Shut, Don Fedrigon, Jr. and Paul Glynn.
"For that first one (Iceman) there were 35 of us," Hall, 64, said. "Everybody threw $5 into a hat and we took off from the high school in Kalkaska. Steve Brown (race organizer) had marked the trail with pink wedges — two or three in row. You just followed those all the way from Kalkaska to Timber Ridge. Time to time you would lose them and have to backtrack and then continue on."
It's much different now with more than 5,000 riders.
"Steve Brown has done a wonderful job," Hall said. "He's put his heart and soul into it.
"It's real festive now. It's really turned into quite the carnival at the end."
Hall was in a wave with Andres on Saturday. The two go back — way back. In the summer of 1977, they rode from Traverse City to Nova Scotia and back.
"It was a great summer," Hall said.
The two have also done every Vasa.
Hall reached his goal Saturday, finishing in under three hours. His official time: 2:58:17.
BY-PRODUCT: Saturday's race was good for business in the Traverse City area.
This message was posted Friday night on Spaghetti Jim's Facebook page: 'Whew. We survived Iceman eve. We served approximately 300 meals today, including takeout. Our restaurant was filled to capacity starting at 5. What a night."