Five years ago, Melting Mann popped up as a Barry-Roubaix tune-up race. Now, it’s a party all its own.
That first year, the race drew a couple of dozen riders willing to brave downright winter conditions for the inaugural event. There wasn’t even a hint of spring in the air, with much of the course still covered in snow and the roads large snow and ice packed firm by plows and traffic. Subsequent editions have seen some cold starts, but nothing so testing and cold as the first year.
2018’s race looks to be the best weather yet, with temperatures flirting with 50 degrees and rain ending the day before the race. As the second race of the Michigan Gravel Race Series, plenty of riders are expecting to be back in action after the Waterloo Grit & Gravel kick off the season this past weekend. Dan Yankus picked up maximum points ahead of last year’s series winner Alex Tenelshof, with our own Danny Soltan taking third.
Compared to Waterloo’s grueling 62 miles, the 35-mile Long race at Melting Mann is almost a sprint, but for some of the favorites, shorter and more intense efforts can be a very different challenge to longer, more steady efforts. Especially this early in the season, the white-hot intensity it takes to survive attacks and splits can be extremely taxing, so don’t be surprised if one or two race favorites have off-days.
The course itself offers up 1,500 feet of elevation, with most of it coming in the form of short, leg-sapping bumps in the road. The middle third of the race sees a slew of those short and punchy climbs coming on the roller coaster that is Mann Road, where the race exploded in 2017. More of a two-track than road in many spots, Mann’s 5-7% short climbs and fast descents is the perfect launching pad for a move to get clear. Even here, it’s really the pace of the field that brutalizes the peloton more than the climbs themselves.
Expect to see a much faster race this Sunday compared to last year’s muddy, soggy slog. With winning times right at the 1:40 mark in those conditions, we could see as much as five to ten minutes taken off that total if the dry weather holds.
3T / Q+M has a strong squad headed to Vandalia Sunday, with Scotty Albaugh, Danny Soltan, Al McWilliams all confirmed from Ann Arbor and Sean Kickbush also looking to make the trip south from Traverse City.
Registration for Melting Mann closes Friday, March 24 at midnight. There is day-of registration if you’re into procrastinating.
You can also memorize the current Michigan Gravel Race Series standings sponsored by Q+M, so you know who you need to pip on the line.