Irmiger and Jeremy Horgan Kobelski have been noticeably absent from
the early season cross country races this spring. Instead, the
mountain biking power couple have been training in Mexico and
Boulder's Valmot Bike Park on their new Trek Remedy all mountain
all part of the plan for Heather and JHK, who have switched focus
from XC to the growing discipline of Enduro for 2013. The couple will
spend the summer traveling the US in their Airstream trailer racing
the Big Mountain Enduro Series and select stops on the Enduro World
Tour. They were kind enough to check in with MTBRacenews.com about
what they're up to this summer. Today, we catch up with Heather.
MTBRacenews.com: What have you been up to this winter?
Irmiger: This past winter was actually pretty similar to the way
I've spent winters in the past - I often spend the months between
Iceman (at the beginning of November) through January focusing on fun
rides, strength training, some backcountry skiing and my hot yoga
practice. Once we had our new program sorted, I felt more
justified in spending even more time at the Valmont Bike Park in
Boulder - I was able to work on cornering and drops as well as hit
some pump track "efforts." We spent three weeks
training in Maui during January, came home for 10 days then went to a
race (El Popobike Endro) in Mexico...so, really, I've been running
away from winter!
MTBRacenews.com: You've switched things up in a big way for 2013 with a switch to
Enduro racing. Why the move away from XC racing, where you've both
been so successful for so long?
Irmiger: For the past few years I've really had my head down
trying to be one of the best XC racers in the World. After the
big effort of trying to make the 2012 Olympic Team, I finally looked
up. It was then that I realized that much about the racing I
had originally fallen in love with had drastically changed. I
grew up racing point to points or 2 lap circuit races which featured
incredible natural terrain challenges - true mountain biking that
provided a sense of spirit, adventure and epic-ness while competing
with great athletes. Today's UCI-regulated events are often
short circuit races consisting of 5-9 laps on a course that has
become increasingly man-made. Due to the type of effort that
these courses demand, I found that my training became more about
watts, HR, and VO2 max rather than true mountain bike skill and
all-mountain fitness. I found myself avoiding singletrack or
true MTB rides because they didn't fit my training. Competing
at the highest level is not something I regret - I'm very proud of my
accomplishments and am honored to have raced with the World's best XC
athletes. I'm satisfied with having that experience - now, I
want to get back to the roots of the sport and cater my fitness to
mother nature's challenges, rather than to the lab's challenges.
MTBRacenews.com: How would you describe Enduro? What about the format is most
appealing to you?
Irmiger: For me, trying to strictly define Enduro would be a
mistake and actually not be congruent with what Enduro is. But,
I describe Enduro racing as an all-mountain riding competition with a
few key elements: there are typically multiple stages made up of
timed and the un-timed transfer segments. The timed segments
are mostly downhill (say 80%). To me, an Enduro is a race on
trail that you wouldn't WANT to do on an XC bike and that you
COULDN'T do on a DH bike (because of uphill or flat pedaling
involved). I find it so appealing because the courses are on
great terrain, in beautiful places and demand not only a high level
of fitness (ummmm, mountain biking is HARD) but also a great deal of
skill. The best all-around mountain bike rider will dominate.
MTBRacenews.com: How did your preparation for the season change with the switch in
Irmiger: True trail riding at an all out effort places a huge
demand on strength and power. While I am still putting in some
endurance training - Enduros can take all day and total ride time can
be 4+ hrs, so you need to be able to ride a while without bonking - I
am putting a much greater emphasis on technical skill, all out
sprinting, and strength. I currently do 2 heavy weight training
days a week (I've never done this for XC), 2 sprint days either on
the bike or running, and 2-3 riding days where I focus on difficult
terrain and general shredding. I feel so much stronger than I
ever have - I no longer get sore descending and can sprint like
crazy. And, by the way, I can now do ONE "real"
MTBRacenews.com: Are there any traditional XC races that will make it into your
schedule, or have you abandoned those entirely for the time being?
Irmiger: I will be doing a couple of XC races this year. One
of the goals when switching focus was to place on emphasis on
"quality events." Quality events, to me, means: great
promoters, sweet trail, a fun destination, and incredible friends and
people to share the experience with. The Whiskey 50 and Vail
Mountain Games fit that bill, so those are currently on the schedule.
It's looking unlikely that I'll purchase a USAC license this
year so will miss out on a few sanctioned events I would also
MTBRacenews.com: Does USA Cycling's decision to enforce UCI Rule 1.2.019 banning
pros from competing in non-sanctioned events effect you?
Irmiger: It looks like this rule will not effect me. USAC
stated that the rule will not be enforced if you are not a rider on a
UCI Trade Team roster, which Jeremy and I are not. Although,
there is still enough of a grey area that it is actually part of our
motivation for not buying a USAC/UCI license.
MTBRacenews.com: There's been a lot of talk from folks about how this rule is
going to hurt mountain biking. From you perspective, is that an
argument that has merit? Or does the ruling effect a small enough
group of mountain bike racers that it's effect will be limited?
Irmiger: I think it's bad for the sport, regardless of whether or
not it only effects a handful of riders. The rule also places
unnecessary pressures and stress on promoters. The culture of
racing is very different, here, from Europe and many of the rules
imposed by the UCI just don't make sense in the U.S. And...see
Jeremy's answer, he pretty much nails it.
MTBRacenews.com: How do you think the growth of Enduro racing is affecting the
world of mountain bike racing more generally? Is it an evolution or a
Irmiger: I'd say it's a bit too
early to tell. So far, though, I'd say it's an evolution
because the birth of Enduro is due tothe evolution of bike technology. Endro or all-mountain bikes
cater to the way people are actuallyriding. A few years ago, if you wanted to climb fast but also
have a blast downhill, there wasn't really a bike for that. The
only options were light XC bikes with minimal travel or heavy DH
bikes that were capable technically but not so much anywhere else.
Riders clearly no longer wanted to make these compromises...so
the bike manufacturer's responded. Now we have 5-7 inch travel
bikes that weigh as much as my XC bike did in 2005! Racing will
always be the proving ground for equipment - we put our bikes through
the toughest of conditions and at the highest speeds, so Enduro
racing will be an integral part to improving the technology so that
the consumers get bikes that keep them grinning ear to ear.
MTBRacenews.com: You've got a pretty cool rig set up for traveling to races this
summer? Can you describe your set-up to folks and tell us how it came
Irmiger: A few summer's ago, Jeremy and I borrowed my parent's
truck camper for a weekend getaway with the dogs. We had a
blast - there was a place to go inside when the afternoon
thunderstorms moved in or when the mosquitos were gnarly. Also,
it was awesome to have a nice space to leave the dogs while riding.
Since then, we had sort of casually been shopping around for
either a truck camper, travel van, or travel trailer - but our elite
XC race schedule always kept us from making the move since we weren't
actually in town enough to enjoy it! As we began to discuss our
career shift, which involved a more domestic schedule, the travel
trailer idea re-emerged. We've always thought Airstream's were
super cool and joked about buying one some day. As the Enduro
program came together it was clear we could drive to many of them and
take our house & dogs with us. We decided that it would be
stupid NOT to buy one! So, for 2013, we'll be traveling to our
U.S. and Canadian races in our Toyota Tundra, pulling a 25ft long
Airstream - we've got a shower, kitchen and plenty of space to kick
back an enjoy a post-shred beer so be sure to swing buy so we can
MTBRacenews.com: I've seen some pretty tasty looking recipe's on your blog. Any
recent finds that are worth sharing?
Irmiger: I'm struggling right now with this interview because
I've got South American pulled pork in the slow cooker right now:
chopped onion, placed in bottom of the slow cooker
pork tenderloin, cut a few slits in it and cram garlic slices in
there (about 3 cloves worth)
cups of beef broth + 4 tsp ground cumin + 4 tsp oregano + enough
medium-hot chilis (canned or roasted) with their sauce to bring to a
total of 2 cups. Pour this all over the pork.
quartered orange, 1 quartered lime - place the quarters along the top
of the pork.
8-10 hours on low-high or 6-8 hours on high
tacos, eat with chips, whatever!
MTBRacenews.com: What's on your iPod mix for the summer?
Irmiger: Making playlists is something I really suck at (help!)
so I just listen to Pandora. Depending on my mood: Ladyhawk Radio,
Barbie Girl Radio, or Johnny Cash radio for Airstreamin'