Trek racers Jeremy
Horgan-Kobelski and Heather Irmiger 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 JHK and Heather, 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 hear from JHK.
Stay tuned for an interview from Heather next week.
MTBRacenews.com: What have you been up to this winter?
JHK: Well, we did our best to try and dodge winter as best we could!
We did a couple trips in search of warmer weather and good riding.
One to Arizona, one to Hawaii and a couple to Moab. It was super
refreshing to be on a completely different training program than in
the past without having to be ready for World Cup racing in March.
Given the enduro focus of our schedule - training basically consists
of riding our MTB's as much as possible on challenging and great
trails - the exact reason we started mountain biking in the first
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?
JHK: For me, the shift has actually been in the works for a while.
I've been increasingly dissatisfied with the direction of some XCO
racing and courses the last couple years. From a media and marketing
perspective, the World Cup format is successful, but having done it
for so many years, I was looking to get in touch with the reasons I
started riding MTB's in the first place: Adventurous trails,
camaraderie of riding with friends, big mountain epics and a return
to the type of riding that made me fall in love with the MTB in the
first place. Trek gave me a Slash trailbike partway through last
year, and the rides I did with friends completely re-kindled my love
for the MTB after perhaps losing touch with it a bit the past few
years being so focused on XC success. I wasn't actually looking for a
new competitive outlet, just an avenue to reconnect with my passion
for mountain biking.
MTBRacenews.com: How would you describe Enduro? What about the format is most
appealing to you?
JHK: I would describe Enduro
racing as a big day out on the bike where you time and race the most
fun sections of trail. There are numerous things that appeal to me
about it at this point in my career. The modern World Cup courses
don't really place any premium on actually being a great trail rider,
since the courses are so manicured and short. Success has become
nearly 100% about how many watts you can produce, which is a real
shift from when I began racing, when hour-long climbs and 20 minute
descents were common in Colorado XC races. I like that to be
successful at enduro racing you need to be really fit, which I enjoy,
but you also actually need to be able to ride a mountain bike well.
MTBRacenews.com: How did your preparation for the season change with the switch in
JHK: I have changed up quite a few things for this year. I've tried to
ride more singletrack throughout the winter than in the past, which
is part of the reason for some of the travel. I've spent time on the
slopestyle course here in Boulder at the Valmont Bike Park working on
the park skills, which I'll continue with more when Trestle opens for
the season in Winter Park.
also lifted weights this winter (and am still doing so a couple times
a week) to build more core and upper body strength than I would have
if I were just going to race XC. It's made a big difference, I feel
much better on the bike on demanding trails and long tiring descents.
of the switch has also been to unlearn some bad XC habits as far as
trail riding goes. 20 years of riding with a super-high saddle has
conditioned me to use a certain body position that I don't need to
(and isn't optimal) when shredding a trail with a dropper post.
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?
JHK: I will do a couple. Right now Whiskey 50 and the Vail Mountain
Games are on the radar. I will still jump in to the XC here and there
that's a great event, with a good participant experience and fun vibe
for the spectators.
MTBRacenews.com: Does USA Cycling's decision to enforce UCI Rule 1.2.019 banning
pros from competing in non-sanctioned events effect you?
JHK: Not directly, as I've been intentionally left off of Trek Factory
Racing's UCI roster for this reason, and UCI trade-team pros are the
only group of riders they've indicated they will enforce the rule
for. In fact, since I'm not interested in pursuing success at the
World Cup level anymore, I may not even take out a UCI license this
year since many of the best XC races are unsanctioned, as well as the
whole enduro calendar.
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?
JHK: It absolutely has merit. I was a USAC board member for eight
years, and I think the enforcement of this rule is the single worst
decision they've made as far as mountain bike growth in this country
and has the potential to undo many positive things they've worked
hard on. Mountain biking is SO different from the road in terms of
team structure, finance, and most importantly culture. It's a poor
tactic to try and strong-arm these promoters into sanctioning by
excluding pros who's presence would benefit everyone associated with
the event. USAC's assertion that pros should have to decide "between
World Cup racing and winning local unsanctioned races" shows a
serious lack of understanding about 1) the extremely high quality of
these events, and 2) the way mountain biking works in this country.
It's really frustrating to see this, as there is a place in the sport
for USAC, and there are good people involved who actually understand
mountain biking, but the bottom line is that this is a damaging and
poor decision. I hope they revisit it and that it continues to get
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
JHK: This is a big question. Mountain biking is much more fragmented
than it was 10 years ago - which isn't a bad thing, it's come in part
because of sustainable growth as an industry. 10-15 years ago there
was XC and gravity racing - now there's Marathon, 100 milers, 24 hour
racing, enduro, XC, etc... There are so many events on the calendar
that it's difficult to pull all the top riders around one series or
format. When I started racing, if you went into a bike shop to buy a
mountain bike, there was basically one: a 26" hardtail - and you
raced XC, DH, whatever on it. Now, you can buy a racing hardtail, a
downhill bike, and any number of other bikes in between - 100mm,
120mm, 140mm, 150mm, 160mm travel bikes, 26" wheels, 29"
of the intriguing things to me about enduro is that it seems like the
most relevant format for the consumer - it's the one format where the
bikes I race are the same ones that an enthusiast - not a hard-core
racer - would purchase and ride everyday. Additionally, it's a format
where you can be successful without dedicating your life to training,
which isn't really possible at the highest level of XC, which is even
life-consuming at the top amateur level. Many of the best riders I
know in Colorado have kids, jobs, or other obligations that would
preclude them from a big-time XC career - but they can flat-out shred
on a trailbike and can do really well at Enduro racing since they're
fit and can ride a bike. This broader appeal makes me think that
Enduro racing has the potential to fundamentally alter mountain bike
racing at the participant level.
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
JHK: I had no idea how cool it would be until we actually pulled the
trigger and bought it. We've got a 25' Airstream Safari that we'll be
traveling and living out of this summer. We've taken it on a couple
Moab trips already, and it's been amazing to just drive it to a great
destination, do a big ride, and chill out and cook dinner wherever we
MTBRacenews.com: I've seen some pretty tasty looking recipe's on your blog. Any
recent finds that are worth sharing?
JHK: I'll let Heather take this one - she's the expert.
MTBRacenews.com: What's on your iPod mix for the summer?
JHK: I've given up on individual mixes these days and just listen to
Pandora stations that I make. A couple of my favorites right now are
Ladytron and Goldfrapp Radio. We've got a sweet Johnny Cash station
for pulling the Airstream around.