Heather Irmiger and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski Interview

Mountain bike race season has been done for a couple months in Colorado but Heather Irmiger and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski have had a busy fall. They traveled to New Zealand so they could both race the Single Speed World Championship (SSWC - Heather was the defending champion) and then came back to the United States and headed to Michigan for the Iceman Cometh (Jeremy was defending his title). I recently sat down with them and asked them a few questions about the SSWC, The Iceman Cometh and being a married couple making a living racing mountain bikes.

JHK Leadville 2010 - Photo Credit: 303Photo

[303Cycling] You both competed in the 2010 SSWC (Heather being the defending champion from 2009).  How did the race go this year and for the bike geeks out there what type of gearing did you run?
[Heather] SSWC 2010 went just as it should - crazy!  The start of the race went off in a very non-traditional way - true SSWC fashion.  1000 riders were corralled into a large circle and told to ride clock-wise until the gun went off at some undetermined time.  There was only one exit to the circle to get to the start of the course, so depending on where you happened to be at the signal to start, you were either almost to the exit, at the exit or just past the exit and had to ride all the way around!  And so it went - I ended up just past the exit and effectively at the back of the 1000 person race.  It was a total blast though - I was able to do some fun socializing, check out some great costumes, and then work my way up through the race.  Despite taking the beer short cut both laps, I'm not sure where I ended up - but then again, the only spot that matters in this race is the win/tattoo receiving place!  My gear was a 32/20 aboard my Superfly Single. 
[Jeremy] I had an absolute blast yet again at SSWC. I actually had a pretty good start despite the craziness and made it into the lead group on the first lap. However, Ben Bostrom and I missed the first beer-chug shortcut and lost about 2 minutes to the rest of the group - and that was it, we never caught up. We made sure to hit the rest of the beer shortcuts though, and had a ton of fun the rest of the way. I ran a 32x19 on my Fisher Collection Sawyer.

[303Cycling] I know you both competed at Iceman this year and last.  The race has become very popular.  Can you tell our readers a little about the race?
[Heather] The Iceman is such a great race - I want to do it every year regardless of my fitness level!  It's great on so many levels: it's a point to point which is such a great change from the standard multi-lap races, the course is super fast and not all that technical but somehow very entertaining - the hills, corners, trees all combine for a cool ride.  Of course, there is the uncertainty of the weather which makes it fun - it could be 55 or it could be 30 and snowing, either way you're out there testing your limits.  It's also spectacular because it caters to all skill levels - there are shorter distance options and it's not so technical that beginners can't test themselves on the long course.  Last, the fans and riders are some of the most enthusiastic and excited people on bikes.  The positive energy is contagious and you can't help but have a great time. 

[Jeremy] Iceman has become one of my favorite weekends in the off-season. It's a great race, with some of the best MTB fans and energy anywhere in the world. The course is flat and fast, which makes for an exciting race that usually goes right down to the finish. The post-race atmosphere is great, and it's a great reminder of the fun side of mountain biking after a year spent doing 'serious' races all over the world. The weather is a total wild-card too, this year it snowed and was cold, but thawed out for the Pro race, and we were just covered in head-to-toe mud at the finish.

Photo Supplied by Heather Irmiger

[303Cycling] What's it like to be married and both be professional athletes in the same sport?  Training, traveling, schedules etc?
[Heather] It certainly comes with it's challenges, but what marriage doesn't?  Mostly, it's so much fun - Jeremy and I have always been the type of couple who love doing everything together - we just love being active and outdoors together.  The toughest moments for us are the day leading up to the races and when our training hours/intensity are super high - since we race the same races and have similar training philosophies these stressful times tend to occur at the exact same time.  That said, we also experience the highs together - amazing travel destinations, cool singletrack, sweet bikes/equipment, training success and victories.  We have it pretty well figured out and mostly help each other and have become more successful than we would have if we were alone or not both athletes.
[Jeremy] I'll have to just second what Heather said. At times it can be challenging, but the experiences that we get to have together more than make up for it. There's something compelling about being together with someone who truly understands what you do day-in and day-out, and being married to another professional athlete certainly makes that a reality.

[303Cycling] Now that it is the off-season what do you for fun and to stay shape?
[Heather] I love the off-season because it's my chance to do all the other sports I've always loved.  I spend my off-seasons doing a lot of yoga, hard hikes with the dogs, runs, lifting in the gym, and backcountry skiing.  I actually have to be more cautious about overtraining in the off-season because I lose myself in all the variety! 
[Jeremy] It's funny, Heather and I end up doing most of the same things in the off-season too. Hiking, Yoga, backcountry skiing are the top-3 athletic things I do in the winter. I also just try to enjoy being home in Boulder and getting to cook in my own kitchen and go out downtown, etc... We travel so much that just being home and enjoying that is the best part of the off-season.

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