This couple has stars and stripes to spare.
Husband and wife pro mountain bikers (and Boulder residents) Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Heather Irmiger went back to the Firecracker 50 on the Fourth of July to defend their titles as the national marathon mountain-biking champions. And they both won their events in the 50-mile race out of Breckenridge again — despite a flat that let some contenders pass Horgan-Kobelski in the first lap.
They’re also the current national champions in cross-country mountain-biking. They’ll be defending those titles in just over a week in Granby.
Here’s what the couple had to say about hanging onto their titles, how they greeted each other at the finish line and what would’ve happened at home if only one of them had won.
Q: What’s the Firecracker course like?
A: J: It’s two 25-mile laps, and it’s really a perfect showcase of good Colorado mountain biking. It’s got everything from hard doubletrack and road climbing to fantastic singletrack.
H: And it’s got 11,000 feet of climbing.
Q: Seven hundred and fifty people did this race. Were you both passing people?
A: H: Jeremy probably not so much, because we all start at the same time, so the pro men are always in the front. I was passing some pro men and duking it out with some of the guys out there.
J: The field is actually really limited. They turn away a lot of people for this race every year … the (U.S.) Forest Service has a cap. They could do far more than that if they just opened the registration.
Q: You both won this race last year, too. Were you going for the double?
A: H: Definitely.
J: Defending a national title is something you always want to go after.
H: I felt a lot more nervous this year. It’s way more nerve-wracking when you’re trying to defend a title.
Q: What would’ve happened if only one of you had kept your title?
A: H: The winner would’ve slept on the couch! (laughs)
J: We’d move right on to the next race. We’ve both won a lot of races, but you lose a lot, too.
Q: Are you competitive with each other?
A: H: Not really with each other. As a professional athlete, you’re pretty hard on yourself already, and you’re already doing the best you can. … The cross-country national championships will be interesting. It’s more typical in that the women race first … last year, I won first, so then Jeremy was like, “Oh man, I’ve got to win now.”
Q: Jeremy, you had a flat in the first lap. What happened?
A: I didn’t change it very quickly… it took me about 5 minutes, probably. I fell back to sixth or seventh place and then … just slowly reeled everyone back in.
That was really gratifying, actually, to have trouble and still be able to pull it off.
Q: What did you do when Heather finished?
A: H: I think we did a high-five.
J: Yeah, we high-fived. I was waiting for her at the finish line to come across.
We’ve done a few big races together, and to watch her come across the finish line is really exciting.