Heather Irmiger had a break-out weekend of wins for her enduro season.
Patience/Consistency Pay Off for Irmiger and JHK
Words and Images by Eddie Clark
(June 29-30, 2013) Crested Butte, Colo—With no Forest Service permits being granted for a back country stage, the Big Mountain Enduro crew made up for it by using the best trails at the Evolution Bike Park to challenge racers with a bit of everything for the second stop of the five race series. The race venue at the base area was great with plenty of vendors on hand to keep bikes and bodies working, tents for shade to relax in between stages, and lunch and refreshments all while a dj was spinning beats to keep the vibe relaxed but fun. As a bonus, the event occurred during Crested Butte’s Bike Week to add to an abundance of two-wheeled fun throughout the weekend.
Stage 6 winner, Brian Buell, doubles up and over a section of rollers.
At 8am Saturday morning, racers rode the Red Lady Express lift up the mountain to contest the first stage down the Luge trail, which started promptly at 9am. The first stage featured mild berms and rollers through aspen stands and fields of mountain cabbage to serve as a good warm up for the more difficult stages to come. Santa Cruz Nomad Chris Johnston set the fastest time at 5:07, and the Pro Women’s stage was taken by Lea Julson in 5:52.
JHK Starts Stage 1.
Stage 2 was a more technical stage with numerous man made features and big jumps on the Timeline trail. With bigger airs and faster speeds to contend with, most opted to pad-up and run full face helmets in lieu of the more xc gear appropriate first stage. Crested Butte’s Leonard Kain set the fastest time at 4:09, and Heather Irmiger (Trek) stepped up her game to take the second stage win with a time of 4:50. Watch the Video Interview Here.
Mike West pedals some smoother track on Stage 3
After two stages of very bike park oriented riding, the third stage significantly shook up the leader board with a long pedaling heavy stage that took racers through rocky conifer stands and flower filled groves of aspen on the Upper Westside and Westside trails. Notably, the stage was more backcountry singletrack in nature, and quite bumpy which made it difficult to maintain any sort of a pedaling rhythm. It was also the first real taste of riding through bar-whacking wild flowers and mountain cabbage that the singletrack surrounding Crested Butte is known for. By all accounts it was a stage for the cross country racers, and was won by ex-World Cup cross country racing husband and wife duo Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Heather Irmiger.
Sunday’s racing started with a fun transition ride from the Red Lady Express lift to the Columbine trail. Once at the start gate, pro men started dropping in 30 second intervals at 9am with the other classes following. After an all out sprint on flat to get up to speed, racers mached through big aspen stands with plenty of tight turns that developed very narrow ruts, which derailed more than a few racers. The stage required plenty of pedaling to maintain a fast pace, and it also featured some of the most spectacular fields of wild flowers along with amazing views of the mountains and valley below (not that many had a chance to notice!). Again, it was Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Heather Irmiger who finished fastest to further bolster their overall lead going into the two final stages.
For the fifth stage, everyone had to ride up the mountain from the base area in an untimed transfer before descending the Frequency trail for the timed segment. An intermediate labeled trail, Frequency featured numerous big berms, table tops, step-ups and step-downs, to put a grin on just about everyone’s face. The Pro Men’s stage was won by Mason Bond in 6:04.892. Less than six seconds was the difference between first and tenth for the Pro Men’s field on this stage. Again, Heather Irmiger took the stage with Krista Park (Cannondale) and Jill Behlen (Tokyo Joes) nipping at her heals at under four seconds behind her.
Saving the best (or hardest) for last, racers had to contend with the downhill course that runs down the Avery trail. Rock Gardens, big drops, warp speed sections, and big table tops at the bottom characterized this notable dh course. Brian Buell (Team Geronimo/Banshee Bikes) blazed down the mountain with solid downhill form to take the stage win in 3:45, and Heather Irmiger continued her winning streak with another hard earned win over Krista Park. Safe and consistent riding on the sixth stage helped Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski maintain his overall lead, which was just six seconds over Nate Hills and Ross Schnell, for the men’s overall win. Heather Irmiger also took the overall win over Krista Park and Jill Behlen to make it a close race for the overall series going into the next event at Keystone Resort this coming weekend.