Irmiger and JHK defend titles.
Race report and images by Eddie Clark
(July 4, 2010) BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—Defending US Marathon National Champions Heather Irmiger and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski successfully defend their titles at this years’ Firecracker 50.
Once again the 750 racer limit was reached for the tenth edition of the Firecracker 50, which also served as the National Championship Marathon Mountain Bike Race. Under perfect blues skies and starting in giant waves, racers had a neutral roll down a spectator packed Main Street as part of the Breckenridge Fourth of July parade.
Riding on a course that was the same as the previous years, racers competing in the Firecracker 50 had to contend with 5,400 feet of climbing per twenty five mile lap at elevations above 9,000 feet. That’s 10,800 feet of total climbing at altitude! Fortunately much of the climbing was done on narrow guage railroad grades that remain from century old mining activity.
As if the magnitude of climbing weren’t enough, the brutally rough course lends to an even more difficult race. “The course has a lot of rocks, and you can really destroy your bike out there. This was the first time in five years I didn’t get a flat”, said 2001 champion Dave Wiens. Although, Wiens didn’t finish without incident, and unfortunately crashed into an inattentive spectator at the ‘Turkey Jump’ while climbing Boreas Pass Rd on the first lap. Knocked down, but definitely not out, Wiens remounted and set a fierce tempo to regain lost positions and finish in third place.
Referring to his repeat victory, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski said, “I did it the hard way today with a flat on the first lap, but I’m still really happy. It was a lot harder this year, and the field was way stronger.” JHK threw a tube in his flat tire, and used the next two hours to catch and pass his fellow competitors to win the race by a margin of six minutes and eighteen seconds. JHK’s finishing time was 3:35:59.
Crashes, mechanicals, and altitude claimed a contingent of top racers in the Open Men’s field which included Peter Stetina, Colin Cares, Jay Henry, and even Ryan Trebon whom still finished although greatly slower than in previous years after losing a thin air battle with the altitude. Notably, Peter Stetina set the climbs ablaze and put the leaders deeply into the red-zone with his relentless tempo, but a last lap crash prematurely ended his race.
Open Women’s racing featured slightly less drama, but still great racing. Top tier endurance racer Pua Sawicki looked to be in fighting shape at the start line, but a malfunctioning front brake ended her chances while she was just trailing Heather Irmiger before reaching the Sally Barder Mine Rd during the first lap.
On a mission to repeat her previous years’ victory, Heather Irmiger bolstered her lead by fighting through cramps on the second lap to claim another National Champions jersey. “It’s surprisingly more nerve racking when you’re defending… from here on out my plan is to win”, noted Irmiger in reference to upcoming World Cups and the US National Championships in Sol Vista.
Behind Irmiger, a race for podium positions and US Worlds Marathon Mountain Bike Team qualification ensued. Krista Park, Amy Dombroski, and Gretchen Reeves kept each other in check throughout the first lap. By the races finish, Amy Dombroski would capitalize on an error by Park to claim second place while Park, Reeves, and Kelly Boniface respectively rounded out the remaining podium positions.
For complete results, please visit Firecracker 50
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