Words by Lydia Tanner
Whether you know her for her blazing fast times, blazing fast husband, or habit of sporting costume wigs with teammate Willow Koerber, you do know Heather Irmiger. Fresh off an especially impressive season in '09, the Boulder, Colorado native and Subaru-Gary Fisher rider is fast becoming one of the most prominent women on today's mountain bike scene. She deserves every last palmarè; back-to-back marathon and cross country national championships, an impressive world cup showing, and a win at the ever-prestigious singlespeed world championships make it clear Irmiger is hitting her stride. Now she's even got a tattoo to prove it.
We pestered Heather a little during this snowy offseason to find out what it's like to be so freakin' rad;
I hear you have an official lifetime ban on stationary exercise- what do you do when it snows?
In the early part of the season, I’ll occasionally run or do a hard hike. About 3 years ago I discovered backcountry skiing. I’ve completely fallen in love with this activity since it’s a lot like mountain biking – you climb a mountain and enjoy the sweet descent. We have some great locations near Boulder – the workout is incredible, the scenery is great. With a solid winter activity like this, I’ve been able to ban the trainer – why go nowhere fast, or freeze on a snowy day when I can work on my fitness and explore in the mountains?
What is your ideal breakfast?
I eat the same thing almost every morning – my ideal breakfast is so good! I start with a spinach/chanterelle mushroom/basil pesto egg scramble. Course two is a home-made gluten free pastry (lately, I’ve been making maple pecan scones). All this paired with a cappuccino whipped up by my live-in barista, JHK. [Jeremy Horgan Kobelski]
What's your earliest race memory?
My earliest bike race memory would be my first race, when I was 17. I raced in the senior women’s beginner class – Battle at the Bear in Morrison, CO. There was no junior category, but I got 3rd and won a pair of Large turquoise blue bike shorts!
Where's your favorite ride?
I have a ton of favorite rides when it comes to training, but my favorite mountain bike ride is a particular section of the Colorado Trail near Buffalo Creek – the trail is super fast and twisty, it’s like charging down a river.
What do you think should be the next step for women's cycling?
I think that many women love to do things with their friends. I’d love to see more races with partner categories for women – where they can trade off laps with a friend or family member. I think too many women have a first ride experience with a boyfriend or husband and think they don’t like it (tip here: riding with a loved one can be, well, complicated). More events with shared activities might help women realize how amazing the sport is on an individual level. The Beti Bike Bash, in Colorado (http://www.yetibeti.com/) this June, is a women’s only event and I think they might be trying out the paired category option.
I know so many people who have done a race where laps are traded off (either shorter length and all the way up to 24hr races) with a buddy. A paired or group event has so many benefits: someone to train with, a buddy to hold you accountable for your goal setting, someone to have fun with and share the event with. The next step is carrying that momentum to race alone!
What does your family think of your new SS world champion tattoo?
My mom’s response was “It’s SO BIG!” They don’t mind it, but were definitely shocked by how large it was! My mom actually has a small tattoo on her ankle – I was with her when she got it…I was in high school!
What direction would you like to see US racing take in the next few years?
It would be great to see a true professional component to the sport developed in the U.S. There are a tremendous number of successful local events throughout the country – I’d like to see some of this success replicated at the national level. This year’s Pro XCT series is moving in the right direction – the races in the series are just beginning to build momentum – the series is taking what were new races three years ago and building them into well known venues with prestige. I’d like to see a few great events gain a reputation and, therefore, history for providing high level competition that would support a professional series and team structure.
What are you most excited for this season?
I’m actually pretty excited about quite a few things this season: I’m very excited about the first World Cup in the UK – I’ve never been in the London area and am hoping to check it out a bit. I’m also really excited about the mid-season schedule – there are a few great races in Colorado that I’m looking forward to: Marathon Nationals (Firecracker 50), the National Championships, and a Pro XCT in Colorado Springs. I love racing close to home. Last, of course, is the fact that the World Championships are back in North America for the first time in years. I think I have a chance at doing really well racing near my own time zone!
Why the wigs?
I just love to mix it up – wigs are just like shoes – there’s one for every occasion. It’s fun to switch up your look for a few hours without REALLY switching up your look – I would never go short hair, platinum permanently – an alter ego of sorts!