Boulder rider takes pro series title
Before he could even wipe the dirt off his face, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski’s wife, Heather Irmiger, swooped in for a kiss.Finally, after three years of deflating second-place finishes, the NORBA National Mountain Bike Series cross-country title was his. And Heather – who finished second in the women’s pro series earlier Saturday – couldn’t wait to celebrate. “It feels great,” a smiling Horgan-Kobelski said in the finish area at Snowmass after completing the grueling 24-mile course in 1 hour, 55 minutes and 40 seconds, finishing second. “It’s the one domestic result I’ve never done in my career, so it kind of rounds out my résumé. It was a goal of mine all year.” The Boulder pro was unable to reel in Virginia’s Jeremiah Bishop on the race’s final climb, a 400-foot slog that was the last of some 4,600 feet of elevation gained.But the plan was never to beat Bishop, who won in 1:54:58 to earn the second series win of his career. It was simply to hold off Canadian Geoff Kabush, last year’s series winner, who trailed Horgan-Kobelski by 21 points before Saturday’s race.When a spent Kabush crossed the finish line in third, almost a full two minutes behind Horgan-Kobelski in 1:57:42, he immediately rode over to the champ to congratulate him.
“I didn’t race too tactically against Jeremiah,” Horgan-Kobelski said. “I just wanted to get as much distance between myself and Jeff as possible. Jeremiah rode like an absolute maniac on the last descent. I was definitely thinking more about keeping my bike together and not getting a flat than I was about staying with him.”Kabush was the third Canadian to edge Horgan-Kobelski for the series title before his dominating run in the string of six races this year. Horgan-Kobelski won three of the races, including back-to-back wins in Utah before the series finale in Snowmass. His lowest finish was a third place in Mount Snow, Vt.The three straight runner-up finishes in the series only served as fuel for his training, Horgan-Kobelski said. Irmiger said her husband pushed himself harder this past year than he ever had in his life. He picked up his first World Cup podium in May when he finished third in Fort William, Scotland, behind French Olympian Julien Absalon.The next goal was to finally take the NORBA series title, the top domestic honor in cross-country racing.Her husband’s drive only helped her with her own conditioning, Irmiger said.”It’s been a great year,” she said. “All we do is build each other up, and it just gets better and better. … He just really stepped it up a whole level with his training. He wanted to step it up to the World Cup level, which I think really transferred over to racing domestically. Internationally, he’s killing it.”The two married in October after dating for seven years, and they train together as often as they can.
“Obviously, on his really hard days, I’m not anywhere near him, but we definitely do easy days together,” she said. “I’ll use him as motivation when I’m trying to follow him on a really tough climb.”Bishop’s win announced his return to form after he fell and broke his back in September at Mount Snow.For the past year, Bishop said he has been in “constant rehab,” and wanted to thank his team of personal trainers for getting him back on his bike.The 30-year-old pro wasn’t at all tentative on the course’s downhills. After leading Horgan-Kobelski by just a bike length after the first 12-mile loop, he pushed the pace on the course’s technical slopes. Horgan Kobelski was content to ride more conservatively rather than blow out a tire and blow his chances at the series title.”This is just redemption for me,” Bishop said. “After my accident, it was about a month before I could even spin on a trainer. … I’m better than just back on track. I’m better than I was before.”Horgan-Kobelski said the Snowmass course is his favorite in the series. “I’m from Boulder,” he said. “This is the stuff I grew up riding. This is as much of a hometown national as I get, so I’m happy to come up here and do well.”
San Diego pro Jimena Florit gradually broke away from a pack of riders early on in the 19-mile women’s pro race and rode to the win in 1:51:14.”Jimena didn’t really attack, she just kind of rode away,” said Irmiger, who was second in 1:52:06. “I kind of took it a little too easy on the downhills. I was never really able to catch her. I started closing the gap on the second lap, but it was too late.”Durango pro Shonny Vanlandingham finished fifth, good enough to lock up the series title.Katerina Nash of Truckee, Calif., was third in 1:52:36 and Dara Marks-Marino of Flagstaff, Ariz., was fourth in 1:52:55.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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