What makes a successful mountain biker? Is it an all-star training partner, support of a world-class team, the inspiration of a mother's love for the sport? Cyclingnews MTB Editor Steve Medcroft has chatted with Subaru/Gary Fisher rider Heather Irmiger several times through the 2006 season and thinks it may be all of the above:
Heather Irmiger had a prolific 2006 mountain-bike season; she won the NORBA National Series cross country race in Brian Head, Utah and the Teva Mountain Games in her home state of Colorado, managed second in NORBA cross-country an impressive three times in seven overall NORBA podium appearances. She traveled to all six World Cup cross country races for the first time in her career to help her country gain UCI points in its quest to boost the number of riders it gets to send to Beijing for the 2008 summer Olympics, competed at the world championships in Roturoa, New Zealand in September and even finished second in the U.S. cross-country national championship race in Sonoma, California in July.
By looking at the season, you might say that the charismatic former scientist (Subaru/Gary Fisher) had a breakout year. You might be surprised to know that you're wrong.; you can't call a rider that made it onto one of the world's elite mountain-bike teams just now breaking out. You can't say that an athlete who has won at the elite-level (first NORBA win came at Brian Head, Utah in 2005), or is a former collegiate champion, or who has stood on a national championship podium before (2004) just breaking out.
Instead, you could say that Heather Irmiger has finally started to evolve to her potential. And you can chalk this 2006 season up to a number of elements, not the least of which are a handful of key relationships in Irmiger's life.