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Sam Schultz

Sam Schultz high-fives JHK at the finish line.

From the top of the world to the bottom of the barrel and back

By:
Sam Schultz
Published:
August 14, 2011, 16:17 BST,
Updated:
August 14, 2011, 17:32 BST

Bike stolen and recovered just in time for World Cup

Over the last month, things have been falling into place exactly like I hoped they would. I finished a career best second place at the US National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho. I led out the first lap and hung close to the heels of Todd Wells until the final lap. I thought I might be able to pull off the win, but Todd rode smart and I couldn't quite get him. Still, I was pumped to be able to slot into second place, and most importantly I was psyched that I felt good.

The weekend after Nationals was the US Pro XCT finals in Missoula, Montana. Being my hometown race, it was arguably my most important race of the season. It was unreal how many fellow Missoulians pulled out all the stops to make sure that we hosted the best race possible. Countless individuals and businesses contributed to the race in various forms; from volunteer work, to donating sponsorship money, to offering up their rowdy cheers. As a result of all of the community support, I have never been more nervous for a race in my life. I felt like everyone had stepped up their game to make the race happen and it was my job to keep the win in the hometown.

I decided that the best strategy was to go full throttle from the gun. My plan worked better than I could have imagined. The cheers from the crowd were so loud I could barely feel my legs. I fended off a couple of attacks from Max Plaxton, making sure to fight for the lead anytime he tried to sprint me for the singletrack. Max attacked hard with two laps to go and I countered, feeding off the cheers of a large group of friends on the climb. I finished out the race and took home the win with teammate Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski coming in for second place. It couldn't have gone any better and it is the highlight of my racing career so far. Thanks again to everyone who made the race happen!

After the race, I had two and a half weeks at home to re-touch on training before starting a four-week Europe trip. I kept my time at home packed with awesome "soul rides", a lot of easy summer livin', and some old fashioned suffering in the form of gnarly interval sessions. Things were going great and only getting better until stuff slowly started to go wrong.

It started with a potato slicing incident the day before I was leaving for Europe. I was chopping away, a little too quickly, when I mistook my thumb for a piece of potato. I got it good--right down to the bone. Luckily it was just the tip and once I got it clamped shut it wasn't too bad. The next evening I went to bed feeling slightly itchy. I figured I just had a few mosquito bites from sitting outside. I woke up at 6:00 am feeling like an itchy mess. I looked down at my legs and sides and noticed that I was covered in nasty bumps. It looked like something from a Sci-Fi movie. I almost went to the ER but ended up waiting for a walk-in clinic to open at 8:00 am. During the two-hour wait, I watched the bumps spread, thinking there was no way I was going to be able to get on a plane at noon to fly to the Czech Republic. Luckily the doctor had good news. They were just hives from some sort of allergic reaction and the prescription antihistamines knocked them back pretty quickly, although some of them have been persistent and they are really itchy.

After using all of my will-power to avoid scratching everything during the flight, I made it to the Czech with my skin intact. I slept deep but woke up the next morning with a sore throat. I ignored it and went on with my day. I did some laps on the course and felt pretty good but my stomach was a bit "off".

After my course laps, I rode back to the hotel and had to make an emergency stop. I came back without my socks. I finished riding back to the hotel, set my bike in my room and hopped in the shower. When I got out my bike was gone! After spending hours with the Czech police filing a report, I went to bed thinking I would never see my bike again.

Now is the good part. Things are starting to look up. Despite everything that has been going on, I still felt great riding today, I fit in a good nap this afternoon, and the police knocked on my door this evening and told me they found my bike. It was 100 meters from the hotel, partially buried in a ditch. I am crawling my way back from the bottom of the barrel and I am looking to uncork a big one tomorrow because this bottom of the barrel stuff is no good. I want to be back on top of the world!

Editor's note: Sam Schultz finished an impressive 15th at the Czech World Cup on Sunday. Check out Cyclingnews' full coverage of the event.

A rattlesnake crossing the track.

Back on the wagon

By:
Sam Schultz
Published:
July 01, 2011, 2:59 BST,
Updated:
July 01, 2011, 17:18 BST

Returning from time off the bike can be a slow process

After a three-week racing hiatus I'm back in the middle of one of the meatiest race blocks of the season. Three weekends with no races in the middle of summer is a rare break for us and I thoroughly enjoyed having some home time. My main focus was on getting "mean" for this current swing of races which kicked off last weekend with the Subaru Cup in Wisconsin. This week I race a World Cup in Quebec, followed by a World Cup in New York, then the national championships in Idaho and last but not least, the US Pro XCT Finals in my hometown of Missoula, Montana.

Each race in this block is particularly important to me for various reasons.

I had a title to defend in Wisconsin after winning the race last year; The North American World Cups are a great opportunity to throw everything you've got at the travel weary euros; the national championships is always special and having the race in Idaho makes it feel like a local race; And finally, the US Pro XCT finals in my back yard is one of the coolest things I can imagine. For all of the above reasons I was more motivated than ever to come out firing on all cylinders.

Then Wisconsin happened... I forgot how to clip into my pedal at the start, I bobbled the technical sections, I crashed in the feed zone, my legs felt like they were filled with lead... The list of things I screwed up could go on-and-on, but bottom line, it was a tough day in the office. Even though the racing was sub-par, the trip to Wisconsin was still a good time. The fans there are some of the best around and I still got plenty of sympathy cheers throughout the course. I even caught an unfortunate glimpse of three full moons in the middle of the woods; it did a pretty good job of summing up how I felt.

Now the Wisconsin weekend is water under the bridge and I'm ready to get back to racing at full speed. I had a quick but very rejuvenating 48 hours at home before flying to Quebec. It's wet and sloppy out here right now and I'm feeling good on the course. I hope the rain keeps falling because I would be psyched with a wet one.

After the race this weekend most of the Subaru-Trek team is stopping off in Vermont for a couple days of sweet riding before heading to New York. I'm psyched to lay it on the line at these next two World Cups and begin to work my way back up the ranks to where I know I can be.

I'll keep you posted on how things go. In the meantime, anyone thinking about whether or not they should come check out US Pro XCT finals in Missoula should stop thinking and commit to the best weekend of racing of the year. It is going to be a great time and the perfect finale for this trip.

Rhinos keeping a close eye on us

Sharks, rhinos and castles

By:
Sam Schultz
Published:
May 03, 2011, 20:31 BST,
Updated:
May 03, 2011, 23:01 BST

A few weeks in the globetrotting life of a pro

What kind of person would log 21,706 miles in an airplane for a weekend trip to race a bike around a 6km track six times? Spending 67 hours in transit for a one hour and 45 minute race? Welcome to the life of a pro bike racer.

The clock just rolled to 5:30 am as I sit here typing in my dimly lit Extended Stay Austin, Texas, hotel room. No, I am not a morning person. I am battling one of my least favorite parts of travel, the dreaded jetlag. Normally, I pride myself in my ability to spend long hours deep in sleep, but right now my body seems to be stuck on South Africa time.

In the last five weeks I have gone from racing the American Continental Championships in Colombia, the Sea Otter US Pro XCT in California, the World Cup opener in South Africa, and back to Texas for the Mellow Johnny's US Pro XCT.

Now, I could try to explain how difficult it is trying to balance travel, jetlag, training, diet, staying healthy, and that minor detail of trying to perform with the best in the world at the races. I could go into detail about the crazy, finicky things that my teammates and I do in our attempts to be as competitive as possible, but that sounds tedious.

I'd rather talk about the Great White sharks that I swam with at the Ushaka aquarium in Durban, South Africa...

Or the former drug cartel-owned castle that was seized by the government and turned into a public park that was the backdrop for the venue at the Bogota, Colombia race...

Or the way the rhinos always kept one ear directly focused on our Subaru-Trek team safari group, while the other one scanned the distance...

Or my new favorite fruit that I discovered in Colombia but have no idea what it was...

Or the flat tire I got while exploring an area of South Africa that I probably shouldn't have been cruising alone...

Or the team dinner in Monterey, California, where we got a chance to catch up with a bunch of the great folks from Trek and Bontrager, who are usually hard at work at their Waterloo, Wisconsin, headquarters but are always pumped to come to races...

Or about racing at some Lance guy's ranch in Texas...

Yeah, the globetrotting life is not bad!

After the race this weekend, I will be flying back to my winter base of California to pack up my Outback and point it north--to the Center of the Universe (aka- Missoula, Montana; my hometown) for my summer migration. I'm hoping to snag a little bit of Montana toughness with two weeks of training at home before I head to Europe for the next round of World Cup racing.

The midway point of "travel season" has yet to arrive so I'm sure there will be plenty more adventures to be had. I can't wait.

Catching some huge air for the camera

Game on

By:
Sam Schultz
Published:
April 02, 2011, 5:22 BST,
Updated:
April 02, 2011, 6:48 BST

Heading in the right direction

After months of anticipation the racing season is back in full swing. It kicked off two weeks ago with the opening round of the ProXCT series in Bonelli, CA. The first race coincided with our team camp/photo shoot and there was a lot going on; including getting to know my new teammate Emily Batty, dialing in sweet new bikes, catching up with the other riders and staff, photo shoots, riding in a tank at Oakley HQ, and the minor detail of shaking six months of cobwebs from the racing legs. It felt like a combination between a family reunion, Christmas, and a test.

When I pulled up to the team trailer and saw the shiny new bikes, my locker full of goods, and the smiling faces of the team staff; it struck me, as it often does, just how lucky I am. I was overwhelmed, humbled even, by the hours of work, thousands of dollars of gear, and the care that goes into getting everything set up for the season. It is amazing to have the type of support that the Subaru-Trek team offers. Eventually when I wrapped my head around all of the sweet new gear and how spoiled I am, I headed out for a ride and attempted to get back into racing mentality after my long off-season racing sabbatical.

I didn't have the race of my life in Bonelli, but I was psyched to find that I was really close to where I want to be. I was missing that little bit of 'pop' that is needed to hammer the power climbs and accelerate out of the corners with the race leaders. I feel like there is a lot more horsepower to tap into with just a little bit of fine tuning and that is right where I want to be. The second race of the year has come and gone now too, and I felt some good progress so I am heading in the right direction and the big races are yet to come.

As I type I am sitting in an airplane on the way to Bogota, Columbia to race in the Continental Championships. I have never been to Columbia so I'm excited to check out the scene. The race starts at around 8,000 ft and I have heard that it has been super rainy so it could be interesting. I have my mud tires packed and I am planning to do my best to ignore the altitude since I've been spending the winter living the dream at sea level. I'll let you know how it pans out.

Last year's bikes neatly packed in the trailer. Can't wait to see this year's new rigs. Judging by the spy photos that master mechanic Matt Opperman has been teasing me with, they should be rad.

Calm before the storm

By:
Andrew Shepherd
Published:
March 01, 2011, 18:04 GMT,
Updated:
March 01, 2011, 18:06 GMT

Counting down to the first big race

Every year it happens just the same. The deeply ingrained habits of the off-season training regime become the norm, settling into the routine of spending a large portion of the day riding. This time of year is always enjoyable. The rides are tough and the weary legged, "I need a nap" feeling after big volume days is oddly satisfying. The stress level is low, and the living is good.

There is a certain level of complacency that is easy to settle into to during this phase; that is, until the first big race starts sneaking up. Then the realization that training to the point of tired contentment is not a means to an end, at least not for someone who's passion and job is racing.

I haven't been on an airplane in over three months, haven't raced a cross country event in even longer. I miss the familiarity of the unfamiliar that comes along with life on the road. Riding new trail every week, roaming new towns, seeing new cultures, new scenes, and discovering what is out there. I miss the post-race hack, the nights of laying in bed with heart racing and legs aching, the swapping of tales that happens after every race, and the comradery among everyone who frequents the racing circuit.

Luckily, it is almost that time of year, and I am longing for (almost) everything that comes along with it. I can't wait for that feeling of pre-race nervousness; the one where my stomach is turning and my legs feel hollow.

I am excited to turn myself completely inside out for no reason other than to see how fast I can go. I have an intense curiosity to see how I stack up against the other hundred some guys that will soon be lined up next to me. I want to face the fear of the unknown and figure out what happens. I crave that indescribable feeling of all out effort somehow combined with uncanny relaxation and comfort that happens when race-effort is really clicking.

My first race may not come together perfectly, and frankly, I don't necessarily want it to. The season is long and I have bigger goals than coming out with all guns blazing at the first showdown of the season. It's a tough balance because no one wants to get whooped; but at the same time, it equally sucks to be the guy who nails the first race and is running low on bullets by the time Sea Otter rolls around.

One of the best parts of the first race is the opportunity to check up on how well everyone has done their off-season homework. It quickly becomes apparent who has done too much skiing and kayaking (Adam Craig?), who has enjoyed too much easy living in Hawaii (JHK and Heather Irmiger?), who has spent too many hours on the golf course (Todd Wells?), and who has spent too much time chasing the three B's (Me?).

The 2011 mountain bike racing season is almost upon me. My first race is the opener of the US Pro XCT in Bonelli, California (on March 12-13).

Next time I check in, I'll let you know how things pan-out at my first test of the season.

Great day of skiing during "man-cation" ski adventure at Big Sky, Montana

The Three B's

By:
Andrew Shepherd
Published:
February 03, 2011, 15:16 GMT,
Updated:
February 03, 2011, 15:47 GMT

Babes, bikes and beaches

Recently, while chatting at dinner, a California babe asked me, "So, like, what do you do?" It took me a while to come up with an answer...

I just migrated to San Luis Obispo, California, in pursuit of the three B's: bikes, babes, and beaches. Alright, so I am actually here to focus on gearing up for what I hope to be a successful 2011 racing campaign. This year will be my fifth season riding for the Subaru-Trek mountain bike team (formerly Subaru-Gary Fisher).

The plan is to hit both the World Cup and the domestic US Pro XCT series. I am hoping to step up my results in both the international and domestic scene, with the major goal of landing a spot on the 2012 Olympic team ringing at the front of my mind.

The bulk of my off-season was spent in my hometown of Missoula, Montana, fitting in more than my fair share of amazing hikes, backpacking trips, and exploratory mountain bike rides. I also enjoyed one of the snowiest (read, best) Decembers that I can remember. A majority of my training consisted of backcountry skiing, racking up 25 days on the planks. With morning and/or evening trainer sessions between all of the skiing, I built up a pretty solid fitness base. Once I scratched my skiing itch, it was time to make my annual pilgrimage to a warmer climate, trading the skis for bikes.

This year I took a bit of a risk and decided to check out a new town. From two prior visits to San Luis Obispo I knew that the riding is rad, the town is cool, and there is plenty of potential for the perfect combination of the three B's. I didn't know many people here, but I lucked out in finding ideal roommates. They are fellow riders, great cooks, and have quickly become good friends. It didn't take long for this place to feel like home. It's hard to go wrong with rolling hills through wine country, epic climbs up isolated canyons, trails with amazing ocean views, seemingly endless summer weather--and, just for a bonus, plenty of beaches and more babes than you can shake a stick at. I am happy here.

So, to jump back to the question, "What do I do?" Well, I pretty much ride my bike; a lot. I also do plenty of eating, core work, stretching, throw in some yoga, focus on recovering, cook, take naps, read books, hit the beach, hang in coffee shops, wander the farmer's market... Shit, I basically live the dream.

My goal is to ride a bike as fast as I can while trying to fit in as much fun as possible. Once March rolls around, I start flying around the world, racing most weekends. I still have to pinch myself on a regular basis to make sure I'm not dreaming.

I'm excited to keep you posted on stories from my races, travels, and general experiences on the racing circuit this year. My above description might make it sound like it's the easiest job around, but things aren't always as idyllic as they sound. There are plenty of trials and tribulations that come along with the territory and I'm sure I'll have a chance to fill you in on some in future posts.

Until next time...

Author
Sam Schultz

Sam Schultz, 25, is a regular at US National Series mountain bike events and on the World Cup cross country circuit. The Subaru-Trek racer is back at it again for the 2011 season.

In 2010, he had a break out performance - winning the Subaru Cup, a US Pro XCT series event in Mt. Morris, Wisconsin. It was Schultz's first national series event.

"I am really hoping to step it up another level in international competition," said Schultz of his 2011 ambitions.

Schultz hails from Missoula, Montana, where he lives for most of the year although he can be found from January through April based in San Luis Obispo, California, where the climate is more hospitable to gaining pre-season on the bike fitness.

When not on his bike, the good humored Schultz enjoys skiing, hiking and cooking and eating good food.