A second season of racing for the U23 National Mountain Bike Team begins this weekend at round one of the Shimano NORBA National Mountain Bike Series in Boerne, Texas. USA Cycling unveiled the team last year and enjoyed a successful first season with several podium finishes and a win in the U23 National Mountain Bike Championships.
John Devine (Dixon, Ill.), Sam Schultz (Missoula, Mont.), and Nick Waite (Davis, W.Va.) will return for a second year on the U23 National Team, while Sam Jurekovic (Jackson, Wy.) will make his debut against top level pro's this weekend as the newest member of the squad. 2004 team member and reigning U23 National Champion Alan Obye graduated from the U23 ranks at the end of last year, but will remain supported by the USA Cycling National Team program as he begins his elite-level career in 2005.
National Mountain Bike Team Director Matt Cramer is excited to capitalize on the many experiences the team faced in 2004. "The positive feedback we received from fans, the media, and other riders last year was unbelievable," commented Cramer, "and I think that will be an amazing tool we can use to further develop these riders in 2005 and beyond."
2004 saw each rider on the team either make the podium or have a top ten finish. "Even though they are very young, they are no longer strangers to finishing at the top," Cramer explained. John Devine is a powerful, smart rider who is able to place himself in the right spot at the right time. At only 18 years-old, he made quite the debut on the pro circuit last year as the only American to make the podium in the first NORBA National short track race. Nick Waite is the team’s climber who excels in the sloppy and muddy conditions typical of his home in West Virginia. He posted a top-ten cross-country finish on home turf last year in Snowshoe. Sam Schultz got faster and faster with each race in 2004 and is able to dig into reserves in a race’s final minutes to make up time and places. He ended the season for the team last year with fifth place in Durango’s short track.
The team’s newest and youngest member, Sam Jurekovic, was one of the top junior cross-country riders last year and represented the U.S. at the Junior World Mountain Bike Championships. "With the proper preparation and direction," explained Cramer, "I feel Sam can excel to a very high level."
A full schedule in 2005 will include the NORBA National Series and World Cups. The group will also join the U23 National Road Team in races such as the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Tour de Georgia as well as select European events.