Two Colorado-based riders, Sam Jurekovic, 21 and Colin Cares, 19, will return for their second and third seasons respectively with the USA Cycling U23 national mountain bike team while fellow Coloradoan, 18-year-old Tad Elliott will join the squad in May as the newest recruit.
Jurekovic and Cares both had successful seasons with the team last year, representing the U.S. at the world championships and claiming second and third respectively in the U23 race behind 2006 teammate Sam Schultz. Jurekovic also placed 13th overall in the 2006 National Mountain Bike Series pro men's rankings.
Newest member Elliott is just as fast on skis. The top junior Nordic athlete was chosen by the US Ski Association to represent his country at the nordic junior world championships in the Italian Alps next month. The recent high school graduate will turn his focus toward mountain biking after the end of the Nordic season. Elliott spent last year on the junior Devo squad, where he was noticed by USA Cycling national mountain bike coach Matt Cramer.
"Tad is a very well-rounded athlete who performed well in 2006 domestic events, and I have a feeling that his personality will mesh well with the team," Cramer said. "He wants to focus on mountain biking after his Nordic season is over, and hopefully if his season goes well, we can give him a reason to stick with it."
Elliott joins the program as a project athlete, meaning he will ride with the team part-time at domestic events, but won't be a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center and won't travel with the team abroad for World Cup events.
"Tad's focus will be at North American races," said Cramer. "Competing against the pros in top domestic events will assimilate him into the pro field without any pressure on results or performance."
One rider noticeably absent from the team for 2007 is Sam Schultz, one of the team's original members. He was signed by Subaru/Gary Fisher, becoming the fourth graduate to secure sponsorship since the program's inception in 2004. Others were Nick Waite (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Alan Obye (Jamis), and John Devine (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team).
Before Schultz moves on for good, he'll join Jurekovic and Cares for the team's first event of the 2007 season the Continental Championships in the Patagonia region of Argentina during the second weekend of March.
2007 U23 National Mountain Bike Team Race Calendar
Mar 8 Continental Championships - Argentina
Mar 31 NMBS #1 Phoenix, Arizona
Apr 15 Sea Otter Classic Monterey, California
Apr 21 World Cup Houffalize, Belgium
May 5 NMBS #2 Fontana, California
May 26 World Cup Offenburg, Germany
Jun 16 NMBS #3 Park City, Utah
Jun 23 World Cup Mont Saint Anne, Canada
Jul 17 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships Mount Snow, Vermont
Jul 28 NMBS #5 Banner Elk, North Carolina
Aug 11NMBS #6 Snowmass Village, Colorado
Sep 3 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships Fort William, Scotland