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Back on the wagon

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Setting off for a group ride on the Missoula Pro cross country course.

Setting off for a group ride on the Missoula Pro cross country course. (Image credit: Sam Schultz)
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A rattlesnake crossing the track.

A rattlesnake crossing the track. (Image credit: Sam Schultz)
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The Mangy crew sunset ride.

The Mangy crew sunset ride. (Image credit: Sam Schultz)
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Riding with the home crew.

Riding with the home crew. (Image credit: Sam Schultz)

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.

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.