La Ruta newbie Schultz ready for the challenge

XC winner Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) looked inspired again today.

XC winner Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) looked inspired again today. (Image credit: Dave McElwaine)

A few days ago Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) was riding in snow near his Missoula, Montana, home. Today he was facing tropical heat and humidity in Costa Rica on the eve of the La Ruta de los Conquistadores, a four-day mountain bike stage race crossing the country.

La Ruta will start on Wednesday morning, with a 3:00 am wake-up call for the athletes.

The American, who is a regular on the World Cup circuit during the main part of the season, will be racing his first mountain bike stage race. He finished the 2010 season ranked fourth in the US Pro XCT after winning the Subaru Cup round in Wisconsin mid-season.

"I figure the snow is similar to mud and the cold is miserable to ride in and so is the heat, so I'm getting used to it in that way," the 24-year-old Schultz joked with Cyclingnews. "Being here is kind of a shock to the system."

"I'm hoping that when I get back to Missoula, I will have missed shoulder season and I'll come back to ski season. I've dropped my skis off at the shop and so they'll be all ready to go."

In the meantime, Schultz will contend with heat and humidity and a lot of mud, having picked one of the races with the toughest reputations for his first stage race outing. "That's the only way to go. If you're going to go, go all out," he said as he embarks on his first time riding in Costa Rica.

"I thought the race sounded pretty fun, and I said yes. It's always been one of those races I've just watched, usually from a cold place in the winter time and you're just thinking about skiing. I always read about the race and it looks really hard, but I think it could be fun, too."

The closest Schultz has come to a race like La Ruta thus far is a weekend of Pro XCT-type stage racing "with a cross country and a short track and maybe a time trial". He's also dabbled in a few road stage races.

Schultz had another reason for making the trip. "If I stay in one place too long I get kind of bored, and I figured this was a good opportunity to come down and check out a new spot."

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of La Ruta.

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