Over the last several years Sam Schultz has become a household name in the mountain bike world. Indeed the Trek-Subaru rider has created quite a name for himself, built on the strength of his often impressive finishes.
This summer, the former U23 National Champion took his first win on the Pro XCT circuit and followed that up with a 2nd at Marathon Nationals. All signs indicate that Schultz is on track to become one of the elite in U.S. mountain bike racing and he isn't even 25 yet -- his birthday is December 11th.
Most recently the gregarious youngster took on the challenge of the 4-day La Ruta De Los Conquistadors in Costa Rica. After the race he spent sometime talking with MTB Race News about his experience and what the future holds for the Montana native.
MTB Race News - Where do you See MTB Racing in the USA evolving to in the next 5-10 years?
Sam Schultz - It seems like the scene has been healthy lately and I only see it getting better from here. Everything moves in phases and I think it is in an upswing.
MTB Race News - Do you see USAC or local promoters playing a larger role in the future of MTB Racing in the USA?
Sam Schultz - USAC is getting the model dialed in order to coordinate and work better with individual promoters. It seems important to continue working with local promoters because they are more likely to have a close tie with the community. I think that is important in order to make sure the event fits in with each place and is advertised through the right venues in order to grab as much attention as possible. I might be a little biased, but I think the Missoula ProXCT is a perfect example of this. There is already a serious buzz going around town about the event and having that sort of build up is going to ensure that people come out of the woodwork to check it out. The promoter, Shaun Radley, knows how to throw an event that is equally enjoyable for die hard cyclists as well as your average Joe who knows nothing about mountain biking. I really think he is going to turn heads with his race promoting style.
MTB Race News - You race at the front of most of the XC events you enter in North America, would you say this prepared you for the rigors of La Ruta? Will you return to La Ruta and will you start other MTB Stage races?
Sam Schultz - La Ruta is a completely different beast than anything I have ever done. I talked to a bunch of people about it and thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was up against, but it was way crazier than I ever could have imagined. Just finishing each stage felt like an accomplishment. The top guys were attacking from the gun on 5+ hr stages and I can hang with that for a little while but about at the 4:30 mark on a couple of the days I found myself in a bad place. La Ruta takes a different kind of fitness and it seems like as much of a mental battle as it is physical. You really have to do the race to understand. I feel like having the experience under my belt and knowing what to expect would be a big advantage. If I were to do it again I would want to make sure I was fully into doing everything I could to prepare for the race and that would require changing the way I treat my off-season quite a bit. I'm not sure when I'll find myself in a position to hit it hard into November but someday I need to make it happen because that race took a piece of me and I want to get it back.
MTB Race News - What was the hardest part of racing La Ruta? Why?
Sam Schultz - I don't think I can pick a single hardest part. Everything about the race is hard; from the sustained 30+% grades, the endless jungle sections, the mud bogs, the race starts at the crack of dawn, the railroad sections, the competition....the list could go on and on.
MTB Race News - Will you and JHK be doing the CyclePassion Calendar for 2012, Give us some ideas of how you envision some of the photos?
Sam Schultz - The CyclePassion people keep trying to get Jeremy and I on board but they don't have a big enough budget to get talent like us.
MTB Race News - You have raced consistently since being a Junior racer, many juniors burn out early and some never return to the sport, what is the key to your desire and commitment? What is the most important piece of advice you could provide to an upcoming junior and their parents?
Sam Schultz - It sounds pretty simple but I think the most important thing is to have fun. If you approach the hard work with the attitude that it is fun and what you really want to do then it just sort of feels right. It makes it easier to shrug off the bad races when you are generally having a good time with it. Focusing on keeping a healthy balance is a crucial part of keeping it fun. Learning how to juggle training, traveling, racing, and the rest of life is an art and is something that requires constant tweaking to find what works best. One thing that I always find is the happier I am the faster I am.
MTB Race News - Pretend that you have a 29’er and a 26’er, which one do you choose, for your favorite ride?
Sam Schultz - Superfly 100 full suspension 29'er. That bike can climb with anything and descending on that bike when it's set up perfectly is an amazing feeling.
MTB Race News - What was your favorite race this season and tell us why you liked it.
Sam Schultz - I'd have to say the Wisconsin ProXCT. The course was dialed, the crowd was great, and it's pretty tough to beat the feeling of winning.
MTB Race News - What races would you like to focus on next season?
Sam Schultz - I'm really hoping to squeeze out some good World Cup results next season. I know if everything falls into place on the right day I can be up there. World Cup racing is the pinnacle of the sport and mixing it up with the top guys in those races is super exciting. I am also looking to go well at the ProXCT and I'd love to win another race or two.
MTB Race News - What is the most difficult part of training for you? How do you get through it?
Sam Schultz - In the past my biggest issue was probably making sure to rest enough. It's easy to get into the mentality that more is better but with training that is definitely not always the case. I'm still trying to dial in how much is the right amount. Luckily I have a great coach (Kristen Dieffenbach) and I'm learning that if I listen to her more closely it usually pays off.
MTB Race News - What are you going to do with your off-season?
Sam Schultz - I have pretty much been in off-season mode since early September and it has been great. I'm not the type of person that likes to sit around during the off-season so I have been staying good and active; climbing a bunch of peaks, backpacking, and doing some really cool mountain bike rides. Right now I'm in Montana trying to fit in as much skiing as possible before I migrate south at the end of the month. The snow has been amazing and I have been having a blast. I'm actually pretty excited to get back into full riding mode though. I'm planning on heading down to San Luis Obispo, CA this year so I'm really psyched to check out a new town and I think the riding there is going to be really good.
MTB Race News - When do you start training again for next year?
Sam Schultz - I'm starting to get back into the swing of things now, still doing a lot of cross training but with more purpose. I'm making sure to keep my volume pretty high with lots of backcountry skiing, hiking, core work, and throwing in some trainer time to make sure I stay in pedaling shape. I switch over to pretty much exclusively on the bike training when I head south sometime between Christmas and New Year's.