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Schultz riding the Olympic wave into worlds

With stars in his eyes at the London village and ceremonies, Olympic rookie Sam Schultz rode to an impressive 15th place at Hadleigh Farm, beating all previous U.S. men’s Olympic results. Now wearing red, white and blue of the national champion, the young Missoula, Montana native has been bitten by the success bug and is looking forward to all the future has in store for him.

“This year has been pretty unreal,” Schultz told Singletrack.com. His confidence is high after a string of the best rides of his life. Now he’s riding the wave of elevated praise that comes with the title “Olympian.”

When asked if he has been treated differently after being selected for the Olympic team, Schultz said, “the difference between (the titles) pro mountain biker and Olympian was pretty crazy. All of a sudden people were way more interested in what I was doing and it seemed like a lot of people went from being a little skeptical about my bike racing career to thinking that it was much more legitimate.”

The different treatment is deserved, as his performances this year against the best in the nation — and the world — have proved that Americans have a lot to look forward to for the future of mountain biking.

“I know the international scene is really the pinnacle of the sport and I would love to find myself consistently in the top 10s and hopefully claw my way onto a World Cup podium or two,” he said, which, given his 10th place at the Windham World Cup, seems well within his capacity.

Until then, he still has the opportunity at the world championships to put the final stamp on his 2012 season. His delight with his accomplishments already this year is apparent, but his enthusiasm and motivation for the world championship race has only grown as a result of his strong season.

Motivation aside, Schultz isn’t sure where his form will be and what to expect from himself at the worlds, but isn’t ruling out the possibility of a strong ride.

After the Olympic race, he found himself with a large block of sickness-induced rest of the non-hangover variety, after heading straight to Wisconsin for the final Pro XCT and racing while under the weather laid him flat for days and took him completely off the bike.

Will his time off the bike be detrimental or beneficial for his race this weekend in Austria? Schultz won’t be sure until he reaches the finish line. “I think my result this weekend could go one of two ways,” he said Thursday. “Sometimes the body responds really well to being super rested, so being forced to take it down a notch could be a good thing.”

He isn’t making assumptions about his form, but is confident that if his legs pull out what they are capable of he will make a mark on the world championships. “I know that if I’m having a good day a top-10 result could be in the cards, and if I’m having the absolute ride of my life I believe a podium is possible.

“I guess we’ll find out in a couple days how much I have left in the tank,” he said. “The only thing I know for sure is that I will be giving it everything I have out there.”

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Emily spent her infancy in the back of a women’s team van while the team built wheels around her. She spent part of her pre-teen years in Europe following the major European mountain, road and gravity races and touring cycling product factories. College was the first time she lived in a home without a frame building shop in her garage or basement. Her favorite style of riding is getting lost in singletrack trail networks and taking her time finding her way back.

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