In his last year of eligibility as a U23 rider, Sam Schultz (Missoula, Mont.) led the U.S. National Team with an 11th-place finish at the 2007 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Fort William, Scotland on Friday.
A graduate of USA Cycling's National Development Team program, Schultz finished 6:09 off the pace of winner Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark in the 43-kilometer U23 Cross Country race to record his best-ever finish at a world championships.
"I was hoping to do a little better, but I'm definitely psyched about my best finish ever," Schultz said following the race. "It gives me a few more UCI points to kind of put me back in the chase for the Olympic Long Team, and that's kind of been a goal for me this year."
Schultz, whose achievements as a member of the USA Cycling National Development Team led to a pro contract with the Subaru/Gary Fisher squad for the 2007 season, completed his fourth-career U23 world championships.After placing 33rd in his only junior world championship appearance in 2003, Schultz placed 43rd in his first year as an Espoir before placing a then-best 17th in 2005, followed by a 38th-place performance in 2006.
Schultz' performance led the five-man American contingent as Colin Cares (Boulder, Colo./USA Cycling National Development Team) finished 47th, 15:53 behind Fuglsang, Mitchell Peterson (Sandy, Utah/Devo) placed 55th, 19:01 back and Tad Elliott (Durango, Colo./USA Cycling National Development Team) crossed the line 27:20 later to finish 62nd.
Reigning USA Cycling U23 National Cross Country Champion Sam Jurekovic (Colorado Springs, Colo./USA Cycling National Development Team) suffered a broken front derailleur on the third lap, yet was still on pace for a top-40 finish before a rear flat relegated the third-year U23 rider to a 61st-place finish overall, 26:32 behind.
"The bad luck wasn't even the problem today," Jurekovic explained of his performance. "I just didn't have anything. I had a good start position, but as soon as we hit the climb there was a crash right in front of me and I had to get off. I was chasing from the beginning and I just couldn't get going. I just had nothing today...straight-up had nothing."
Starting in 35th position, Jurekovic maintained his position within a few spots in either direction before being passed by 20 riders on the final lap after his flat tire.
Last year's gold medalist, Nino Schurter (SUI) won the silver medal, 1:43 back, while Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE) claimed the bronze medal, 3:20 behind.
After finishing the first of five laps in 12th place, Schultz ran as high as ninth at one point, but lost two spots on the fourth lap to drop out of the top 10.
"The race was pretty fast," Schultz said. "I did my best to hang on at the start and not blow. I was hoping I'd be able to move up a little bit more later on in the race. I wasn't racing conservatively, but I was trying to race smart so I didn't completely blow, but I still felt like I was kind of going backwards a little bit at the end. I definitely gave it all I had."
On Friday evening two more world titles will be handed out as the elite men's and women's 4-Cross competitions are scheduled for an 8 p.m. start. Three women and five men will represent the United States. In the women's competition, Melissa Buhl (Chandler, Ariz./KHS) earned the number-two seed and will join defending world champion Jill Kintner (Seattle, Wash./GT) and Neven Steinmetz (Boulder, Colo./TM-Totally Wired) in the 16-woman quarterfinal field.
Five men - John Swanguen (San Diego, Calif.), Jeremiah Work (Austin, Texas/Bicycle Sport Shop), Ross Milan (Golden, Colo./Yeti-Fox), Thomas Tokarczyk (Durango, Colo./Jamis) and Brian Lopes (San Clemente, Calif./GT) - will represent the U.S. after qualifying for the 1/16 finals. Lopes qualified the highest with a three seed.
2007 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships
Fort William, Scotland, Sept. 4-9
Day Four Results: U23 Men's Cross Country
1. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) 1:54:04
2. Nino Schurter (SUI) +1:43
3. Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE) +3:20
11. Sam Schultz (Missoula, Mont.) +6:09
47. Colin Cares (Boulder, Colo.) +15:53
55. Mitchell Peterson (Sandy, Utah) +19:01
61. Sam Jurekovic (Colorado Springs, Colo.) +26:32
62. Tad Elliott (Durango, Colo.) +27:20
© BikeRadar & USA Cycling 2007