Monday, July 16, 2012

More from the Missoula XC (UPDATE with slideshow)

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 at 11:25 AM

On my way to the Hammer Nutrition Missoula XC at Marshall Mountain on Saturday, I caught the shuttle from a temporary parking lot up to the action. In the shuttle along with me and my kids were two other families and a couple teenage girls. The driver, Jed Dennison, who is also one of the Missoula XC organizers, slowed down as we made our way up the road and said, "Well, if it isn't the man of the hour."

He was referring to Missoula native Sam Schultz, who was recently named to the U.S. Olympic team and won the inaugural Missoula XC last year, and who was now warming up for the race by pedaling along our route. Schultz's appearance sent the two teenage girls into a frenzy, with both screaming, "We want to touch him! We want to touch him!" and "We love youuuuuuu, Sam Schultz." I thought it was a joke until I realized the girls were Justin Bieber-level serious. Dennison, clearly enjoying the scene, slowed down again so everyone in the van could scream their affection for the hometown favorite.

Schultz didn't disappoint during the main event. He led the race from start to finish, defending his title despite a bum shoulder. His Subaru-Trek teammate, Heather Irmiger, won the women's elite race earlier in the day.

Cycling Dirt captured a lot of the men's action — and an enthusiastic crowd — in the video above. "Lar Tar" also has extensive footage on YouTube.

At the end of the race, Schultz was mobbed by friends, family, fans and media for autographs, photos, high-fives and interviews. He even put on one of the thick black mustaches handed out before the race in honor of his steezy look earlier in the season. Sure enough, I happened to notice the two screaming girls from the shuttle in the crowd to greet Schultz. He apologized for being a little wet as one stepped in for a photo. "It's mostly water," he said, but before he finished the explanation she had already slipped in under his arm for the shot.

UPDATE: We've added a slideshow of Sam's winning race By Indy photographer Chad Harder.

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