Although Sho-Air has not made an official announcement it's looking like former National Champion and 2012 Olympian Sam Schultz will be riding for the Sho-Air/Cannondale team in 2014.
After arguably his best season in 2012 when Schultz scored a national championship in cross country and finished 15th at the London Olympics the longtime Trek racer was sidelined for much of 2013 by a nagging back injury.
Schultz seems to have recovered well and is excited about his new team for the coming season. Schultz posted this on his Twitter account today:
He also retweeted an image from his future team that included a box full of Cannondale gear (see image 2 above). It included the following text:
Schultz will be joining an already stacked team at Sho-Air/Cannondale that includes Canadian Max Plaxton, Jeremiah Bishop, Alex Grant, and Pua Mata.
Check out the interview below to get all the details from Sam about his injuries, the move to Sho-Air Cannondale, and his goals for next season.
MTBRacenews: For those that missed it, what happened that took you out of competition last season?
Sam Schultz: I have had back, hip, and glute issues that have been going on for the last 5 or 6 years. I didn't really know what was causing them and neither did any of the numerous specialists I went to each year. Despite my best efforts to correct myself with a bunch of physical therapy, it kept getting worse. I ignored some telltale signs that things were headed south last year in a huge push to make the Olympic team. When I got back to work preparing for the 2013 season I realized that I had a problem I could no longer fake my way through. I couldn't train, I couldn't get comfortable sitting still, or moving, and I couldn't sleep. It was bad.
After getting an MRI of my lumbar spine I realized things were even worse than I had anticipated. I started out trying to hit it as hard as possible with every conservative option I could find. At the same time I began flying around the country to any reputable neurologist or neurosurgeon that would see me. I treated it like my full-time job and I am definitely glad that I handled it that way. Towards the end of my search I lined up with an amazing surgeon at the Andrews Institute in Florida. The whole time I was searching for surgeons I was still hitting the conservative care as hard as possible but it wasn't getting better. It was pretty apparent that at that point it was time to go under the knife.
Dr. Mark Giovanini of the Andrews Institute recommended a bit of an abnormal procedure and after consulting with many other surgeons it became clear that his out-there procedure was widely agreed to be my best option. What he ended up doing was basically a non-instrumented fusion of the L4/L5 level along with some nerve decompression techniques. That was 5 weeks ago now and I am feeling really good and I'm very glad that I did it.
MTBRacenews: You've had such a great string of successes the last couple of years, what was it like to have to watch the season from the sidelines?
Sam Schultz: Man was it tough. It sounds cliche, but you really don't realize how much you love something until you lose it. I got to go to a couple of races and it was great to connect with everyone but it was really hard at the same time. The good thing is I got to reboot the system and I am hungrier than ever for next year. It was also extremely hard because I couldn't really do a whole lot of anything too exciting. Like I mentioned before, I couldn't get comfortable sitting, standing, walking, laying down...I was sort of in constant motion just trying to get comfortable.
MTBRacenews: What was the recovery process like? What did you do to keep busy? Were you able to train at all?
Sam Schultz: The recovery process has actually been pretty action packed. I flew to Florida for it and spent a week there before I flew back. I got a whole lot of quality time with my Dad who joined me to help take care of me. We went on "old man walks" on the piers and ate some good seafood. I started physical therapy 2 days after the procedure. When I got home I continued with PT here and was back on a spin-bike 2 weeks out of surgery. Now, I'm spending more time on rehab than I have ever spent training and I think it will be good. It's certainly keeping me busy.
MTBRacenews: Did you read any good books in your downtime? Have any recommendations?
Sam Schultz: The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie is my new favorite book. Definitely a must-read for anyone intrigued by mountain men and the wild west.
MTBRacenews: Congratulations on the new team. What precipitated the change? What are you most excited about in making the switch to Sho-Air/Cannondale?
Sam Schultz: Thanks. I am really happy about the switch to Sho-Air/Cannondale. I would say that I am most excited about lining up with a team that really believes in me. To step up and back me after a very difficult year with the support that I need to get back to where I was and beyond; that says a lot and I am incredibly lucky to be lined up with such a stand-up program. The team is absolutely stacked with talented and very fun riders and the staff are great. I can't wait to spend more time getting to know everyone.
MTBRacenews: What are your goals for next season?
Sam Schultz: My number one goal for next season is to get back on track. That means being smart. I need to take care of my health and not rush anything. In a perfect world I should be able to start racing again by the beginning of the season in March but I don't want to push anything. That is one of the really cool things about the Sho-Air/Cannondale program as they are very supportive of me getting healthy and not rushing anything. That being said, after a year off the circuit I have a lot of pent up competitiveness. The plan is to skip at least the first two World Cups in favor of trying to cherry pick some points at Continental Championships, meanwhile focusing on cool events here in the US like U.S. Cups, Whiskey 50, Sea Otter, and the Catalina Gran Fondo. By the time World Cup 3 and 4 come around I am hoping to have the turbo charged up and be ready to work my way back to a reasonable call-up. Ideally the season will be split between the really fun races in the US, and as I said, body willing, the World Cups. As always, I'm eyeing up the National Championships and my hometown race, The Missoula XC as well. So I guess that is a long list, but you could say that about everything is a big goal. Motivation runs deep.
MTBRacenews: It seems as though the Sho-Air/Cannondale team has largely focused on domestic racing the last couple of years. Will you be racing a full international calendar? Or will you primarily be focused on domestic racing?
Sam Schultz: Sho-Air/Cannondale has historically favored more of a domestic schedule but they have been very supportive of letting me get back to World Cup racing when I'm ready for it. Rio is a big goal of mine and especially after a season on the sidelines it is important to get my World Cup legs (and points) back so I can be back in the hunt and help the US get as many start spots as possible for the Olympics.
MTBRacenews: Have there been any positives to having to miss a season? Things that will help you as you jump back into competition this season?
Sam Schultz: The best thing about being on the sidelines for the season is the number of people who have gone above and beyond to help me get back on my feet. It is incredibly inspiring to see how many people are willing to help get me up when I'm down. I have also built up an incredibly large pile of fuel for the fire in terms of hunger and motivation.
MTBRacenews: We've seen a lot of other domestic pros mix up the schedules with more enduro races, stage races, and endurance events? Is that something you're looking to do, or is the focus still cross country?
Sam Schultz: I always love to jump into other types of races when it fits into the schedule but my focus is still XC. It seems like there are some really fun Enduro races that I would like to try my hand in if it fits. Also, some of the stage races are pretty intriguing.
MTBRacenews: Any ski trips or other cross training planned this winter? Or is everything bike focused?
Sam Schultz: In a normal year I would probably be out skiing right now, but this year I am focusing on rehab. As soon as I get cleared to ride outside my plan is to migrate south and get to work. Not a whole lot of adventure or cross training this year, but certainly more of that to come in the future, right now I am just excited to get strong and healthy.
You can also read our September 2012 interview with Sam Schultz Here.