It was a weekend of firsts at the inaugural Missoula XC Pro Cross Country Tour race Saturday: Hometown favorite Sam Schultz won the men’s race while Lea Davison not only won the women’s event but wrapped up the overall national cross-country title.
The pressure was on Schultz (Subaru-Trek) to win the Pro XCT finale, which was being held in his hometown. And he did, but first he had to duel freshly minted Canadian national XC champion Max Plaxton (Specialized). On the fourth lap Schultz made his move, with Plaxton drifting back until he was passed by Schultz’s teammate Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, who finished just over a minute behind in second place.
“It’s unreal how much support I had out there,” Schultz Tweeted after the race held on a four-plus kilometer loop at Marshall Mountain, a retired ski hill, just outside of Missoula.
The cross-country course featured an “A-line” jump and big air normally found on a downhill course.
“The A line was rad,” Schultz said. “Huge crowds watching it and it was fun getting the wheels off the ground.”
Plaxton finished the day in third 2mins 34secs off the front, but while he may have lost the battle the Canadian won the war by winning the overall of USA Cycling’s Pro Cross Country Tour series.
Todd Wells, who a week before won the XC national championship, did not compete at the Missoula XC. Andy Schultz (Kenda-Felt), Sam’s brother, finished down in the field. Sam Schultz’s win Saturday was his second Pro XCT victory of his career. The 2010 Subaru Cup in Wisconsin was his first elite-level victory.
For Lea Davison (Specialized), the weekend wrapped up on a triumphant double note. Not only did she win the women’s race, she also won the overall Pro XCT series.
While the 2011 accomplishments for the five-time national champion on the junior, U-23 and collegiate levels don’t seem noteworthy, they are considering that Davison was off the bike completely for the 2010 race season because of a torn labrum in her hip. She didn’t throw her leg over a bicycle until last October.
“This means a lot to me,” Davison told the Missoulian. “I spent the last year on the couch recovering from surgery, so this was my first season back racing. To win the last race, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Davison took control of the race early and won in 1:13:47. Second place was Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek) nearly two minutes back. That was a solid result for Irmiger, who has been racing with injured hands in the early season. Her finish also bodes well for the latter part of her season when her form peaks — two more World Cup races and the mountain bike world championships.
Third place went to Luna Pro Team veteran Katerina Nash, who finished in 1:16:44. Her teammate and XC force, Georgia Gould, didn’t race.
Missoula XC Brief Results
1. Lea Davison 1:13:47
2. Heather Irmiger 1:15:43
3. Katerina Nash 1:16:44
4 Emily Batty 1:17:45
5. Judy Freeman 1:18:47
1. Sam Schultz 1:18:49
2. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski 1:19:52
3. Max Paxton 1:21:23
4. Adam Craig 1:22:16
5. Carl Decker 1:23:05