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Russell Finsterwald seeks second U23 win in Continental Mountain Bike Championships

April 6, 2013
Russell Finsterwald in Vail, Colorado in 2012

Russell Finsterwald in Vail, Colorado in 2012

[updated 4/6/2013]

This year’s Continental Mountain Bike Championships unfold in a place dubbed “town with a splendid entrance.” Russell Finsterwald from Colorado Springs hopes to leave it with a splendid finish.

Pan American MTB

The annual Continental MTB Championships is the continental competition for the North, South, and Central Americas and carries sizeable UCI points. Sometimes referred to as the Pan American Continental MTB Championships, it’s not the Pan American Games which is an event similar to the Olympics held every four years with the next edition in 2015.

The town of Tafi del Valle in northwestern Argentina hosts three days of Continental Championship racing this year. Over 500 riders from 35 countries/commonwealths will participate in cross country, downhill, and four cross categories, including 17 from the U.S. Men and women will tackle elite, U23, master, and junior contests.

Finsterwald, 21 years-old and a member of the Trek Factory Mountain Bike Team, will be defending his U23 title on Sunday, April 7.

About Russell Finsterwald

Finsterwald’s aunt is one sharp cookie. According to two interviews by Colorado Springs outlets, she gave him a mountain bike when he was 12 years-old and convinced him to race the Middle School State Championships in Colorado Springs.

“I finished somewhere mid-pack in that race,” he told Pikes Peak Sports, “but from that point on I was hooked on racing and spent every dollar I could on upgrading my bike.”

Russell Finsterwald riding cyclocross at the 2012 Boulder Cup

Russell Finsterwald riding cyclocross at the 2012 Boulder Cup

He became a junior national mountain bike champion in cross country and short track, and has won national championships in 24-hour team competitions.

Finsterwald graduated from Coronado High School where his teachers accommodated his racing schedule. He went on to study at the University of Colorado, then decided to focus on racing.

As a member of the U.S. national team and his former Subaru Trek outfit, Finsterwald has raced all over the world. He’s the reigning U.S. U23 mountain bike national champion in cross country. His resume includes top ten World Cup and U.S. Pro XCT finishes. The 2016 Olympics beckon.

“Finsty” in Argentina

According to information on the 2013 Continental Championships website and EveryTrailthe 2013 circuit runs 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) with 181 meters (594 feet) of elevation gain. Thirty-three riders will take on five laps in the men’s U23 race. Current weather predictions show a high temperature of 76 degrees Fahrenheit (24 C) for Sunday with a 30% chance of rain.

Finsterwald responded to the following questions yesterday from Argentina.

What kind of a performance are you looking to do in the U23 race?

I am hoping to end my last year in the U23 field by going out on top step. I won this race last year so I hope I can do it again.

Have you ridden the course? What’s it like?

I was able to get a lap in on the course today [Friday]. They had weird training hours and I would’ve liked to do more but none the less it is good. We’re at 6,600 feet [2,012 meters] here and the course is dry and dusty so it actually reminds me a lot of home. It’s more of a power course where you have to be on your game for the descents. I think it suits me well.

Who do you think is the main competition for the U23 race?

It’s always hard to say who my competition will be here. All the South American countries put together strong teams and my fellow Americans Keegan Swenson and Kerry Werner are riding pretty good. [A Cyclingnews story in 2010 noted the Continental Championships attract a broad range of riders with different levels of elite racing experience. – ed.]

What is it like to be at the Pan Ams [Continental Championships]? Is it different from other races?

Pan Ams is always one of my favorite races. The venues are typically in countries you’ve never raced in so there is quite a bit of excitement in seeing a new area. The South Americans are really ecstatic to be at the race as well so there is a good healthy vibe to it. It’s an honor to a part of it.

What are you doing for fun?

There’s not a ton of time to do much other than keep the legs up and do a little bit of riding but we’re still having fun. Today Colin Cares, Kerry Werner and I drove to the top of one of the mountain passes and shot a timelapse. That was pretty fun!

The 2013 Pan American Continental Mountain Bike Championships take place in Tafi del Valle in Argentina

The 2013 Pan American Continental Mountain Bike Championships take place in Tafi del Valle in Argentina. Flying to Tafi del Valle from Colorado is about the same distance as crossing the entire United States twice.

2012 Top Three U23 Continental MTB Championships
1 Russell Finsterwald (USA)
2 Diyer Rincon (Colombia)
3 Kerry Werner (USA)

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2011 Top Three U23 Continental MTB Championships
1 Jaime Yesid Chia (Colombia)
2 Diyer Rincon (Colombia)
3 Stephen Ettinger (USA)
26 Russell Finsterwald (USA)

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2010 Top Three U23 Continental MTB Championships
1 Sherman Paiva (Brazil)
2 Henrique Avancini (Brazil)
3 Rob Squire (USA)
9 Russell Finsterwald (USA)

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