Russell Finsterwald 2014 Season Update: Where Has The Time Gone?
MTB - Colorado Springs, CO
Wow, and just like that the race season is in full swing. It seems like just yesterday I was in St. George, UT racking up the miles curious what this season holds for me. I’ve been meaning to do an update for quite sometime, but instead put it on the back burner. The winter treated me well and I was able to get in just as much training as I would like. I opted out of spending a full 3 months in Tucson as I have done in years past and instead headed to St. George, UT for a month. Some change in scenery was good and I really enjoyed the riding in the area. Keegan’s grandparents were generous enough to host us while we were down there.
After a solid month of training in the southern Utah sun it was time to pack the bags and head down to the first test of the season, The Mellow Johnny’s Pro XCT. It was here I was able to debut the new team and colors! I’m super excited to be racing with the SRAM | Troy Lee Designs Race Team this season. The support has been unreal and it is awesome to be able to work closely with a company here in Colorado Springs. I’ve been able to ride so fancy stuff lately including the new RS-1 and Rise XX wheels. The guys at SRAM are constantly innovating and changing the way mountain bikes ride, it’s pretty impressive! The first race of the season didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped but I still managed a 10th place finish. I went out a bit too hard in the Texas heat I think. Still a descent start to the season.
After a fun weekend in Austin, I was able to return back home after being on the road for a while. It’s always nice coming back to my home trails and the beautiful mountains. I got in a few days of solid training, but also got some kind of sickness prior to Bonelli that had me off the bike for two days. I started to come around just in time to head to Bonelli, the first HC race in the US ever. Between a flat tire and the after effects of being sick, I wasn’t exactly feeling it out there. I came across in a mediocre 23rd. It was awesome having such a stacked field of racers in the US and got me really excited for the Fontana Pro XCT the next week.
I hung out in Escondido with Keegan, Rotem and some of Keegan’s family friends in between the two races. It was a good time to recharge and after a day of riding on Mt. Palomar as well as trip to the beach, I was feeling good for the weekend ahead. The Fontana Pro XCT, while not an HC race, still attracted the same field as the weekend prior. The course was, in my opinion, one of the better ones I’ve done in a while. It had a bit of everything and seemed like it would suite me well. The cooler temperatures had me excited for race day! After a somewhat crappy start I found myself sitting around 25th. On the second lap, I caught up to Keegan and we began picking guys off one by one. On the last lap, we had moved into a battle for the top 10. I was a bit blown from the early efforts and didn’t have much when the attacks started going and ended up finishing in 12th. Had I finished 12th in a Pro XCT last year, I wouldn’t have been so excited but the quality of the field made it a respectable result for me.
Back home for a couple weeks to work on getting fit then it was back to the races. Up next was the Sea Otter Classic. SRAM is a major sponsor of the race so I had my sights set high on putting up some good results for the team. Sea Otter is also where the new RockShox RS-1 and Rise XX wheels were officially launched into racing so I was even more excited to be debuting them. No pressure to get the first win for them or anything! First up was short track. I’ve been having some good short tracks this year so I was confident I could land on the podium if I played it smart. I was able to do just that and squeaked on to it with a 5th place finish. Saturday was the fast and long XC. 36 miles!! That seems pretty far compared to the normal XC distances we’ve become used to. The race started out fast but there was nothing to really separate riders so it became a bit of a tactical race. The group started out pretty large and eventually was whittled down to six halfway through the last lap. Every now and again someone would hit it hard in hopes of getting a gap but nothing could get away. It all came down to the final climb. I was actually sitting on the back of the group until halfway up the last climb. I then moved up into 3rd on a short open section. I just wanted to be a bit further up incase gaps opened. Sauser started to ramp it up towards the top of the climb and Kabush started cramping and couldn’t match his pace. I was able to get around Kabush and immediately tried to bridge up to Sauser but the gap was too large to close. I rode in solo for second place. I’m pretty ecstatic about this result and it was a good boost in confidence before the Australia World Cup.
A quick few days of training and it was back to packing up the bikes and bags. Kerry, Marc and I left Colorado Springs Sunday evening and arrived in Cairns on Tuesday afternoon. Ouch flying to Australia is brutal. The course in Cairns did not disappoint. It was a really challenging course in terms of of both fitness and technical skills. After a few laps of getting comfortable on the course I was finally starting to feel my mojo on it. It definitely took me 3 laps or so before I felt comfortable on everything. I eventually decided to try a lap on the hard tail to see how I liked it. I felt good on it and decided I was going to race it. The climbs were long enough that I believed the hardtail would be advantageous over a dually and the descents were slow and steep enough that I didn’t think a dually was that much faster on them.
The days leading into the race were filled with no stop rain. Kerry and I did some laps in the poring rain and to our surprise the course held up well. It was good to know, because either way we were comfortable with whatever weather hit us on Sunday. By the time race day came, it was back to being incredibly hot and humid with no rain. The course dried up well which meant the course was going to be riding fast. My race went pretty well. I started fairly conservative (as conservative as you can in a World Cup) knowing that the heat would play a factor in the end. I rode a steady race picking off a few guys each lap, eventually coming across the line in 27th. My goal was a top 30 for the day so that was accomplished. Even though I achieved my goal I still felt like I wanted more out myself. 27th just doesn’t sound too hot but hopefully as the season progress the results will improve. World Cups are a totally different race compared to Pro XCT’s. The fields are incredibly stacked all the way to the very last guy and the mentality is different. Pro XCT’s have started to feel like local races mentally so I need to work on being mentally relaxed before World Cups. I get pretty nervous for some reason.
Sorry for the lengthy update! This Winter and Spring have been pretty eventful. I’m back home now, enjoying the beautiful spring weather we have before I head back to Europe for what will probably be a cold, rainy spring over there. The Czech and Germany World Cups are the next big races on the calendar and I am really looking forward to them!
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