In a big effort on a wet course in Texas, Colorado Springs’ Russell Finsterwald swiped the stars and stripes national championship jersey from the two-time defending champion in his home state.
Finsterwald was first to the finish line in Saturday’s USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas. He finished in 3 hours, 1 minute, 35 seconds. He was 2:02 in front of Durango’s Stephan Davoust and 2:33 in front of Payson McElveen, the two-time defending champion who now calls Durango home after growing up in Texas.
“I was in the back a bit earlier when Russell attacked. I bridged back up to Payson and worked to maintain a gap of about 30 seconds to Russell,” Davoust said in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “Russell kept on the gas, and Payson and I faded out a little bit. I was able to use my technical ability and pull away from Payson toward the end of the race with smaller, shorter attacks to pull away and hold the gap I created to finish up second.”
McElveen called the race bittersweet but said he had no regrets and will look forward to more upcoming races after holding the marathon national championship jersey for two years.
“I prepared well for this one, gave 100% effort, and I just got beat by two guys that pedaled harder,” McElveen said in a post to Instagram. “The course was quite a bit more selective this year than the last couple, especially with some heavy mud spots (our bikes weighed over 30 lbs at the finish!). It was a super fun race with a strong lead group that saw lots of attacks and lead changes. When things really cranked up toward the end on the very demanding 30 minute ‘Comanche Trail’ section that goes up the canyon wall, I was totally on the limit keeping (Finsterwald) within 10 seconds, and started to believe a three-peat was possible.
“He kept the pressure on, though, and eventually (Davoust) and I were battling for silver. Congrats to Russell on a very deserving title - he’s been on a tear lately.”
The podium finish for Davoust continued his strong season. A week earlier he finished on the overall podium at the Soldier Hollow Bike Festival in a four-day UCI points stage race.
“From all the early-season races in California to now, I’m really happy with all the results,” he said. “I’m having fun racing. I kind of took a different mindset to the year in the sense that I’m taking a little more rest between races and having more fun with it.”
Davoust and McElveen are both Fort Lewis College cycling alumni. Ryan Standish, another FLC alum, finished sixth in 3:11:11.
The women’s race was won by Rose Grant of Montana. She finished in 3:32:29 to beat Kaysee Armstrong of Tennessee by nearly 17 minutes. Dolores’ Ashley Carelock finished eighth in 4:14:40.
Among men age 40-44, former Durangoan Nick Gould placed second in his category out of 25 racers. In the men’s race for ages 50-54, Travis Brown won 44 seconds ahead of Timothy Zimmerman.
Many of the same riders will turn their attention to the Epic Rides Grand Junction Off-Road next weekend.
“I’m hoping to keep my streak rolling of podiums and good results,” Davoust said.