Originally from Altadena, Calif., Hannah Finchamp came to Missouri a little over three years ago to attend Lindenwood University and has since earned four National Championship titles, plus a double major in athletic training and exercise science (which she will complete this May).
“Lindenwood has offered me every opportunity I could dream of,” she said. “Not only did it have everything I was looking for, but it was also the change I was seeking. I’d hoped that moving across the country would give me new perspective and show me more of what our country has to offer. I think the goal was accomplished.”
How does a California girl end up going to college in Missouri?
When I started looking at schools, I had a long list of things I was seeking. I was a triathlete at the time, and I wanted to pursue that dream in college. I looked for schools that had a varsity cycling program. Lindenwood was toward the top of the rankings, so it was a natural.
I didn’t just want to cycle, though. I wanted to run and swim as well. Lindenwood offered me the opportunity to pursue all three. Furthermore, Lindenwood had an accredited athletic training major that would allow me to double major with exercise science.
During my time at Lindenwood, I ran on the cross-country team for two years, swam on the swim team for a year and have ridden for the cycling team for all four years.
These days it seems you’re mostly racing mountain bikes. When did that happen?
I started racing triathlon when I was 9 and competed nationally and internationally. In 2012, I won the overall amateur World Champion title in XTERRA triathlon. Shortly thereafter, the LUNA Pro Team (now Clif Pro Team) recruited me onto their team.
I raced triathlon for them for two years before they approached me about a new vision they had. LUNA felt I had a bright future in mountain biking and asked to support me as I made the transition. This is my third season as a “mountain biker,” and I’ve loved the new challenge.
Last summer was a big one for you. Tell us about it.
I spent the first half of summer racing the domestic pro XCT series. I achieved a few podium performances and then was given the opportunity to race for USA Cycling in the U23 World Cups in Andorra and Switzerland. I finished up the season with a second-place finish in the National Championship and punched my ticket to the Mont St. Anne World Cup and World Championship in Cairns, Australia.
This was my first season racing my bike overseas, and it was everything I dreamed it would be. After putting on the red, white and blue, I don’t think I can ever look back. I’m hooked on [mountain biking]. The competition is definitely strong, but I think that adds validity to our sport and everything we spend hours upon hours training for.
What’s on the horizon athletically and academically?
This semester I’m preparing to take my certification exam, while completing two internships at a high school and a physical therapy clinic. I’ll race the Wisconsin World Cup for cyclocross and aim to defend my title at collegiate MTB Nationals in October.
When I graduate, I aim to race my bike full time and give myself the chance to truly put everything I can into this dream. I’ll also be looking to coach athletes using my exercise science degree.
When I retire from racing, I’ll most likely look for an athletic trainer position or go back to school to become a physician’s assistant. Hopefully, that decision is still a way away.
Where do you like to ride, and what’s your favorite trail here?
My favorite place for a quick training ride is Greensfelder. However, if I have more time, I’ll head to Berryman. There’s something special about that trail.
What do you do around town when you’re not training?
Between being a double major and a professional athlete, I don’t get much downtime. But, when I do, I love embracing time with my friends as a college student. We love trivia nights, mini golf and, of course, a good ice cream at Kilwins on Main Street.
What’s your favorite memory of your time in Missouri?
My time at Lindenwood has truly been something special. The first time I won collegiate nationals, as I rode up the hill, my teammates, who had raced earlier in the day, ran next to me as I came through the finish chute. That was when I realized how much camaraderie the team had. I love that we can celebrate each other’s victories and analyze the defeats.
Learning the roads and trails of the area over the last three years has made me feel more a part of Missouri than I could ever imagine. I like to joke that when I leave here after four great years, I’ll be 18 percent Missourian, because I’ll have spent 18 percent of my 22 years here.