VAIL — This Josiah Middaugh guy is pretty good. He might make a living out of this endurance-sports thing just yet.
The local took down all comers during the GoPro Mountain Games Ultimate Mountain Challenge this weekend for his eighth consecutive victory at the Mountain Games.
The Xterra Series of off-road triathlons is the bigger prize for Middaugh in the greater scheme. He is the defending series and national champion on that circuit, but the Ultimate Mountain Challenge is only one of two opportunities for him to compete at home on an annual basis.
The thing with the Ultimate Mountain Challenge is that it’s an endurance race with a twist. Instead of the traditional swim to start an Xterra triathlon, it’s either kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding as the first leg.
“This is my one week of the year when I kayak,” Middaugh joked.
As for possibly competing in the stand-up paddle, that would be an emphatic no.
“The first couple of years I did a lot more practicing, [I’d] go to Nottingham Lake and practice rolling a lot,” Middaugh said. “Now, I just take the boat out the day before and take one run in the river, remind myself of what it’s all about. I check out the levels and give it a go on race day.”
As with Xterra, it’s just a matter of getting through the water portion of the event, and don’t expect Middaugh to show up in an 8-ball kayaking competition anytime soon.
Middaugh finished Saturday with the mountain-bike race and that was much more familiar territory.
“That was probably one of my strongest events,” he said. “That worked out well. I think I put a good 7-8 minutes on the field.”
‘Race of truth’
The mountain-biking was 18 miles and Sunday’s 10K run are the exact same distances that Middaugh sees on the Xterra tour. While he had a comfortable lead, Middaugh was pleased with his performance in the Spring 10K Runoff.
“The mountain-bike race and the run were my Xterra events, so they were very good training to prepare for that and what I’ve been training for all year,” he said. “It came fairly naturally. The 10K, I had probably my best performance in a long time. I finished third.”
The finale was the Vail Pass Time Trial.
“The time trial is sometimes referred to as ‘The race of truth,’” Middaugh said, “You go off at 30 second intervals. There’s no drafting. There’s no pack. Bottom to top, you’re trying to ration out your best effort.”
While a road bike and mountain bike are different machines with different tires, it’s still pedaling in a circle and Middaugh had his eighth Mountain Games win.
Middaugh is off to Xterra East next weekend in Richmond, Virginia. He’s already 2-for-2, having won in Nevada and Alabama earlier this year. He certainly wants to do his best in Richmond, but this is the time of the year when he gears up for the Xterra Mountain Cup in Beaver Creek in July and nationals in Utah and worlds in Hawaii as the summer progresses.
“I think (this event) fits well in the schedule,” Middaugh said. “I really want to be strong in the Mountain Cup, nationals and worlds and those are all mountain courses.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.