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October 28, 2013
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Vail ultra-athlete Josiah Middaugh versus the world

KAPALUA, Maui - Vail’s Josiah Middaugh had one of his best days ever at the XTERRA World Championship, finishing fourth last weekend.

Middaugh was one of the favorites heading into Saturday’s event and had his eye on the top of the podium. He was the top American finisher for the third straight year and the sixth time in his career, and he’s happy about that, but he’s also philosophical about it, and yeah, he’d rather have won the thing.

“I had the best day I could have had. Some people just had a better day,” Middaugh said.

Middaugh was fourth two years ago and second last year.

For this year’s 18th annual event, Middaugh was among 800 endurance athletes from 35 countries and 43 U.S. states who made the trek to Maui. Along with the brutal course, they endured Saturday’s 90 degree heat, which turned it into something of a race of attrition.

Ruben Ruzafa, of Spain, was this year’s men’s winner, returning to the XTERRA World Championships after a five-year-hiatus. Middaugh beat Ruzafa in last month’s U.S. nationals in Utah. This time it was not to be.

Middaugh and Ruzafa were close when they came out of the water, following a one-mile ocean swim. But Middaugh said his swim was about a minute slower than he wanted it to be.

Still, that left Middaugh within striking distance. Usually he would have been able to push to the lead in the 20-mile mountain bike ride and the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) trail run, but Rufaza’s bike ride was other worldly.

Ruzafa trailed the leaders by two minutes after the swim, but he more than made up for it with his astonishing bike ride. He finished with a bike split of 1:30:11, the fastest of the day by more than a minute. He eventually reeled in all the leaders on the bike and had a lead of about 45 seconds entering the run.

“I’m happy with the effort I put into it, but I was a little too far behind out of the water,” Middaugh said.

Middaugh trailed by about a minute, 30 seconds from the lead after the bike, and that’s usually a pretty good position, he said.

“It’s really hard to make up that much time on the run when you’re not feeling fresh, and I put a lot into the bike trying to catch guys,” he said.

Nobody got close to Ruzafa on the run, and he eventually finished 1 minute, 27 seconds, ahead of the rest of the field.

“I’m happy with the season. It’s a good performance, just not the one I was looking for,” Middaugh said.

He said he’ll stick around Hawaii a few days and take a few weeks off to let his body reset. He said you can expect to see him around the valley this winter in some local events, representing Dogma Athletica and Beaver Creek.

Reigning world champion Javier Gomez was missing from this year’s XTERRA start list. Middaugh came into Saturday’s event as the reigning U.S. champion, and in the 2012 worlds he beat everybody except Gomez by more than two minutes.

Ruzafa won the XTERRA Worlds in 2008, got injured a few days before the 2009 race, then spent the next few years focusing on mountain bike races. He successfully switched from mountain biking to XTERRA this year and won two races in Europe and finished on the podium at the U.S. Championships last month in Utah.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

“I had the best day I could have had. Some people just had a better day,” Middaugh said.


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The VailDaily Updated Oct 30, 2013 09:53AM Published Oct 30, 2013 06:30PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.