Middaugh wins Xterra World Championship
MIDDAUGH RESULTS AT WORLDS
EAGLE COUNTY — Eagle-Vail resident Josiah Middaugh said he felt more support going into this year’s Xterra World Championship than ever before.
He described his win at Sunday’s race, the biggest event in the sport of off-road triathlon, as a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“There were more people believing I could do it, that this was the year,” he said Sunday from Hawaii, where the race is held every year. “You gotta believe it first, and then it definitely helps if other people believe you can do it, too.”
It was Middaugh’s 15th year competing in the Xterra World Championship, and he is now 37 years old. There have been moments when he’s considered giving it all up, calling it a selfish sport for family man such as himself, but in sticking with it he’s also proven something to a whole generation of athletes like himself.
“The rest of the pros that are younger than me, they grew up doing triathlon and doing all three sports, for the most part,” he said. “I’m kind of the last of a generation of triathletes who grew up just doing a single sport. Now there’s a lot of younger guys coming on the scene that have just as much experience but they started with all three sports when they were 10 or 11.”
For the last few years, as the Xterra season has come to a close with World Championship on the Hawaiian island of Maui, Middaugh has felt like the win was in his grasp. This year the feeling was especially pronounced.
“This year, I got lots of messages and calls and texts and emails from people in the Vail area, relatives, old friends, even Xterra crew,” he said. “I felt like a lot of people were behind me and watching what I was doing.”
FIRST ENDURE THESE CRASHES, THREE
Middaugh had to fight for the victory. He swam well through the ocean off the coast of Kapalua, Maui, but had a couple of crashes on his mountain bike and dismounted in second place heading into the final leg of the race, the 6.4-mile trail run. At that point he was nearly two minutes behind Ruben Ruzafa of Spain, who was leading.
“I bent my derailleur hanger on the second crash, and couldn’t shift into all my gears,” he said. “So I lost a lot of time in the last five miles of the bike. In the run, I just put my head down and went as hard as I could that first couple miles, and I caught him about mile 3.”
The second half of the run was mostly downhill, at which Middaugh excels. He felt confident his downhill running skills were better than Ruzafa’s and would propel him to victory, but one more crash served as a good wake-up call.
“There were a couple wet, muddy sections where the footing was pretty sketchy, and a lot of logs to duck under or go over,” he said. “There was this one log that was above waist height, so I wasn’t sure if I should jump over or go under, and I decided to go over but I slipped as I was planting my foot to jump, took a hard body shot, landed on the ground and broke my sunglasses … I realized there that the race wasn’t over.”
LIFE AFTER VICTORY
For the home stretch, a half-mile jog across a beach in Maui, Middaugh kicked his shoes off and ran barefoot through the sand.
His family – wife Ingrid Middaugh and children Sullivan, 11, Porter, 10, and Larsen, 5 — were all there to experience it with him. The family plans on staying in Hawaii a few days and celebrating their victory.
“I have witnessed Josiah work so hard for 15 years and it is a dream come true to see him win the Xterra World Championships,” Ingrid Middaugh said after the race.
Josiah Middaugh said he has been thinking about the moment for so long that he hasn’t planned much for life after the win.
“I joke about that but it’s kind of true, I don’t really know what the future holds,” he said. “I’ve thought about this day for a long, long time, and it’s definitely been a driving force in my life for many, many years … I’m not really contemplating retirement. I’m just going to enjoy this win for a while.”