Josiah and Sullivan Middaugh earn multiple top-10 finishes at first XTERRA World Cup weekend on U.S. soil |

Josiah and Sullivan Middaugh earn multiple top-10 finishes at first XTERRA World Cup weekend on U.S. soil

Sullivan Middaugh discusses his first year with Project Podium and balancing World Triathlon junior worlds with defending his XTERRA national crown this summer

Sullivan Middaugh placed ninth in both the long and short-course races at XTERRA Oak Mountain in Alabama last weekend.
Jesse Peters/Courtesy photo

The father-son duo of Josiah and Sullivan Middaugh each earned top-10 performances in both the long and short-course events at XTERRA Oak Mountain last Saturday and Sunday. The Pelham, Alabama, event was the second stop on the newly-minted XTERRA World Cup, which features seven events with 12 total races spanning the globe. It also includes the Beaver Creek XTERRA USA championships on Aug. 26 and culminates at the World Championships in Trentino, Italy, this September.

France’s Arthur Serrieres, the defending XTERRA world champion, took the win on both days.

“With everyone focusing on the World Cup the level is really high so it’s a good victory, and great to get some big points and get some confidence back,” the 29-year-old said after Saturday’s victory, his 21st-career XTERRA win. Serrieres, who now sits second in the World Cup series standings had work to do after the swim and bike legs.

American Eric Lagerstrom had a thirty second lead on Michele Bonacina and Sam Osborne out of the water. The Frenchman was 1:20 back, alongside Canadian Edmond Roy and Sullivan Middaugh’s Project Podium road triathlon teammate, Keller Norland. Sullivan himself was two minutes back, and his dad was 3:40 off the pace in 18th.

“I had a pretty good swim, which I was happy about,” said Sullivan, who said one of the biggest improvements he’s felt since joining Project Podium — the USA Triathlon development program based out of Arizona State University — is more specific, and higher-volume bike work.

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“I think that’s my strongest right now, so I really tried to put the hammer down on the bike (leg).”

The teenager worked the 32-kilometer course in an impressive 1 hour, 26 minutes and 14 seconds, 15 seconds faster than Serrieres’ time. He hopped into the draft of eventual third-placer Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen.

“(Jens) was pretty good technically so I kind of lost his wheel on the descent,” Sullivan said. “I was happy with my biking; I don’t think it could have gone much better.”

Josiah Middaugh tears up the bike leg during the Oak Mountain XTERRA World Cup long-course event last Saturday. He had the second-fastest time on the bike, despite having to weave through athletes to go from 18th place up to eighth.

While Lagerstrom, who was third at the 2021 XTERRA USA championships but is now more of a 70.3 road triathlon specialist, built up a nearly one-minute advantage by the 25-kilometer check point, Josiah motored through traffic. The soon-to-be 45-year-old would finish with the second-fastest bike split (1:24:55) and 10-kilometer run split (36:57), the latter of which was only bested by Serrieres.

“Really happy with my day, the body showed up, and I didn’t have any major problems,” Middaugh told XTERRA. “I actually felt great in the water, but I ended up losing the group and swam by myself out there. On the bike it’s pretty tight that first six miles, a little tricky getting through people. People were pretty tightly spaced, so I was just moving through one person at a time.”

The Middaughs started the run together, but Sullivan had spent too many matches to go when his dad surged from eighth all the way to his eventual fourth-place finish.

“He had a really good run,” Sullivan, who would finish in ninth, said of Josiah, who has won five times in his now 17 Oak Mountain appearances.

“I caught up to Edmond Roy at the end of the bike, then got by Sully, and Michele, and I was trying to catch up to Jens,” Josiah said. “Got within five seconds with 2K to go but he turned on the jets to catch Sam for third, and I was able to follow him and get by Sam, but I couldn’t reel in Jens.”

When asked if his dad’s result shocked him or was just par for the course, Sullivan said, “A little bit of both. I mean, I didn’t really know what kind of shape he was in, but I know he’s always in good shape.” 

Josiah Middaugh moved up from eighth to fourth during the final run leg of the long-course event at Oak Mountain in Pelham, Alabama.
Jesse Peters/Courtesy photo

Sullivan said he didn’t know what to expect coming in, having focused mored on draft-legal road triathlons thus far. With the new World Cup format drawing a high number of international stars, he said, “I knew there would be some really fast guys, and I didn’t know where I’d play out.”

Considering every race he’s done this season has been under an hour, and Saturday’s was roughly 2-and-a-half, the 2022 Battle Mountain graduate was generally pleased.

“I think I am happy with that result,” he said. “I was very happy with the swim and bike. I definitely have some room to improve, which is also good on the run, especially the last half.”

“I definitely feel fit, but that run — you definitely need a lot more strength and I don’t know if I have a ton of that right now,” he continued.

“And, just the time pedaling and swimming I think kind of caught up to me the second half of the run. Just muscularly, I didn’t have the legs.”

XTERRA Oak Mountain – Men’s top-10 Elite finishers

Long course, May 20 (1.5k swim, 32k bike, 10k run)

  1. Arthur Serrieres, France – 2:25:29
  2. Eric Lagerstrom, USA – 2:26:08
  3. Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen, Switzerland – 2:26:24
  4. Josiah Middaugh, USA – 2:26:39
  5. Sam Osborne, New Zealand – 2:27:03
  6. Sebastien Carabin, Belgium – 2:29:19
  7. Michele Bonacina, Italy – 2:30:13
  8. Francisco Serrano, Mexico – 2:30:31
  9. Sullivan Middaugh, USA – 2:30:59
  10. Edmond Roy, Canada – 2:31:13

Short course, May 21 (400-meter swim, 7.5k bike, 3k run)

  1. Arthur Serrieres, France – 33:28
  2. Jens Emil Sloth Nielsen – 33:45
  3. Michele Bonacina, Italy – 34:00
  4. Sam Osborne, New Zealand – 34:18
  5. Kieran McPherson, New Zealand – 34:35
  6. Eric Lagerstrom, USA – 34:42
  7. Josiah Middaugh – 34:46
  8. Edmond Roy, Canada – 34:49
  9. Sullivan Middaugh – 35:08
  10. Francisco Serrano, Mexico – 35:27


Defending the home course and filling up the passport

Josiah and Sullivan finished seventh and ninth, respectively, in Sunday’s short-track race. Josiah (87) is in ninth in the World Cup season standings and Sullivan (59) is in 12th.

XTERRA World Cup series champions will be determined by adding athletes’ best four scores from the first six full-distance races with their best three short-track scores plus whatever they get (or don’t get) at the XTERRA World Championship.

Having recently qualified as one of three Americans for the World Triathlon sprint and relay junior championships in Hamburg, Germany on July 13-16, but also needing to defend his first XTERRA USA crown Aug. 26, Sullivan won’t be sitting still this summer, to say the least. He has four European trips on the calendar as he’s planning to race the upcoming XTERRA World Cups in Belgium, the Czech Republic and of course, Italy.

“I do have a pretty busy summer,” he said. He’s already raced seven times on the roads, but is entering “more of an XTERRA block” as his Project Podium team relocates to their summer and fall home in Park City this week. Middaugh can’t stop greasing his road bike chain though.

“It’s a big goal of mine to do well in at junior worlds,” he said as he explained how he’ll structure his training given his duplicity of priorities.

“I’ll take both (XTERRA USA and junior worlds) very seriously and I think junior worlds is probably what the training will be a little more geared towards,” he said. “I’ll definitely mix in a lot more XTERRA now as the season kind of gets going; I think XTERRA is just a really awesome way to mix it up and have some variety.”

Middaugh took a full-load of online courses during the fall, going part-time during the hectic spring race season. He’s interested in exercise science, but without an online option, is currently in biomedical sciences. Managing his training volume, almost double what it was as a Husky, is his biggest challenge. Even though there’s more of a job-like nature to his workouts now, Middaugh said he’s loving every minute.

“Totally. I’m really enjoying what i’m doing,” he said. “It’s a really awesome experience to travel, study, and race all at once.”

After snatching the U.S. title from his dad last summer, he’s well aware of the target on his back.

“I think the U.S. had a very strong showing,” Middaugh said regarding Oak Park.

“It will definitely be a challenge (to repeat). (My dad) has said before, your first title is one thing, but defending it is a whole different level.”

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