Josiah Middaugh returning to competitive Ultimate Mountain Challenge field at GoPro Mountain Games
10-time champ returns to take on marquee event at the GoPro Mountain Games
Ten-time GMC Ultimate Mountain Challenge champion, an XTERRA World Champion and renowned athlete trainer Josiah Middaugh will once again compete in the GoPro Mountain Games Ultimate Mountain Challenge competition, announcing his return for the 2019 event.
The GoPro Mountain Games return to Vail June 6-10 with a weekend full of adventure sports, art and music for free to spectate.
The Ultimate Mountain Challenge, undergoing an overhaul heading into 2019, is for athletes competing in multiple fields, combining scores from multiple disciplines.
“There’s nothing else like the UMC,” Middaugh said. “When this time of year comes around it’s just part of my life to start training for the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, so I’m glad to be back and taking part.”
Middaugh won the men’s category every year the event was held at the Mountain Games, culminating with his 10th victory in 2016. Then he took a two-year hiatus and will be back in 2019.
The more the merrier
Middaugh isn’t the only returning champ. Last year’s champion, Adrienne Levknecht, is weighing a return. She’ll likely be the favorite, but will have to top Emily Jackson and Courtney Kerin, who were second and third place last year, respectively.
Gretchen Reeves, who won in 2016 and 2017, is also returning.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this right now, but yes, I will be back for the 2019 UMC,” Reeves said. “When I saw the new format I inherently started strategizing, and I just love the challenge of it.”
A unique event
For Middaugh, 2019 will be about more than the competition itself. The Vail Valley Foundation, which owns and organizes the event, announced that Middaugh Coaching will be the official trainer of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge.
“This is a one-of-a-kind event because it incorporates whitewater, running, and biking,” said the Vail Valley Foundation’s Tom Boyd. “That’s the reason it’s so demanding and so entertaining to watch, but it’s also why it can be hard to figure out how to train for it.”
Boyd said that’s where Middaugh re-entered the equation.
“There’s nobody better than the champ to give guidance on how to prep for this event, whether you’re a pro going for the $10,500 prize purse, or just a weekend warrior who wants to earn your custom UMC hat and take on this quintessential outdoor challenge,” Boyd said.
The rules have changed since Middaugh ruled the roost, when UMC racers took on four events in a race against the clock. Instead, the new 2019 format for the event includes six events and will be scored on a point system. The final and sixth event will take place Sunday, June 9, at the spectator-friendly Pepi’s Face Off hill-climb event at Mountain Plaza.
“I love the new format, and that’s a huge reason I’m back,” Middaugh said. “It’s different — I’ll have to compete against kayakers, runners and bikers, all fighting to gain points in their categories before the big showdown on Sunday.”
Middaugh is likely to come up against steep competition. Kayaking world champ and last year’s UMC runner-up Nick Troutman will be back and will likely capitalize on the points available in the Steep Creek Championships and the Kayak Freestyle. His brother-in-law, Dane Jackson, has also signed up, and the champs from the past two years — Ryan Petry (2017) and Branden Rakita (2018) — have also said they are very seriously considering a return. Petry also took second to Middaugh in 2016 under the old format.
Middaugh said he not only welcomes the competition, but welcomes participation in the event for anyone and everyone who has an outdoor background and is ready for a unique challenge.
“Win or lose, there is a comradery there, and that’s what makes this event great — not only the incredible pros out there, but the everyday mountain people who come up to this event, bring their families, and prove to themselves they can get it done,” Middaugh said. “To me, there’s no better way to be a part of the Mountain Games.”
Just competing comes with the satisfaction of taking on a major challenge, and the first 50 who sign up and compete will receive a UMC-branded Osprey Hikelite 18 pack and custom UMC-branded hat from YoColorado.
The prize purse of $10,5000 pays out to fifth place in both men’s and women’s categories, and both men’s and women’s winners will also receive a prize package, including a $500 gift card, GoPro Hero 7 and more.
For more information about the rules and regs for the Ultimate Mountain Challenge at the GoPro Mountain Games, visit http://www.mountaingames.com.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.