Vail’s Middaugh ready for home race | VailDaily.com

Vail’s Middaugh ready for home race

XTERA Josiah Middaugh 2 DT 7-18-09

BEAVER CREEK – Thursday night, they had dinner together. Saturday morning, they’ll be competing.

Welcome to the small world of the triathlons and Saturday’s Xterra Mountain Championship in Beaver Creek.

France’s Nico Lebrun won this stop of the Xterra tour last year, completing a 1-mile swim, a 15.5-mile mountain bike ride and a 5.75-mile run in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 6.8 seconds, beating Canada’s Mike Vine (2:16.29.1) and local triathlete Josiah Middaugh (2:17.42).

No hard feelings, though, as Lebrun got some home cooking at Chez Middaugh Thursday night.

“I know (Josiah) will be really motivated,” Lebrun said of Saturday’s race which starts at 9 a.m. at Avon’s Nottingham Lake. “It will be really hard to win here. Last year was disappointing for him. This year, he’s going to be hard to beat in this race.”

Healthy and ready

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For Middaugh, who has always wanted to win his home triathlon, last year’s Mountain Championship was a bummer in many ways. With the swim the weakest part of his repertoire, he actually emerged from Nottingham Lake in great shape in fifth place among the pros, just 17 seconds behind Vine and nearly 2 minutes in front of Lebrun.

But in the mountain-biking segment, at that time, his strength, Middaugh crashed, losing 4 minutes to Lebrun. Compounding his difficulties, Middaugh couldn’t make up the difference in the run, racing on an injured right knee (T-band).

Middaugh, who came to triathlons from the world of running, got his knee fixed up last winter and has been running well. In fact, he’s won the running portion of three of the first four Xterra triathlons of the season.

“It creates a different dynamic,” Middaugh said of his improved health. “Before, there was pressure to put distance on other people on the bike. This year I can get myself into position, and I still have the run to fall back on.”

Middaugh does have home course advantage in two forms. Since last competing in Richmond, Va., on June 20, he’s been training at Beaver Creek, so he knows the course well. Training at 8,000 feet – the previous four races have essentially been at sea level – doesn’t hurt either.

That said, Middaugh is trying to dial back his mental preparation for Saturday’s race.

“My main thing is not to do anything different than at any other race,” Middaugh said. “My home course should be a big race advantage. I need to race within myself. In other years, I was racing not to lose, instead of racing to win.”

Plenty of competition

Middaugh enters Saturday’s race with 352 points, second in the Xterra standings behind South Africa’s Conrad Stoltz, who’s 4-for-4 in 2010 and leads with 400 points. However, Stoltz, as he did last year, will not be racing at Beaver Creek, opting to prepare for nationals in Ogden, Utah, in September.

While Middaugh would doubtless like to win Saturday and surge past Stoltz in the overall, there are plenty of people in his way. First and foremost is Lebrun, who won here last year and parlayed that into a win in Ogden at nationals.

Lebrun won the Xterra France event last Saturday before arriving in Eagle County.

“I’m very excited,” Lebrun said “It’s a good race for me. I’m a good climber. I like this kind of race.”

Middaugh and Lebrun both like elevation change, which Saturday’s race will certainly provide. After the swim in Nottingham Lake, which both of them just hope to get through, the biking course gains a net 2,200 feet of altitude as it goes up from Avon to Elkhorn and up to Strawberry Park and over to the top of Arrowhead and back to Beaver Creek Village.

The running portion starts at the base of Buckaroo Gondola, heads up Cinch and then over to Strawberry Park and back. All of this climbing, however, does play into the hands of competitors like Lakewood’s Cody Waite, South Africa’s Dan Hugo and Seth Wheeling, also a Colorado native.

“I just need to cut my losses in the swim,” Middaugh said. “With such a long bike and running course, the swim is less important. If I can just stay close without killing myself, I just want to set my own tempo on my bike, and have everything left going into the run.”

News and notes

Shonny Vanlandingham is the prohibitive favorite in the women’s race. She’s the two-time defending champ at Beaver Creek and leads the women in overall points in 2010. … For those with a less-masochistic bent, there is a sport division on Saturday open to the public. It’s a mere half-mile in Nottingham Lake, 9 miles on the bike and 3 miles of running. To enter, check out xterrabeavercreek.com. … Saturday will be Larsen Middaugh’s first triathlon. Josiah and Ingrid Middaugh, along with their sons, Sullivan and Porter, welcomed Larsen into the world two months ago. “She’s a charmer,” Middaugh said.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.