All eyes on Middaugh as Xterra comes to town |

All eyes on Middaugh as Xterra comes to town

Josiah Middaugh crosses the finish line after winning last year's Xterra Mountain Championship triathlon at Beaver Creek. Middaugh will be defending his title today.
Anthony Thornton | Daily file photo |

If you go…

What: Xterra Mountain Championship — 1-mile swim in Nottingham Lake; 15-miles mountain-biking from Nottingham Lake to and around Beaver Creek; 5-mile run at Beaver Creek, finishing at Centennial.

When: Race starts at 9 a.m.

BEAVER CREEK — The interesting thing is that local triathlete Josiah Middaugh hasn’t been training for the early races of the Xterra Pro Series, yet he’s still on top of the standings.

Middaugh’s been a model of efficiency so far in 2015 with second-place finishes in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada, and Pelham, Alabama, and a win in Richmond, Virginia.

That gives him 280 points out of a possible 300 and leaves him 41 points ahead of Chris Ganter, his nearest challenger in the standings.

“Definitely, this is the first year I didn’t focus on those races,” Middaugh said on Friday before today’s Xterra Mountain Championship in Avon and Beaver Creek. “I kept focusing on climbing and strength to help me later in the season.”

That later in the season is today’s Mountain Championship, the USA Championship in Ogden, Utah, in September and the World Championship in Maui, Hawaii, in October.

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Being from the mountains, Middaugh naturally wants to make hay in these final three races, when his altitude training becomes a distinct advantage.

Middaugh has won the Mountain Championship here three of the past four years, and he enters today’s race as the favorite.

Of course, the field is not about to roll over and play dead. Rom Ackerson beat Middaugh in Xterra Costa Rica in March and will be on hand. Ben Hoffman finished second in the Ironman as well as second last year at this race. Ganter (second in the series points), Branden Rakita (third) and Braden Currie (fourth) are also in the mix. Currie has been working out in Steamboat Springs for the past month to get ready for this race.

The game plan

As his career has developed, Middaugh continues to try the find the delicate line between the heavy training necessary to compete in triathlons and over-working himself.

“That’s always the fine balance,” he said. “You can’t always listen to your body. Then there are times when you have to deal with fatigue. Recognizing it is difficult.”

As is usual, Middaugh just wants to stay close in the swim in Nottingham Lake. He said that a reasonable goal is being within two minutes of the leader.

Not only do Xterra triathletes spend the most time on the bike, but it is Middaugh’s strength. This is when he hopes to take the lead.

“I don’t ever try to save anything on the bike,” he said. “I’m giving everything and I’ll see what I have left for the run.”

Middaugh wrote in a column for the Vail Daily earlier this week essentially that one uses one’s arms in the swim; one’s legs in the bike and heart in the run. In no way doubting Middaugh’s heart, but the run is also when training at altitude and knowing this course like the back of his hand doesn’t hurt either.

“Without a doubt, that’s definitely a huge advantage,” Middaugh said.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, and @cfreud.

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