Eagle-Vail triathlete Josiah Middaugh wins Xterra Dominican Republic
Josiah Middaugh captured the third annual Xterra Dominican Republic off-road triathlon elite title in Samana on Sunday, June 3.
It’s the second win on the Xterra Pan Am Tour this season for the Eagle-Vail resident.
Middaugh exited the water more than one-minute behind the leaders, posted the fastest bike split to pass everyone but Rom Akerson heading into the bike-to-run transition, then took over on the run to take the tape in 2:18:35, more than three minutes ahead of Akerson.
“Yes, I had a pleasant swim by myself in the turquoise clear waters of Coson Bay,” Middaugh said with a laugh. “The relatively flat course profiles on the bike and run certainly did not suit my strengths, but with the heat and humidity and soft sand, it became a strength race eventually.”
Middaugh is the reigning and two-time Xterra Pan Am Tour Champion and has won 31 career Xterra World Tour races.
Early on it was Karsten Madsen, Akerson, Branden Rakita and Kieran McPherson leading the way in the water and pushing the pace together on the bike. It wasn’t long, however, before things started to fall apart for the lead pack.
“With a fast and flat bike we all knew it would be advantageous to work together to keep or extend the gap on Josiah,” Rakita said. “But it didn’t quite work out that way. I had a small slip on a corner that dislodged me from the group and even with a quick recovery I couldn’t catch the three guys hammering ahead. Then I suffered a flat tire, and as I stopped to fix it I noticed Kieran messing with his bike in a sandy section up ahead and learned he ran over a palm frond that bent his derailleur. His Kiwi mate Alex Roberts tossed him a link that he used to convert his bike into a single speed and carried on.”
‘True Xterra spirit’
Rakita would go on to encounter a series of unfortunate events that wiped out any chances of staying in contention, but it did reinforce his belief in the spirit of Xterra sportsmanship on the course.
“Despite his own troubles Kieran stopped and gave me his Co2 and sealant after my second flat and we had a quick joke that it was going to be the single-speed vs the double flat to dual it out for the last spot on the podium stage,” recalled Rakita. “Unfortunately, I had a few more issues fixing the flat and never had a chance to try to catch Kieran and would have had a hard time anyhow with how fast he is running. Thanks to Kara, Nike, Kieran and two age groupers I was able to get the flats fixed. They all showed the true Xterra spirit in helping your fellow racer.”
With Rakita and McPherson working on fixing mechanicals Middaugh moved into third.
“I was able to stay focused and gradually make some progress on the first loop on the bike then I bridged the gap on the second loop,” said Middaugh, who caught and passed Madsen but wasn’t able to pull away from Akerson. “Rom stuck with me and I couldn’t shake him coming into (the second transition). We started the run side by side and stayed that way for about the first mile until I opened up a little gap. I was able to push a little harder on the second lap of the run trying to negative split. Overall I felt really strong and had a great time in this tropical paradise. I love the challenges of racing in very different environments, but for now its back to the mountains of Colorado.”
It’s the second straight year Middaugh has won the Xterra Dominican Republic, which was held in a different venue last year.
Akerson finished strong in second place and complimented Middaugh on the podium.
“Josiah is just so strong,” he said. “I saw him 15 seconds behind me on the bike and by the time I looked forward he blew by me. After he caught me, for the remainder of the bike he would put in these huge surges and I put everything into my responses just to stay with him.”
Madsen came into the run in third position and finished there as well, a solid effort considering the Dominican Republic race was his fourth World Tour major in five weeks. The same should be said for Roberts, who finished in fourth, and McPherson, who never gave up and finished in fifth ahead of Rakita.
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.