Josiah Middaugh is the man to beat at XTERRA Beaver Creek
Racing gets underway Saturday at Nottingham Lake at 8 a.m.
Two Sams, one Josiah and a worthy cast of challengers. Who’ll finish first Saturday when XTERRA off-road triathlon racing returns to Avon and Beaver Creek?
Sam Long, one of the most electrifying racers in all of triathlon who set a course record with his win at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in late June, is returning to XTERRA Beaver Creek to again do battle with EagleVail’s Josiah Middaugh.
“I want to race because I can’t help but push my limits,” Long told XTERRAPlanet.com in June.
Long, in the same article, said he’s also eager to return to the mountains where he made his elite debut five years ago when he was a 20-year-old college student at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“Being in the mountains is where my roots are and where I am the happiest,” said Long, who grew up in Boulder and spent his summers riding around Crested Butte.
In his XTERRA Beaver Creek debut in 2016, Long came out of the water with XTERRA world champion Middaugh and hung with him all the way up the notoriously brutal first climb that ascends roughly 2,000 feet in 4 miles.
Along the way, those two passed triathlon greats like Rom Akerson, Ben Hoffman, Leon Griffin, Greg Bennett, Michi Weiss, and a dozen others. Long got off the bike in fourth that day, then posted the fastest run split to catch Hoffman and Akerson and finish in second place just 20 seconds behind Middaugh.
It was a sign of things to come for the 6-foot-4 star, who finished in third place at XTERRA Beaver Creek in 2017 and 2018 behind Middaugh and Mauricio Mendez from Mexico. Mendez won in 2018, Middaugh in 2017, and both are on the start list again this year along with Kiwi standout Sam Osborne — who bested Middaugh at the off-road triathlon’s series debut in early May at Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama.
XTERRA races take an off-road approach to the regular triathlon format, using mountain biking, trail running and outdoor lake and ocean swimming instead of their more traditional counterparts.
Kieran McPherson, another strong Kiwi contender, and American greats Eric Lagerstrom, Mike Meehan, Curtis Feltner, Branden Rakita are also among the deep men’s field.
“Racing XTERRA Beaver Creek against the best of the best is a tall feat when I have been focused on the on-road scene, but I want to see how I stack up,” Long told XTERRAPlanet.com.
He last raced XTERRA in 2018.
“Josiah is an absolute legend of the sport, and racing against him is a true honor, and Mau and I have an ever-growing rivalry. Plus, I miss the XTERRA family, and this sounds like a great time.”
Middaugh, at 42, is still the man to beat Saturday. He’s won six of the past seven XTERRA races since 2013 on this course, a grueling mountain challenge he helped design more than a decade ago.
“It’s always motivating to go up against tough competitors, and I am fortunate to be able to race such a strong international field in my backyard,” Middaugh told XTERRAPlanet.com. “The altitude and the course profile pose a unique challenge, but Mendez, Osborne, Long, and McPherson are living and training at altitude already. Still, racing above 8,000 feet in triathlon is not common. Other things equal, the best antidote for altitude is supreme fitness.”
For Lagerstrom, who was first out of the water in his XTERRA debut at Oak Mountain in May and kept up with Sam Osborne on the bike until he flatted out, Beaver Creek poses a whole new challenge.
“This sounds more like a breathing contest than anything, so I’m just going to try and stay out of the red zone where you can’t bring it back at that altitude,” Lagerstrom told XTERRAPlanet.com. “I’m looking forward to racing Mauricio on the dirt. I’ve raced him quite a few times on the roads now, and I’m really curious to see how he rides on the trail. Sam Long will be entertaining as always. I was super psyched to ride with Sam Osborne for the brief few miles before my flat in Beaver Creek, and I’ve been looking forward to getting the opportunity to do that again. Of course, it’s hard to imagine giving Josiah too much of a fight when he lives at this insane elevation, but we’ll see what happens.”
In the women’s race, Suzie Snyder returns to defend her Beaver Creek crown, but is up against Samantha Kingsford and Amanda Felder who finished 1-2 in front of her at XTERRA Oak Mountain in May.
“I feel good, and I’ve been training hard and spending a lot of weekends up in the mountains at altitude,” Snyder, a three-time XTERRA U.S. Champ and the top American finisher at XTERRA Worlds for the past four seasons, told XTERRAPlanet.com. “I know Samantha and Amanda are going to be tough competition, as always, but the real challenge is taming the Beaver Creek beast, which is all about pacing and racing your own race — whatever that means to you.”
The XTERRA racing gets underway Saturday with the 8 a.m. sprint race start, followed by the full course start at 9 a.m. The first full-course finisher is expected to hit the finish line in Beaver Creek around 11:15 a.m.