Middaugh and Middaugh win races at Xterra
BEAVER CREEK — There were no surprises Saturday at the main event of the Xterra Beaver Creek off-road triathlon as local Josiah Middaugh won for the fifth straight year.
Spectators may have been surprised to see the results of the shorter sprint race, however, as Middaugh’s name was also atop that event.
None were more surprised than Josiah Middaugh to learn that his son, 13-year-old Sullivan Middaugh, had won the sprint contest on Saturday.
“It was totally unexpected … That was his first time on the bike course this year,” Josiah Middaugh said of Sullivan. “He hasn’t really been training, just swimming twice a week at school.”
On the women’s side, “The Scottish Rocket” Lesley Paterson said the Beaver Creek course was her perfect venue as she crossed the finish nearly 10 minutes ahead of second place Suzie Snyder in the professional race.
“I wish this was the worlds’ course,” said Paterson. “I love climbing, I love the mountains, I love the people, I just love everything about this course.”
The Xterra full course event was a qualifier for the 2017 Xterra World Championship in Maui and included a 1-mile swim, a 15-mile mountain-bike ride and a 5.77-mile trail run. The sprint is a 0.5 mile swim, a 9-mile mountain bike ride and a 3-mile trail run. The sprint is designed to be more enjoyable, and that’s what Josiah Middaugh thinks helped his son the most in taking the win against competitors who were, in some cases, more than twice his age.
“He just wanted to have fun,” Josiah Middaugh said of Sullivan. “He was really excited about the race … he’s got the right mindset.”
The father-son duo was able to feed off each other’s success in the race, Sullivan Middaugh off his father’s past victories and Josiah Middaugh off the news of Sullivan’s win, which he learned about during his own race.
When asked about the expectations that come with bearing the Middaugh name, “it gives me motivation,” Sullivan Middaugh said.
Josiah Middaugh said he first heard Sullivan had won the sprint race during his transition between mountain biking and running in the pro race.
“I heard it again on the run, and I felt like I couldn’t let the family down and had to follow through,” he said.
At that point in the race, Josiah Middaugh was about 1 minute ahead of reigning Xterra world champion Mauricio Mendez. He gained the lead at the point of the annual race when Josiah Middaugh usually gains the lead, during the mountain biking leg of the triathlon. Josiah Middaugh said he passed Mendez at about mile 12 of the 15-mile bike ride.
“I came up with him and he put up a really strong fight,” Josiah Middaugh said following the race. “I got a little gap and I know this trail so well, I was able to put a little bit of time on some of those flat and twists and turns and I was able to just have a little cushion.”
Josiah Middaugh posted the fastest bike split of the day in 1 hour, 9 minutes, 36 seconds, nearly four minutes ahead of Mendez and third-place finisher Sam Long. Those four minutes proved to be crucial for Josiah Middaugh, who finally crossed the finish line just 41 seconds ahead of Mendez.
“The way I race, I go so hard on the bike, the run is sometimes a crapshoot,” Josiah Middaugh said after the race. “I feel like I’m a strong runner but sometimes it’s not there when I give everything on the bike. Today was one of those days, and at altitude that makes it so much harder, you don’t feel like you have it and you just have to go to a really dark place and dig a little deeper.”
RETURNING TO FORM
After winning the Xterra World Championship race in Maui last year, Saturday’s race in Beaver Creek was Mendez’s first Xterra race of the season. Josiah Middaugh has already won a pair of Xterra races this season, in Alabama and Costa Rica, and took sixth earlier this month in France. Returning from that race and readying for Beaver Creek took a bit of an adjustment.
“I had to get back in a training rhythm after missing training traveling, being jet lagged and doing a long race,” he said. “I really felt out of it for a while after I got back, and I only had about eight days to turn it around, so I just started feeling better the last couple of days.”
Mendez said getting back to Xterra racing felt great.
“I just feel great to start this second part of the year in good form,” he said. I’m looking forward to what is next and it’s going to be a lot of work now for Maui, and for Utah as well.”
As far as racing against Josiah Middaugh on his home turf, “It was tough,” said Mendez. “It was really, really tough from the first second of the race. It’s beautiful to race him, he just pushes my limits.”
Josiah Middaugh will head down to Mendez’s home country for his next Xterra race when the series visits Mexico on Aug. 5. Follow along at xterraplanet.com.
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.