Middaugh back on top, wins Xterra Mexico off-road triathlon race
Special to the Daily
Eagle-Vail athlete Josiah Middaugh returned to the top of the Xterra off-road triathlon podium on Saturday, Aug. 4, in Tapalpa, Mexico.
It was the third win of the Xterra season for Middaugh, who was upset on his home course in Beaver Creek in his most recent off-road triathlon race and had to settle for second place. Earlier this season, Middaugh won Xterra races in Alabama and the Dominican Republic.
CAT AND MOUSE
In first leg of the race, 1500-meter swim, Mexican triathlete Irving Perez — who won the 2017 Yucatan International Triathlon Union World Cup — was the first out of the water in 19 minutes, 32 seconds and gained almost a minute on the rest of the pack. Leonardo Saucedo and Esteban Rosas were out next in 20:17, followed by American Branden Rakita, who was about 30 seconds behind.
“I was swimming with Rosas, and Saucedo,” said Rakita. “Karsten wasn’t too far behind and then Kieran McPherson and Paco Serrano were just behind.”
Middaugh said his swim was atrocious.
“But I felt fine, no issues,” he said. “I got on the bike and I didn’t hear any splits but I knew I had a big gap to make up. I kept pressing the whole time, but I was riding in no man’s land for most of the race.”
While Middaugh was putting his heart and soul into catching up, the leaders kept looking over their shoulders, expecting to be caught. They were pedaling as hard as they could to stay out in front of Middaugh, who is an expert climber with a knack for riding at altitude.
“I had a pretty good swim,” said runner-up Kieran McPherson. “I got out of the water with Paco and I knew he would be heading out to the front of the race on the bike. We worked well together to reel the front guys in. On the climb, there was a group of four of us – Branden, Paco, myself and Irving Perez – who were working well. I tried to attack the second climb to make a get but we were still together at the top. My game plan today was to get over the top of the first hill before Josiah caught us, but we managed to stay away until the last three kilometers of the bike.”
Canadian Karsten Madsen, who is usually solid on the bike, had a big crash on a steep downhill and lost ground to the leaders.
“On the bike, I worked to stay as close to the leaders as I could,” said Madsen. “On the downhill, my bike went away from me and I tumbled halfway down the hill. I had to really persevere to stay on track.”
During the last three kilometers of the bike course, the pack included Middaugh, McPherson, Rakita, and Serrano. Each was trying to make it into the second transition before anyone else, but they all entered together. Middaugh had the fastest bike split of the day with 1:21:35 followed by Francisco Serrano with 1:24:10 and Kieran McPherson in 1:24:21, showing just how well matched these athletes are.
In the transition, McPherson had some trouble with his shoes and lost about 15 seconds, which ended up being the difference between first and second place.
“The ten to fifteen-second gap I lost in transition remained the 10-to-15-second gap that Josiah and I stayed apart for the rest of the run,” said McPherson, who remained positive about the outcome. “I’m pretty happy with how it went today. It was a showdown of the top five on the Xterra Pan Am Tour, and it truly lived up to its expectations. I’m really looking forward to Xterra Quebec when we all meet up again.”
After Middaugh left the second transition, he was followed by Serrano and then McPherson and Rakita.
“It was a footrace from there on out,” said Rakita. “Those guys steadily got away on the run. Paco and I fell off the back and it was a cat and mouse game with Josiah and Kieran.”
NEW AGE GROUP
Middaugh finished in 2:25:04 with McPherson just 18 seconds back in 2:25:22. Karsten Madsen was third in 2:25:53.
The fastest split on the run belonged to Canada’s Karsten Madsen, who has been supplying the fireworks all season with his surprising performances.
“I had the mental fortitude to tell myself that if I ran really hard I could get myself back into the top,” said Madsen. “So I put my head down and ran as hard as I could. This was an incredible field of athletes, an exhilarating race, and I was fortunate to get on the podium today.”
Madsen finished the run in 37:22, almost a minute ahead of Middaugh who ran it in 38:15. McPherson posted a split of 38:22.
“That was a hard race,” said Middaugh, after crossing the finish line. “I feel good now that it’s over but I was suffering out there for sure. Now, I feel a bit of relief and a whole lot of joy. As a professional athlete, I’m always questioning myself, but today was a validation of my training.”
Middaugh, who turned 40 in July, also said that his win could be due to his years of experience.
“I’m pretty pumped to have my first win in my new, 40-plus age group,” he said with a wink. “I have to kind of take it to these young guys a bit. It’s good to be back on top, at least for a little while.”
While Middaugh has said he is not attempting to defend his Xterra Pan American tour overall title this season, he currently sits in third place with 499 points.
McPherson is on top with 652 points followed by Madsen, who has 508 points. Rakita is just behind Middaugh with 490 points.