Middaugh comes home to Xterra Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

Middaugh comes home to Xterra Beaver Creek

Can Josiah win home race again?

Josiah Middaugh returns to home turf for Saturday's Xterra Beaver Creek off-road triathlon in Avon and Beaver Creek.
Daily file photo

BEAVER CREEK — No pressure, Josiah.

Every year when the Xterra Pan-Am off-road triathlon series comes to Beaver Creek on Saturday, all eyes turn to Josiah Middaugh. It’s a lot of pressure, so how does he handle it?

“Not very well,” Middaugh joked. “But luckily that’s what I’ve come to expect. The first couple of years, it got to me. It was mostly self-imposed. You just have to tackle one day at a time. That keeps some of the pressure off. I’ve realized it’s a good kind of pressure, not a negative thing.”

Modesty aside, the 40-year-old veteran has done pretty well with the pressure of his home race. He’s won on home soil six times, including five years in a row (2011 and 2013-17) before Mauricio Mendez knocked him off his perch last summer.

Packed schedule

Middaugh’s been pretty busy of late. In past years, he’s built up to Xterra Beaver Creek. With a newer format to the series — more events spread out over North and South America — Middaugh’s changed his schedule.

Xterra Beaver Creek will be his third race in as many weeks.

“It’s always an experiment, right? It’s not ideal,” Middaugh said. “I’m just chasing some points in the PanAm series. I would have preferred to race in Victoria and take off Quebec.”

Josiah Middaugh comes out of Nottingham Lake during Xterra Beaver Creek in 2017. Saturday’s race is a 1-mile swim, a 16-mile mountain-bike ride, and 6-mile run. (Daily file photo)
Daily file photo

But it is an experiment, as he said. Middaugh finished second in British Columbia behind New Zealand’s Sam Osborne and then won in Quebec last week, so maybe taking the week off wasn’t a good idea.

Middaugh is second in the points in the PanAm standings behind Osborne coming into Xterra Beaver Creek. Athletes pick their schedules, so the two have met twice, and the New Zealander is 2-for-2 against Middaugh, getting wins in Pelham, Alabama, and the aforementioned Victoria race.

Game on

An offroad triathlon is a 1-mile swim, a 15-mile mountain-bike ride, and a 6-mile run. The swim, Middaugh’s Achilles’ heel, is at Nottingham Lake. The biking, his strength, goes from Avon to Beaver Creek with the run ending at Centennial.

Osborne, Middaugh’s chief rival in this race, as Mendez, the defending champ here, is not attending, is good at all three disciplines.

“He’s got top split (times) in all three disciplines. It makes it harder to make up time,” Middaugh said. “He’s a tough nut to crack.”

Josiah Middaugh wins Xterra Beaver Creek in 2017. He has won on his home course six times during his career. (Daily file photo)
Townsend Bessent | Special to the Daily |

The first reason for optimism is the altitude. Middaugh lives here and Osborne struggled with it at Xterra Nationals last year in Ogden, Utah. In fact, the reason Osborne didn’t race last week in Quebec was that he was training here to adapt to the thin air.

There are very few, if any, people on the planet who know Saturday’s course better than Middaugh. Whatever the season, he trains here. Yes, Middaugh gives time to Osborne during the swim, but the local’s ability to ride home trails might be able to make up the difference.

The full-distance triathlon begins at 9 a.m., with the sprint triathlon, shorter distances in each discipline, starting at 8:15 a.m.