Middaugh dominant, wins Xterra series finale in Utah by nearly 4 minutes
EAGLE-VAIL — Hometown competitor Josiah Middaugh enjoyed his fifth Xterra win of the season at the series’ final event on Saturday, Sept. 15, at Snowbasin resort in Utah.
Coming in 3 minutes and 57 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Middaugh said the large gap may have been due in part to an interesting misunderstanding that occurred during the race.
“I thought I was in second,” he said with a laugh.
Another big factor was Middaugh’s strong swim performance. The first-leg swim of Xterra races are usually the Eagle-Vail resident’s weakest discipline; often times, after coming out of the water minutes behind the leader, Middaugh must spend much of the second phase of the triathlon — the mountain biking section — catching up.
On Saturday, however, Middaugh finished the swim section roughly 40 seconds behind the leader.
“By mile 4 and a half (on the mountain bike) I took the lead,” Middaugh said. “I thought Mauricio Mendez was still up the road, but I actually passed him earlier, so I was just going for broke through the whole bike ride, thinking I was still chasing.”
Middaugh is more than just a professional competitor in off-road triathlon, he’s also a coach.
On Saturday, throughout the lower ranks of the competition, athletes wearing Middaugh Coaching jerseys could be seen putting on top-tier performances in their age divisions.
Middaugh said his own performance Saturday was a bit of a case study in one of the major lessons he teaches.
“My strategy in Xterra is just to go as hard as I can for the duration of the race,” Middaugh said Saturday. “You don’t want to become too strategic with it because there’s no room for that in this sport, it’s really a race against the climb, and a race against the course”
Middaugh said it was the biggest margin he has ever won by in the Utah race.
“It’s actually the biggest margin I can remember it being won by,” he said.
SECOND IN SERIES
The Xterra off-road triathlon Pan Am Championship series consisted of 12 events dispersed across North and South America. Middaugh competed in eight of the 12 and took second in the series overall.
He started the season by saying that he wasn’t necessarily competing for the series overall win, just hoping to do as well as he could in the limited number of races he was planning on entering. The series is a points race, so every opportunity forfeited is 0 points against 75 or 100 to the winner.
In the Utah race the points were doubled, with the winner taking 200. Middaugh went into the race 139 points behind leader Kieran McPherson, who needed 13th or better to win the series. McPherson finished seventh in the race, which was his 11th of the 12 total events in the Pan Am Series, and took the series overall win by 55 points.
With series overall standings paying out better than individual events, taking part in more than one Xterra series can pay off for talented competitors.
McPherson also competed in other Xterra series in 2018, including the Asia-Pacific tour.
“You have to take a little bit of a business approach to it, but it’s also the toll on the body too,” Middaugh said. “(McPherson) is pretty ragged … he’s been racing all over the globe.”
‘WHO IS THIS GUY?’
With McPherson’s win in the Pan Am Tour a foregone conclusion for much of the season, Middaugh found tough competition from Canada’s Karsten Madsen, who battled it out for second on the tour with Middaugh while also competing in a limited number of races. After going into Saturday’s competition in Utah slightly ahead of Middaugh, Madsen ended up in third by 45 points after taking fourth on Saturday.
Over the last six weeks or so, Madsen has also been stationed out of Eagle-Vail, using the Middaugh home as his base of operations.
“I’ve been second to (Middaugh) so many times this year,” Madsen said on Saturday. “How many people would have the person who’s starting to breathe down your neck live right with you and learn more from you?”
Madsen said the first time they competed against each other, Middaugh beat him by 25 minutes.
“I was like ‘Wow, who is this guy?’” Madsen said. “I wanted to do that. No doubt he’s inspired me to be the best that I can be and see where that trajectory leads me.”
Madsen, 26, says he knows he will be racing for many years to come because Middaugh, 40, showed him it’s possible.
“When I first got into racing professionally, I thought there was a time limit on how long I would do this,” Madsen said.
Middaugh showed Madsen the folly in that line of thinking.
In 2018, “By far (Middaugh) was the best performer, consistently, on the Pan Am,” Madsen said.
Assuming Middaugh does slow down at some point, “he will always be a part of my racing career as I move forward and as he slowly starts to go off into other endeavors,” Madsen said.
RAISING A GENERATION
Madsen has already started to join Middaugh in one of those other endeavors as a coach at Middaugh Coaching. In watching what the group has done for the sport of off-road triathlon, Xterra organizer Trey Garman said Middaugh is raising a generation of Xterra athletes.
“He has hundreds of athletes who idolize him,” Garman said.
Middaugh says over the next six weeks you will see him spending a lot of time in the pool at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon, as he turns his focus to the Xterra world championships in Hawaii. The classic Xterra race that gave birth to the entire brand, a win on the Maui course is off-road triathlon’s most coveted trophy for many Xterra athletes.
Saturday’s dominant performance should give Middaugh a great boost of confidence heading into that race on Oct. 28, Garman said.
“The last three Xterra world champions were in (Saturday’s race),” Garman said. “So clearly the competition doesn’t get any stronger.”