Middaugh earns US Xterra title for 15th time
Off-road triathlon season returns after one-year hiatus
Josiah Middaugh was the top American at the Xterra USA championship in Ogden, Utah, for the 15th time Saturday, an unprecedented achievement in the sport of off-road triathlon.
Middaugh, who lives in EagleVail, finished second overall to Sam Osborne of New Zealand, but as the first U.S. competitor to cross the finish line, he was awarded the Xterra U.S. Elite Men’s Championship title.
Middaugh’s career in off-road triathlon began in 2002 as an amateur Xterra racer. After winning amateur divisions he turned pro in 2003 and hasn’t looked back. The biggest moment of his career came in 2015 when he won the Xterra World Championship in Hawaii at age 37.
Middaugh would continue to be the top-finishing American at the USA championship in Ogden for 2016-2018, before taking 2019 off to participate in the “World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji” program on Amazon Prime.
No Xterra races took place in 2020, and in coming back to the sport in 2021, Middaugh said he was happy with his performance as the top-finishing American.
“Sam is super strong, he’s a hard guy to beat, so I was glad to be second,” Middaugh said of Osborne.
Osborne also won the other two championship races to take place in the U.S. this year, in Pelham, Alabama, and in Eagle County at Beaver Creek. It’s another rival from New Zealand in a sport which produces plenty of competitors from that region of the globe. Kieran McPherson of Matamata, New Zealand, battled it out with Middaugh during the 2018 season.
“When your career is this long, sometimes you get multiple rivals from the same country,” Middaugh said with a laugh.
And if the local race series is any indicator, Middaugh may soon have rivals from his own family nipping at his heels.
Sullivan Middaugh skipped the Xterra Ogden event to participate in his high school cross-country meet, but if the local mountain biking series is any indicator, Middaugh’s toughest competition domestically could soon be coming from his 17-year-old son.
In 2017, at age 13, Sullivan surprised all by winning the Xterra sprint event at Beaver Creek, the shorter of the Xterra events. His dad won the main event. The next year, Sullivan won the Xterra sprint again at age 14.
In June, a regular cast of local pros took to the streets of Vail in one of the longest-running mountain bike races in Colorado, the Davos Dash. Jake Wells, a cyclocross national champion from 2018, and Cristhian Ravelo, a member of the professional road racing team CS Velo, both participated, and both chased Josiah Middaugh.
But it was Sullivan Middaugh, now 17, who would finish second at the Davos Dash this year, just behind Josiah in the first-ever father-son sweep of the 39-year-old race.
Josiah said he wasn’t sure if Sullivan will compete in the Xterra World Championship this year, but Josiah said he is definitely planning on it.
It’s taking place in December, in Hawaii, which could mean the water might be rougher than usual. The legendary Xterra World Championship usually takes place at the end of October.
The prolonged time period will make training difficult, Middaugh said, as Eagle County creeps into winter and getting out on the mountain bike isn’t so easy at that time of year. Many trails aren’t open even if the snow has not yet started to fall.
But with only three races this season, Middaugh said the extra time could also give him a chance to go into the race fresh. With the pandemic limiting travel for many competitors, Middaugh said there may be athletes in Hawaii who haven’t been racing in events like Saturday’s USA championship. Wild cards, so to speak.
It will be Xterra’s 25th world championship, scheduled for Dec. 5.
“It’s going to be unpredictable, that’s for sure,” Middaugh said.