Middaugh leads Team USA at ITU Worlds | VailDaily.com

Middaugh leads Team USA at ITU Worlds

Special to the DailyThe ITU Cross Tri World Championships are set to kick up dirt in Shelby County, Ala., on Saturday. Pictured here, from left, are Team USA members Craig Evans, Branden Rakita, Josiah Middaugh and Cody Waite.

The ITU Cross Worlds are being held in the U.S. this year, and leading Team USA is Eagle-Vail resident Josiah Middaugh.-

The International Triathlon Union (ITU) Cross Triathlon World Championships is a single-event, off-road version of the ITU World Triathlon Series, which serves a qualifier for the Olympic sport of road triathlon.

This is only the second year the ITU has held a Cross World Championships. Last year, the first-ever ITU Cross Worlds was held in Spain, where Middaugh finished fourth.-

“It was a new type of race for us, it was a little shorter, and there were multiple laps for each-discipline,” he said.-“It was a very flat course, and we’re used to a little elevation gain on the bike and the run, so it was-definitely-a tough course to be ready for, but is was a really well run event, a lot of excitement with multiple laps and really spectator friendly.”

Middaugh says competing against the world’s best in a pro-only world championships narrowed the field and made it much more competitive than he’s used to seeing. If the ITU is to cross tri what the Olympics are to basketball, then the Xterra circuit — which Middaugh competes in here in the U.S. — would be the NBA, only with amateurs allowed to test their skills alongside the pros. Middaugh said last year’s ITU winner, Conrad Stoltz, is the man to beat this year.-

“He excels-at flatter courses with less technical biking, and this is a really flat course,” said the climber Middaugh. “It’s not a course that suits my strengths at all, but I’m going to give it my best shot and I’ve been training specifically for it as best I can.”

Still, his fellow Americans are looking to Middaugh to lead the pack.

“To help me improve my training and racing performance this year, my 2012 motto is WWJD – What Would Josiah Do?” said Team USA member Cody Waite.

“It’s a motto that could serve the entire team well,” said Trey Garman, spokesperson for Xterra. “Josiah-has been the most successful and consistent American in the sport for nearly a decade.”

This year’s event is being held at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Ala.-The course is longer in distance than last year’s world championships in Spain, but the format is the same with multiple laps on the trails. There will be three laps totaling 31K on the bike and two 5K laps for the run.-

A recurring venue on the Xterra circuit, after last year’s race in Shelby County (the Xterra U.S. Southeastern Championship) Stoltz said the course was his favorite of all time.

“This place is amazing,” he said. “It’s a true Xterra course with a nice swim in a beautiful lake, a technical, fun mountain bike course and a tough run.”

Xterra has been selected by the ITU to produce the event, and is holding it in conjunction with the 7th annual Xterra Southeastern Championship race.

“We are excited about bringing the ITU Cross Tri World Championships to the U.S.,” said Xterra managing director Dave Nicholas, who served as the Team USA Manager at the ITU Championships in Spain last year. “By combining the XTERRA series with ITU we are reaching new heights in cooperation between directors and the federations.”

ITU President Marisol Casado-grees.

“ITU acknowledges XTERRA’s role in helping this vibrant and dynamic (cross) format emerge … I hope working together on this exciting course will help continue to push cross triathlon to a new level. ITU is always looking for ways to strengthen our multisports as we are proudly committed to each and every one in the ITU community, not just triathlon. After all, at its heart triathlon is a multi-discipline sport and we believe each form plays an important part in developing our sport around the world.”

In addition to road and cross, ITU also governs over the multi-sport diciplines of duathlon, aquathlon, and winter triathlon. It was founded at the first ITU Congress in Avignon, France, in 1989. It soon saw road triathlon awarded Olympic Games status in 1994, making its Olympic debut in Sydney in 2000.-

“To have ITU involved in cross triathlon is pretty exciting,” said Middaugh. “Now there’s some potential for off-road triathlon to actually be in the Olympics.”

The ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships-are on Saturday.