Middaugh nabs tough victory at Xterra nationals
OGDEN, Utah — In the sport of off-road triathlon, it’s a suffer to the finish regardless of the level of competition you’re facing. So for Josiah Middaugh on Saturday, the fact that he had to battle it out to earn his win at the national championships made the experience that much more rewarding.
Middaugh, an Eagle-Vail resident, won the Xterra USA Championship at Snowbasin Resort in Ogden, Utah, by a mere 26 seconds over Braden Currie, of New Zealand, a narrow margin of victory in a competition that involves a mile of swimming, 20 miles of mountain biking and 7 miles of trail running, in that order.
“It was really intense the whole way, good back-and-forth racing,” Middaugh said. “(Currie) definitely elevated me to another level, having that competition.”
Middaugh finished as the runner-up in the Xterra national championships last season. This season, he has been leading the points race in the multi-event series, but has been receiving serious competition from Currie along the way. At the Xterra Southeast Championship in Alabama, Currie beat Middaugh by a few seconds to win the race. At the Xterra Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek earlier this summer, it was Middaugh first, Currie third. The Xterra East Championships in Virgina saw Currie finish runner-up to Middaugh’s first.
Currie is an all-around sort of competitor, strong in all disciplines of the triathlon. Middaugh says he himself is strongest in the biking and running, with the swimming always being a wild card.
“I had a good swim, for me, I was about (1 minute, 20 seconds) behind the leader, but the leader was Braden,” Middaugh said of Saturday’s competition. “It took me the whole bike ride to catch him.”
‘PASSED ME THAT FAST’
Eagle County was well represented at Saturday’s Xterra USA Championships.
Local competitors Rice Hilgartner and Peter Dann both won their age divisions, and Eagle County residents John O’Neill and Brad Zoller came out of the water in second and third, respectively, in the pro division race on Saturday. Zoller went on to finish 10th, O’Neill 13th.
O’Neill said he was excited for Middaugh — who came out of the water in “eighth or 10th,” by his own account — when he saw how quickly Middaugh was able to reach and overtake him in the mountain biking portion of the race.
“He passed me like three miles into the bike race,” O’Neill said. “When he passed me that fast, I thought to myself ‘Nice, he’s probably going to win the whole thing.’”
Middaugh said after overcoming Zoller, O’Neill and the rest of the faster swimmers by mile No. 4, it took him another 14 miles or so to reach Currie.
“We got off the bike together and traded places about three times on the run,” Middaugh said. “Finally with about two miles left, I was able to get a little bit of distance between us … it has to all come together to win a race like that. Luckily, I didn’t have any flat tires or mechanical problems, and the conditions were perfect.”
NEXT UP, HAWAII
Middaugh has won all of the various Xterra championships in the U.S., with the exception of one. That one, while it does take place in the U.S., is the biggest off-road triathlon race in the world, the Xterra World Championships in Hawaii. Last year, Middaugh finished second.
“I’ve been the first American seven times, but I’ve never won that race,” he said. “So that’s the goal.”
Middaugh plans on putting in some serious training sessions at Dogma Athletica on the CompuTrainer as the weather starts to turn, and hopes to head into that race in as good of shape as he is right now.
“I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in, maybe ever, just based on my performance tests that I do in training, and how my training and racing is going,” Middaugh said. “I’m going to put in some good training sessions over the next couple weeks and hopefully be ready.”
The Xterra World Championships are scheduled for Nov. 1 in Kapalua, Maui. Last year, it attracted more than 800 competitors from 40 different countries. For more information, please visit http://www.xterraplanet.com/maui/.