Middaugh repeats as Xterra Beaver Creek Champion
AVON — Between parenting, training, dancing and battling a cold, Josiah Middaugh still managed to defend his Xterra Beaver Creek Championship title this week.
The Eagle-Vail local and world champion Xterra racer edged out newcomer Sam Long in a close race Saturday consisting of a 1-mile swim in Nottingham Lake followed by 15 miles of mountain biking and 6 miles of trail running through Beaver Creek.
“This is probably the best field we’ve ever had so I was real happy to pull it off,” Middaugh said.
In the women’s pro division, Xterra up and comer Julie Baker upset the field in her professional debut.
“This is a dream, I didn’t ever expect it, I was just hoping to beat my time from last year,” she said.
Avon local and Xterra veteran Brad Zoller finished first for the pros in the opening-leg swim, and went on to take eighth overall in what he said was among the best races of his career.
“I’ve been trying to win the water since ’09,” Zoller said.
‘STILL NOT AT MY PEAK’
Middaugh has been dominant in the Xterra Beaver Creek Championship for years, winning five of the annual July event’s last six visits to town, but few races have been as close as Saturday’s. While second place finisher Sam Long didn’t seek advice from Middaugh before the race, as so many do, his strategy did involve keeping Middaugh in sight whenever possible throughout the competition.
“I came out of the water and I realized ‘I’m with Josiah, I can just draft off him,’” Long said.
Long stayed with Middaugh for the biking climb through Avon up to Beaver Creek Mountain where they picked off the rest of the field; Middaugh then got out in front of Long during the downhill, leading him by about 2 minutes as they transitioned into the running portion of the race. Long did his best to catch up, finishing 30 seconds behind Middaugh and collapsing into the lawn at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain.
“I had a solid run,” Long said.
Middaugh said he has not been feeling well all week.
“I didn’t have the reserves I usually have in the run,” he said. “I’m starting a little bit slower this year, with all the racing I haven’t really gotten into peak form yet.
“It’s a long season so that’s a good thing,” he added, saying his ultimate goal was to repeat his victory at the Xterra World Championships in Hawaii October 23.
RESPECT THE ELDERS
The men’s field also included Olympian Greg Bennett who, at 44-years-old, decided to try the off-road component of triathlon after earning more than 100 wins on the on-road side in his 26-year career. He finished seventh in his first-ever pro Xterra race.
“I want to make sure I do everything I can before I’m done with the sport,” Bennett said.
Zoller, 38, said cross country triathlon racing doesn’t necessarily favor the younger competitor, as other sports do. It’s a statement Middaugh, 37, has echoed himself.
“I thought I peaked when I was like 32 or 34, and then I came back and now I’m just as strong if not stronger,” Zoller said.
Bennett said he had the biggest win of his career at age 39 in the Ironman 5150 non drafting world championships.
But that doesn’t mean a young person can’t excel. Second place Sam Long is just 20 years old and didn’t have the advantage of experience like Middaugh.
“Good thing,” Middaugh said to that end after the race.
As Middaugh attempts to win the Pan American Xterra circuit and go on to the world championships this year, he will now relax after the Beaver Creek Championships. He said the win had given him a feeling of relief after the race.
“With all the friends in town, I feel a lot of support from the community,” he said. “Everybody comes out and people are sending me messages wishing me well, it adds a little pressure, but in a good way.”
What had the father of three most on edge was the fact that his son Sullivan, 12, was competing in the Xterra sprint race. A toned down version of the big show, it includes one lap around Nottingham Lake, a bike climb with over 1,200 feet of climbing, and a 5k trail run.
“I was more nervous about that than my race this morning,” Middaugh said. “I walked around the lake while he swam, he did a great job.”
Earlier in the week Middaugh fulfilled a big commitment with his many admirers here in Eagle County when he appeared as a local celebrity dancer in the Vail Valley Foundation’s Star Dancing Gala.
“It was a crazy week with all the dancing stuff,” Middaugh said. “Plus everybody in my house got sick.
“This might have put me over the top, I may be in bed for a couple of days,” he said upon completing the Xterra race.