Middaugh skips Ultimate Mountain Challenge, wins cycling time trial
VAIL — Josiah Middaugh has become a formidable time trial rider, now that he has his road bike out of the box.
The Eagle-Vail resident and 2015 Xterra world champion is known around the planet for his prowess on the mountain bike, but he never did much road cycling. Middaugh said the frame his bike sponsors had given him — a Felt IA — and that fact that it had been sitting in his garage for a year, finally motivated him to do some road racing.
“I’ve got the equipment now, so that’s part of the reason I wanted to see how well I could do,” Middaugh said.
It turns out he could do better than the rest of the field of top-tier road cyclists who entered into the open class time trial race up Vail Pass in the GoPro Mountain Games on Sunday.
Middaugh won by 6 seconds.
“It might have made the difference,” Middaugh said of the bike.
In comparing himself to second place finisher Leroy Popowski, who has won the Mountain Games time trial in the past, Middaugh said they recorded nearly identical watts-per-kilogram outputs.
“I thought he’d be really hard to beat, but I thought I’d be close,” Middaugh said. “I didn’t know if I could do it or not.”
UMC UP FOR GRABS
The arrival of Middaugh as a road cyclist at the GoPro Mountain Games also coincided with a departure from his usual role — Ultimate Mountain Challenge champion. A Mountain Games tradition is to award the title to the athlete who performs the best over several disciplines — usually running, biking and kayaking — and Middaugh has won the Ultimate Mountain Challenge (known as the UMC) every year it has been in existence.
This year, however, the format changed to a leaderboard style event where all contests at the Mountain Games would factor into the total, and it became a little too much for him to juggle.
“I just had to simplify a little bit,” he said. “I wanted to make it a little easier on myself and my family and see if I could do well at two events.”
Middaugh also raced in the professional cross-country mountain biking race, which took place on Saturday, finishing fourth behind Howard Grotts, Todd Wells and Grant Ellwood. Middaugh’s sons, 11-year old Porter and 13 year old Sullivan, finished 6th and 7th of the 27 males to compete in the Pepi’s Face-Off hill climbing race on Sunday. In less than 34 minutes the boys completed seven laps up the notoriously steep face at the bottom of Vail Mountain.
“Better them than me,” Middaugh said with a laugh.
As of press time on Monday, the new Ultimate Mountain Champion had not yet been determined through the points process.
Ciro the hero
Rounding out the podium in Sunday’s time trial race was Cristhain Ravelo of Eagle-Vail, a member of the professional road racing team The 303 Project.
Ravelo was taking a break from the National Road Series while the GoPro Mountain Games were in town and entered into a couple of races.
While competing in the time trial on Sunday, Ravelo’s chain fell off its rings and he assumed his shot at the money was gone. The top three finishers received payouts.
“I saw him pass me, and I was cheering him on, happy he was having a good day,” said fellow competitor Ciro Zarate. “His dad taught me everything I know about bicycles, so we’re pretty much family.”
When Zarate, who is also an accomplished bike mechanic at Pedal Power bike shop, came upon Ravelo stopped on the side of the course a few minutes later, he said he forgot he was in a race.
“I got off my bike and just ran up to him,” Zarate said. “I helped him put his chain back on and I pushed him up to get him going again, like they do in the big races.”
Walking back to his bike, Zarate had a thought: “Oh wait, I’m still racing.”
Zarate clicked himself back into his pedals and went on to finish sixth.
“Before he came up, I was ready to throw in the towel,” Ravelo said. “He saved me.”
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.