Vail’s Josiah Middaugh claims title nine |

Vail’s Josiah Middaugh claims title nine

Sebastian Foltz
Special to the Daily
Josiah Middaugh, of Vail, strides down Vail Mountain on the last stretch of the GoPro Mountain Games 10-K Spring Runoff in Vail on Sunday. Middaugh took first place overall for the men's Ultimate Mountain Challenge for the ninth straight year.
Townsend Bessent | |

Top finishers

Ultimate Mountain Challenge

Pro Men

1. Josiah Middaugh, Vail, 3:25:19.72

2. Adam Wirth, Boise, Idaho, 3:53:24.22

3. Luke Jay, Littleton, 3:58:26.2

Pro Women

1. Emma Garrard, Park City, Utah, 4:10:40.73

2. Heidi Rentz, Moab, Utah, 4:15:51.34

3. Jaime Brede, Breckenridge, 4:20:48.95

10k Spring Runoff

Pro Men

1. Joseph Gray, Colorado Springs, 44:11.7

2. Andy Wacker, Boulder, 45:23.2

3. Alex Nichols, Colorado Springs, 46:49.8

Pro Women

1. Megan Kimmel, Silverton, 51:44.9

2. Morgan Arritola, Ketchum, Idaho, 53:58.1

3. Brandy Erholtz, Evergreen, 55:21.7

Road Bike Time Trial

Open Men

1. Keegan Swenson, Park City, Utah, 28:04.36

2. Michael Burleigh, Denver, 28:19.77

3. Andrew Clemence, Boulder, 28:39.77

Open Women

1. Annie Toth, Laramie, Wyo., 31:58.37

2. Abigail Mickey, Boulder, 32:29.9

3. Erin Huck, Boulder, 32:39.2

VAIL — Four events, two days and once again the same result. Vail’s Josiah Middaugh didn’t leave much room for doubt Sunday, claiming his ninth consecutive GoPro Mountain Games Ultimate Mountain Challenge title to close the weekend’s signature event. Emma Garrard, of Park City, Utah, took the top spot for the women.

“It feels really good,” Middaugh, an accomplished pro trail triathlete, said Sunday after the final event. “I felt like I was pushed in every event.”

The margin of victory may beg to differ, however. Middaugh finished with a combined time of 3 hours 25 minutes 19.72 seconds, just over 28 minutes ahead of second place finisher Adam Wirth, of Boise, Idaho. Garrard finished with a 4:10:40.73 combined time, 5 minutes ahead of Heidi Rentz, of Moab, Utah.

Middaugh called this weekend’s effort one of his strongest performances to date.

“My body is just holding up a little better,” the 36-year-old said following Sunday morning’s 10K. “Maybe it’s getting better with age.”

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Following Saturday’s downriver sprint and X-County Mountain Bike race, Middaugh opened the final day of the competition with a more than 15 minute cushion over Wirth. After falling close to one minute behind Wirth in the kayaking/paddleboard downriver sprint — the competition’s opening event Saturday — Middaugh gained almost 19 minutes on his competition in the mountain bike race. His 1:46:53.1 time on the rugged Vail Mountain course was good enough to finish eighth against a stacked field of pro riders.

“There’s some ringers here,” Middaugh said of the four events which included some of the world’s elite in each discipline. “The level of the field was higher this year.”

Middaugh continued to build on that lead in Sunday’s 10K run — finishing fifth overall and first among mountain challenge competitors.

“It’s just gnarly,” he said of the trail run up and down Vail’s network of trails. “This is the toughest 10K I’ve ever done and probably will ever do.”

Tough was once again the theme for the weekend. Middaugh said the combination of events, altitude and time between competitions make the Ultimate Mountain Challenge especially difficult compared to a standard triathlon.

“It gets harder as it goes,” he said, adding that the back-to-back 10K and time trial on Sunday is especially challenging. And unlike a triathlon, which is all about continuous pacing, “You’re going all out for each event,” he said. “With all these events, you have so much fatigue in your system you just hope that your fitness will shine through.”

Shine it did for him. Middaugh closed the competition, finishing first among mountain challenge athletes in the road bike time trial, on a course which followed USA Pro Challenge time trial route up Vail Pass.

“I’m really fortunate to string together a run like this,” he said of his nine-year run. Middaugh collected a $2,000 prize purse for his efforts along with a new Kyocera phone and other prizes. He has won every Ultimate Mountain Challenge since it started in 2007.

Out for a morning run

With the streets of Vail Village largely deserted and most of the town still shaking the cobwebs away from a Saturday night out, avid trail runners kicked off the final day of GoPro Mountain Games competition with the 10K Spring Runoff. Coming off of what he called a disappointing second-place finish in Saturday’s road half marathon, pro runner Joseph Gray, of Colorado Springs, proved he was once again the man to beat in the trail 10K. Gray — the course’s current record holder — finished in 44:11.7, a little over a minute ahead of Andy Wacker, of Boulder.

“It feels kind of like the Tour de France,” Gray said of the vibe from the spectators cheering him on out on the trail. “It’s unbelievable.”

The first place finish was his second consecutive win in the event.

Megan Kimmel, of Silverton, took first for the women in 51:44.9.

“It’s a fun trail course,” she said. “It’s fairly relentless.”

Explaining the win she added, “I just felt good. I don’t really know.” Kimmel went on to credit her fresh legs, having skipped Saturday’s road half marathon.

“A lot of the ladies did the half,” she said.

Straight up Vail Pass

A busy final day of competition at the Mountain Games continued Sunday with the Road Bike Time Trial. Keegan Swenson, of Park City, Utah, topped the podium in the men’s open division. He rode the course — which followed last year’s USA Pro Challenge time trial route up Vail Pass — in 28:04.36. Michael Burleigh, of Denver, and Andrew Clemence, of Boulder, finished second and third respectively. Both were within 35 seconds of Swenson. Annie Toth (31:58.57) finished first among women, followed by Abigail Mickey and Erin Huck.

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