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Josiah Middaugh and Suzie Snyder captured the 17th annual 2015 XTERRA East Championship off-road triathlon pro race titles on a hot and humid day around the James River Park System in Richmond, Va. this morning.
Read the race recap from XTERRA below:
Both came from behind out of the water, took charge on the bike and held on during the run. It’s the second career Richmond win for Middaugh, who last won in 2008, and the first-ever win on the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series for Snyder.
The elite race started an hour earlier than the amateur race, right at 7:50am in the warm and shallow waters of the James River. There was a spot in the middle of the river that had everyone running across water—quite a sight for those watching from underneath the CSX Railway line or across the river on Belle Isle.
Craig Evans led the pro men out of the water on Belle Isle, midway through the swim, followed by Ben Collins, Brad Zoller, Braden Currie and Branden Rakita. Those five would post the quickest swim times (roughly 15 minutes), but Middaugh was only about one minute back and got in the mix on the bike right away.
“This is a really challenging course for me,” said Middaugh, who lives and trains at altitude in Vail, Colo. “It’s really different than what I train on all the time so it’s always presented a really good, hard challenge for me. I won it one year when Conrad (Stoltz) had a flat tire, it was on Father’s Day, but it’s been a while. I wasn’t able to do much pre-riding but luckily I’ve done this race like nine times or something so I felt like I knew the course, just wasn’t practiced at race speed on it. So I felt pretty good and surprisingly, I’ve worked on my technical skills a little bit and that’s starting to pay off. Keeping weight on my feet and getting around those corners. Today I had no problems, that’s the big thing. I’ve had a lot of mechanicals here in the past, but today I made it through the course unscathed.”
Middaugh may have been one of the few racers today who didn’t go down at some point. Runner-up Braden Currie from New Zealand said it was all he could do to stay on his bike.
“That was a tough day out, I tried to do what I could do and I just didn’t have it,” said Currie, who came in with three straight wins at XTERRA New Zealand, Australia and the Southeast Champs. “I’m a bit gutted really. I would have liked to been a lot closer to Josiah. It’s a bit annoying to fall off so much at the end, but that’s racing. Haven’t had the best few weeks so I’ll just take it as it is.”
Perhaps nobody in the men’s field could be as annoyed as Olly Shaw, who was in fine form and riding up front with Josiah about a third of the way through the bike before getting a flat that led to a DNF.
“Burped my tire, had a bit of a big crash, then I looked down and my Co2 canister wasn’t there. It was a bit of a nightmare,” explained Shaw. “I tried to keep riding with a really flat tire in hopes that someone would be generous enough to hand me something but everyone was focused on racing and it just got flatter and flatter. I was really having a good race up there with Josiah and Braden and Craig and feeling really good on the bike. Josiah was really super strong but I was pulling him back on the little descents and things, so pretty gutted to have that happen.”
Middaugh had the best bike split of the day, 1:24:56, to Currie’s 1:28:39 and Evans’ 1:28:49, and had nearly three minutes on Currie heading into the run.
“I wasn’t going to come here but decided on Wednesday I was going to try and strike while the iron was hot and come on out,” said Middaugh, who won the GoPro Mountain Games in his backyard for the eighth-straight year last weekend. “I’ve been racing well so thought maybe I had one more big race in me.”
Middaugh got into Richmond at midnight on Friday, then messed up his bike pre-riding on Saturday and credited Clint Kronenberger from Coqui Cyclery for getting him squared away.
“Great to have some last minute bike support from Clint, put a new shifter on there and did a bunch of other stuff last night,” said Middaugh.
Middaugh didn’t have the fastest run of the day, which went to Ryan Ignatz who shot into third place with a blistering 43:27 run split, but said he went as hard as he could.
“With this heat you never know when you’re going to just totally implode but I felt good at the start of the run so thought I’d run as hard as I could for as long as I could and actually felt pretty good the whole way,” he said.
Chris Ganter finished fourth and Branden Rakita rounded out the top five.
For all involved the course and all its character were the highlights of today’s race.
“The trails are amazing, and I love all the people out there,” said Ignatz. “Lots of good cheering and great energy at this place.”
Currie was particularly taken with the fanatics at the “Rock Face” section, saying “It’s pretty awesome going through those crowds, it really amps you up. Coming through the shoot by people with costumes and masks. I just wanted to stop and hang out with those guys, but you’ve got to keep on punching it which was pretty annoying. I’d have loved to sit down and have a beer and a BBQ with them.”
Middaugh added that the history around town makes Richmond a really compelling venue to race at.
“Just the setting, right in downtown. We’ve got Belle Isle that was a POW camp during the civil war. There’s a lot of history here so it’s just very unique. You don’t often get an XTERRA that has a downtown setting like this but still has really good single track and really good trails.”
Without the seemingly invincible duo of XTERRA World Champs Flora Duffy and Lesley Paterson in the line-up today the spotlight seemed destined to shine on either Emma Garrard or Suzie Snyder. Those two have finished second and third, respectively, at four of the last five regional championship races.
Garrard was coming off a brilliant effort winning last weekend’s Mountain Games in Colorado, while Snyder was still not 100% from her crash at last month’s Southeast Championship that bruised her ribs and strained her shoulder.
The two posted identical swim times and headed out on the bike behind Sara McLarty, Christine Jeffrey and Catherine Sterling, but it was all Snyder after that. By midway through the first lap in Forest Hill Park (about mile four) she had passed everyone and put two minutes on Garrard.
“I knew the bike course was where I could make my move because I’m so familiar with it,” said Snyder. “I rode it every week last year for two months. My confidence was good which was key. I nailed the technical stuff. I rode everything so clean, for the first time ever, which kept my confidence high and it was so exciting because when your mind is good your body is good.”
Snyder took a big lead into the run and would need almost every minute of it because Garrard was putting out a heroic running effort behind her. Garrard’s 45:36 effort was five minutes faster than Snyder, but still a minute short at the finish line.
“The run was tough,” said Snyder. “Emma was coming, I knew she was, because that’s what she does. I was just trying to run smart in the beginning because I knew the heat would take its toll later on. Towards the middle I had to do everything I could to put it out there and then my legs started cramping so I needed to settle down before I blew it.”
Smart effort and a big win for Snyder, who now has a XTERRA World Tour major (New Zealand) and a U.S Series win to her name this season.
“Second again,” exhaled Garrard, who has been the runner-up at seven-straight regionals since the start of last season. “I made more mistakes on the bike than I should have but nothing really bad. I kept telling myself I could close the gap, but Suzie was riding a lot better than me today.”
A month after posting a career-best fourth-place finish in Alabama, Catherine Sterling did one better and finished third today. Maia Ignatz and Kara LaPoint also had career days in fourth and fifth, respectively. LaPoint’s podium spot took some grit after twisting her ankle pretty badly on the “Dry Way” about two miles from the finish.
No woman had it worse than Christine Jeffrey, who crashed hard early and dislocated her elbow. “They finally got it back in joint after a couple tries, very unpleasant,” said Jeffrey from the hospital.
XTERRA East Championships
Richmond, Va. – June 14, 2015
1000m swim, 32k mountain bike, 10k trail run
1. Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2:24:53
2. Braden Currie (NZL) 2:28:40
3. Ryan Ignatz (USA) 2:30:21
4. Chris Ganter (USA) 2:31:31
5. Brendan Rakita (USA) 2:32:35
1. Suzie Snyder (USA) 2:48:58
2. Emma Garrard (USA) 2:50:10
3. Catherine Sterling (USA) 2:55:23
4. Maia Ignatz (USA) 2:56:39
5. Kara LaPoint (USA) 2:59:38