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Josiah Middaugh (USA) and Chantell Widney (CAN) captured the XTERRA Mountain Championship at Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, Colo. Saturday. It’s the third time in four years Middaugh has won the race, while it’s the first major XTERRA victory for Widney.
Read the recap from XTERRA below:
Middaugh was more than a minute behind the leaders out of the one-mile swim in Nottingham Lake but quickly biked his way to the front of the pack. He posted the fastest bike and run times of the
day and won going away in 2:07:22, more than five minutes ahead of runner-up Ben Hoffman (USA).
“It was a special day for me, everything kind of clicked,” said Middaugh. “You’d think that would happen more often on my home course but I’ve had a lot of dismal races here so it was good to put it all together and have one of those days where everything felt really good. It’s a really hard course but I was happy to suffer through it.”
His bike split, 1:09:32, was almost three minutes faster than the next best of Ryan Petry, and his run was 30-seconds better than the lightning quick 18-year-old Mauricio Mendez. Making that all the more impressive, Middaugh suffered three broken ribs in a bike crash just three weeks ago.
“Just one of those things,” said Middaugh. “It hurts a lot, and it’s not very easy to breath. I actually thought it was going to be a so-so day but it turned out to be a great day. Mauricio was the last one I passed on the bike (before mile three) and I really thought there would be more guys out front longer.”
Yet, as Middaugh explains, “It’s a brutal course. It’s really hard, even for people that live at altitude.”
Hoffman, one of the country’s premier road triathletes and no stranger to suffering, grew up mountain biking in Colorado and agrees with Middaugh.
“The course is tough, and I’m happy with a podium position, it’s better than my last two 3rd places here,” said Hoffman. “Josiah took it to us today, he was untouchable. I gave everything I had and was still five minutes down.”
Hoffman was riding with Ryan Petry, a rookie pro that has had great XTERRA races as an amateur in the past, but nothing like what he did today by coming off the bike in second just ahead of Hoffman.
“I’ve been doing a lot of mountain bike races and that helps a ton,” said Petry, a 23-year-old who just graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in marketing and moved to Boulder. “Climbing is kind of my specialty on the mountain bike. I love this. I sold my tri bike a couple months ago and think XTERRA is the way to go. I’ve convinced so many people to try it, and it’s cool to be doing fairly well. I’m having a lot of fun with friends, this summer has been awesome.”
Petry was sixth out of the water but caught the lead pack of Branden Rakita, Hoffman, and Mauricio Mendez by mile three. It was there that Hoffman and Petry put a gap into the rest of the field while Middaugh pulled away.
Mendez, the 18-year-old phenom out of Mexico City, was every bit as impressive as Petry today and caught him (and Rakita) on the run to finish third behind Middaugh and Hoffman. It’s the reigning amateur XTERRA World Champs second third-place finish of his rookie season.
“I knew I needed to do everything to put space on Josiah,” said Mendez, who was second out of the swim just behind Gavin Anderson. “I pushed really hard on the bike early on, and I realize I have to know my limits but I don’t know them yet so I just gave it everything I had.”
Another breakout performance was had by Alex Modestou, yet another rookie pro, who won the amateur race here last year (ninth overall) and finished fifth this season.
The first time Chantell Widney rode a mountain bike was two years ago at the XTERRA Canada Championship in Canmore. The ITU road standout finished fourth that day on a really tough course in the Canadian Rockies behind XTERRA greats Melanie McQuaid, Danelle Kabush, and Renata Bucher.
The experience ignited a fire within to chase the “fun” of the sport.
“I didn’t want to chase Olympic points anymore and wanted to do something fun where the bike means something, and mountain biking was on the bucket list so it made sense,” said Widney.
Widney had experienced success on the road, having won the ITU Continental Cup event in Monroe, Wash., on June 25, 2011, but had not reached the top step at an XTERRA championship race until today.
“Winning races doesn’t come very often so this is awesome. I really wanted to win a race this year,” said Widney.
It wasn’t easy. mma Garrard, the pre-race favorite having posted the best results of anyone in the field this year, was with Widney the whole way and even took the lead at one point during the bike.
“It was close between Chantell and I until the run,” said Garrard. “I was catching her gradually on the bike climb, and passed her on the first downhill but she re-took the lead. Then I caught up again only to crash on Corkscrew (near the end of the bike). Still, was able to get back on her wheel and went neck-and-neck into transition.”
It was awesome racing, not just between Garrard and Widney, but really a handful of women. Danelle Kabush, the 2012 Mountain Champ who finished third, actually posted the fastest bike split but look how close those bike times were:
Kabush, 1:22:17; Jaime Brede, 1:22:54, Shonny Vanlandingham, 1:23:01, Widney, 1:23:11, Garrard, 1:23:13, and Maia Ignatz, 1:23:17.
“You can get more out of yourself when it’s that close,” said Widney. “It’s easier to push yourself harder when you know somebody is chasing you down. I was running scared the whole time. I was sprinting the downhills, I just didn’t want to lose this.”
Garrard had great perspective after her fourth straight runner-up finish this season, saying “Even though I didn’t win today I had never been in first during a big race and I was today so that felt good. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to winning a race, and I could pretty much see first the whole way so that’s encouraging. I hoped I would have had more on the run but I didn’t. I was hurting on the first climb, and hope I’d make it up on the downhill but she was better than me on the descent. Still, I’m way ahead of where I was last year at this time and that’s a good feeling.”
The defending champ Shonny Vanlandingham finished strong in fourth while Jaime Brede had an amazing day to finish fifth overall.
Also of note, it was a great day for Moms, as all three of the top women have young ones.