In each of the last two seasons here in the desert Middaugh had come close to defeating everyone’s chief rival – 4x XTERRA World Champ Conrad Stoltz – only to fall seconds short (by 32 seconds in ’09 and 39 seconds last year).
This year it looked like deja-vu all over again with Stoltz taking a seemingly commanding one-minute, 40 second lead into the run, however, Middaugh – fresh off a winter spent crushing the competition on snowshoes – put together a ridiculously fast run and caught Stoltz on the last big climb at about the four-mile mark and never looked back.
“Josiah is crazy. It doesn’t matter if it’s flat, downhill, or uphill he runs the same speed – fast,” said Stoltz after the race. “I thought I had it but this course is very hilly, and he is such a great hill runner that I needed a bigger lead. I was walking up that last big climb and he just came flying past.”
Middaugh had the fastest run of the day, a 37:59 to Stoltz’ 40:47, and said he ran as hard as he could the entire time.
“I’ve been snowshoe racing all winter and we run up stuff steeper than that hill so I really tried to peg it, get my heart rate going and just go for it,” said Middaugh, who won the North American Snowshoe Championship and USAT Winter Triathlon National Championship in the off-season.
“I knew the climbing was done by mile four so I had to attack the run. Conrad crushed the bike, and put more time on me than I had hoped for, so I had to ran as hard as I could on every climb to try and make it back early.”
The outcome could have been different had Stoltz’ not gone off-course on the bike and lost a minute or more heading in the wrong direction.
“It’s really my fault. I pre-rode the course and new it well but ended up following some age groupers and we got off course,” said Stoltz. “It probably added a minute to a minute-and-a-half on the bike. I still thought I had it but in the end it was too much. But all credit to Josiah, he had a great race, especially considering he came right out of winter. He’s got good form, it’s going to make for a great summer of racing.”
While Stoltz had the fastest bike split, and Middaugh the fastest run, Branden Rakita – who was the top American at XTERRA Worlds last year – had the best swim and a solid bike and run to finish third, tying his career-best (he was also third at the XTERRA Canada Championship last year).
“It was really tight on the bike today, with a lot of guys hanging around up front like Branden and Seth Wealing so I was worried they’d sneak up on the run,” said Middaugh (pictured).
Former XTERRA World Champion Nico Lebrun was more than four minutes back out of the swim but made up that time with the third quickest bike and fourth-best run to propel himself into fourth place.
Chris Stehula, last year’s USAT collegiate national champ, had his best-ever XTERRA showing to round out the podium, while Jim Thijs from Belgium finished sixth and Wealing seventh to round out the money spots.
“This course was more technical than I thought it would be,” said Stoltz of the sandy, rocky, moon-like surface.
“I rode it on Tuesday and it was hard-packed and I thought it would be so easy, but with all the riders churning it up over the week it really got loose and more technical than you’d think, so anybody that rode well today should be proud.”
Top 5 Men
1. Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2:13:39
2. Conrad Stoltz (RSA) 2:14:38
3. Branden Rakita (USA) 2:17:46
4. Nicolas Lebrun (FRA) 2:19:16
5. Chris Stehula (USA) 2:20:13
Top 5 Women
1. Melanie McQuaid (CAN) 2:32:29
2. Shonny Vanlandingham (USA) 2:35:50
3. Christine Jeffrey (CAN) 2:37:02
4. Kelley Cullen (USA) 2:38:56
5. Danele Kabush (CAN) 2:39:06
9. Rosemarie Gerspacher (CAN) 2:49:58.