Josiah Middaugh of the U.S. ended 3-time XTERRA World Champion Ruben Ruzafa’s 15-race winning streak and broke through to an XTERRA World Championship in his 15th attempt.
“This was just the result of many years of hard sessions and hard work and it was amazing to see it all come together on a special day, with my whole family here to share in it,” said Middaugh.
Flora Duffy of Bermuda won her 2nd straight XTERRA World title by a 4:59 margin over 2-time XTERRA World Champion Lesley Paterson of Great Britain on the rugged Kapalua course in northwest Maui.
“Eventually I won by over 4 minutes which made it look easy – but it was not the case – Lesley is in very good form,” said Duffy. “She raced super well."
Middaugh, seven times the top American finisher at Maui, came close twice before - second place XTERRA World Championship finisher to Javier Gomez in 2012, and runner-up to Ruzafa last year. This year, Middaugh stayed within 1:45 of Ruzafa after the former professional cyclist’s usual dominating mountain bike leg, charged past the Spaniard at mile 3 of the trail run, and cinched the victory with a 2nd-best 41:59 run that brought him to the line in 2:35:32. This gave him a 2:59 margin over Braden Currie of New Zealand and 5:09 over 3rd-place finisher Ruzafa.
Middaugh said an improved swim set in motion the edge he needed to take down Ruzafa. “I was able to get out of the water with Ruben this year,” said Middaugh. “Last year he had 90 seconds on me and I think he was surprised to see me start with him. Maybe he felt he had to work a little harder on the bike – we were going back and forth on the first stages of the bike.”
Middaugh said it was never easy. “I had crashes at Mile 4 and again at Mile 6 – nothing serious and I popped right back up and lost just 20 seconds each time. But I also damaged my rear derailleur in one crash and I could not access my higher gears on the fast downhill sections. I just went into a tuck on the downhills and hoped I was fast enough.”
At mile 12 of the bike, Ruzafa surged away and increased his lead. “He really excelled the last 5 miles of bike on the more technical single track,” said Middaugh. “He really wailed that section and put a minute on me in the last 5 miles before T2.”
Middaugh caught Ruzafa at mile 3 of the run. “The terrain was the steepest part of the course going all uphill,” said Middaugh. “He looked like he was suffering quite a bit on the run and he did not put up a fight. I think he possibly worked really hard, lost energy on the bike, and paid for it on the run.”
Ruzafa, who won this race in 2008, 2013 and 2014, and who had a 15-race XTERRA winning streak going into this contest, faded from the lead in the sweltering heat on the hilly run with a 48:51 split that also let Currie, on his way to a 4th-best 44:12 run, into the silver medal position.
Up and coming young star Mauricio Mendez of Mexico blazed home with a race-best 40:51 trail run split to take 4th, 14 seconds behind Ruzafa. Courtney Atkinson, an Australian Olympian who fairly recently took up off road triathlon, closed with a 3rd-best 42:39 trail run to finish 5th, 1:33 behind Mendez.
Flora Duffy, who recently rose in prominence on the ITU’s elite World Triathlon Series circuit, continued her recent dominance of the XTERRA sphere with her 2nd straight XTERRA World Championship victory on the rugged and challenging Kapalua course in Maui.
Duffy led the women out of T2, followed by Christine Jeffrey of Canada, Jacqui Slack of Great Britain, Emma Garrard of the U.S., and Fabiola Corona of Mexico. Back on form after a long battle with Lyme disease and other ailments, two-time XTERRA World Champion Lesley Paterson of Great Britain and multiple XTERRA World Champion Julie Dibens of Great Britain were in the chase on the first miles of the mountain bike segment.
At mile 6 Duffy had a 2:10 lead on Paterson, 5 minutes on Garrard, 6 minutes on Slack, 6:30 on Carina Wasle of Austria, and 6:40 on Liz Orchard of New Zealand.
It looked easy on the outside, but Duffy said there were some difficult moments to overcome. “Every XTERRA race, nothing goes perfectly planned,” said Duffy. “There are always hiccups. This time I had a few interesting little crashes. No head over heels crashes this time. I did not hit hard, just slide outs where it kind of hurts and I lost momentum. Lesley [Paterson] charged hard behind me and all the all splits I got she was inching closer and closer. It was nerve wracking. She is a phenomenal athlete and super strong on the bike and can come from behind on the run – just as she passed me for second place in the final run on the beach here in 2013.”
Putting up a fight characteristic of her 2011 and 2012 form, Paterson sliced Duffy’s lead to 1:35 within a mile of T2, raising hopes for an upset. But after a 3rd-best 49:36 trail run that gave up 3:25 to Duffy’s 2nd-best 46:23, Paterson had to settle for the runner-up position, 4:59 back of the winner. Garrard, who closed with a women’s-fastest 46:09 run, took 3rd place, her best-ever finish at Maui and 4:12 back of Paterson.
20th XTERRA World Championship
November 1, 2015
S 1.5k / B 30k / R 10k
1. Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2:35:32
2. Braden Currie (NZL) 2:38:31
3. Ruben Ruzafa (ESP) 2:40:41
4. Mauricio Mendez (MEX) 2:40:55
5. Courtney Atkinson (AUS) 2:42:28
6. Francisco Serrano (MEX) 2:42:58
7. Yeray Luxem (BEL) 2:44:46
8. Rom Akerson (CRC) 2:45:08
9. Nicolas Fernandez (FRA) 2:46:52
10. Ben Hoffman (USA) 2:49:57
1. Flora Duffy (BER) 2:54:18
2. Lesley Paterson (GBR) 2:59:17
3. Emma Garrard (USA) 3:03:29
4. Myriam Guillot Boisset (FRA) 3:07:28
5. Elizabeth Orchard (NZL) 3:09:58
6. Carina Wasle (AUT) 3:11:24
7. Helena Erbenova (CZE) 3:17:13
8. Jacqui Slack (GBR) 3:18:05
9. Renata Bucher (SUI) 3:19:35
10. Susan Sloan (RSA) 3:20:45