Home town favorite Josiah Middaugh won his fourth straight and fifth of the last six XTERRA Beaver Creek pro titles. Julie Baker, who at age 39 is the reigning XTERRA USA and XTERRA Worlds women’s age-group champion, won her XTERRA pro debut at Beaver Creek, Colorado on Saturday.
Vail, Colorado’s Middaugh overcame an 8th-best 21:02 swim, 1:47 behind leader Brad Zoller, with a men’s pro-best 1:08:56 mountain bike segment and a 4th-fastest 38:51 trail run to finish in 2:10:06, with a 30 seconds margin over 20-year-old XTERRA rookie pro Sam Long of Boulder, Colorado.
“I felt good in the swim,” said Middaugh. “I knew there was a gap, but it was okay, it was a pretty good gap for me. I was worried that I was going to come out and be 2:30 behind, but I was able to keep it close enough, I think it was 1:30ish, so it was right where I wanted to be.”
By mile 11 of the bike leg, Middaugh was 25 seconds ahead of the Akerson, and roughly one minute in front of Hoffman and the young gun Sam Long, a CU student who was racing his first-ever XTERRA.
By the time Middaugh hit the last twisty downhill section of the bike course called Corkscrew, he had increased his lead on Costa Rican Rom Akerson to 1:15, had 1:40 on Ben Hoffman and Long, and had 2:40 on Branden Rakita riding in fifth.
Despite taking the lead into the run, Middaugh said the race was far from over.
“I did not have much left on the run,” he said. “For the first time in a couple of years I was in survival mode.”
Long, whose triathlon debut was a 13th place overall finish at the 2014 edition of Ironman Boulder and whose breakthrough was a 13th overall and first overall age group finish at the 2015 Ironman Coeur d’Alene, started with a swim 11 seconds behind Middaugh. Long surrendered another 1:50 to Middaugh with a 2nd-fastest mountain bike segment, and then took back 1:31 with a race-best 37:20 trail run to earn 2nd place.
“Outrageous, I can’t even believe it right now,” said Long, who has a double major at CU in psychology and integrated physiology. “Second in a pro race, against these guys - it’s incredible.”
Long may have been a rookie pro but he is a very experienced mountain bike rider.
“I’ve grown up in Boulder my whole life and my family has been fortunate enough to have a house in Crested Butte so I have mountain biked up there tons. Every summer I go up there and just hammer it, so I like to think this course is a lot like Crested Butte.”
Rom Akerson of Costa Rica took the final spot on the podium with a well-balanced 5th-best 19:44 swim, 3rd-best 1:11:22 mountain bike split and a 6th-fastest 39:51 trail run to finish 2:15 back of Middaugh.
Occasional XTERRA racers Ben Hoffman (2014 Ironman World Championship runner-up) and Leon Griffin (2006 ITU Duathlon World Champion) took 4th and 5th, 3:25 and 4:18 behind Middaugh.
Michael Weiss, the 2011 XTERRA World Champion, qualified for the XTERRA World Championship with a 12th place finish just three weeks after his 4th place finish at Ironman Austria.
XTERRA rookie Julie Stupp led the women's swim with a 19:32 split that gave her a 1:45 lead on Baker, whose 21:17 split gave her 1:23 on Suzie Snyder and 5 minutes over top contenders Maia Ignatz, Katherine Carter, Elizabeth Gruber, Kara LaPoint, and Debby Sullivan.
Snyder won XTERRA Pan American Tour events at XTERRA Oak Mountain and XTERRA Mine over Matter earlier this year, a great comeback after crushing her pelvis in a bike crash while pre-riding the XTERRA Mexico bike course last summer.
Baker caught Stupp early on the bike and increased her lead with a women’s-best 1:27:32 mountain bike split, which added 1:06 to her advantage on Snyder and 48 seconds to her lead on Ignatz. Starting with a 2:29 lead on Snyder, Baker posted a women’s 3rd-fastest 47:59 trail run that gave back 22 seconds to Snyder and 1:37 to Ignatz’s women's-fastest 46:22 split.
Baker’s 2:38:55 finish gave her a 1:53 margin of victory over Snyder and 3:42 over 3rd-place finisher Ignatz.
Baker, a soil scientist from Sonora, California, found it hard to believe she won but proved her switch to the pro ranks was no mistake. “This is like a dream,” said Baker. “I can’t believe it, and I didn’t expect it. I was just hoping to beat my time from last year (when she won the Beaver Creek amateur title). I’m super psyched to race with all these ladies who are awesome. I kind of died a little bit on the run but I had a good enough swim and bike to hold on.”
Snyder felt off form and said she was satisfied with her finish. “It was a just see what happens kind of day,” she said. “My body didn’t feel great, I wasn’t digesting the nutrition well, and my legs didn’t have anything. It was hard.”
Tess Amer of Boulder, Colorado, a 25-29 age grouper, had the fastest women’s time of the day in 2:37:21. Due to the 2 minute difference between the pro women's swim wave and start and the amateur women's start, she crossed the finish line in 2nd.
Ignatz had high praise for Baker and age group and overall winner Amer. “I’m so impressed with Julie and Tess today,” said Ignatz after the race. “I never saw Julie, she swims so fast. And Tess came by me on the bike smiling and pedaling away.”
XTERRA Beaver Creek
July 16, 2016
S 1 mi. / MTB 25k / TR 9.3k
1. Josiah Middaugh (USA) 2:10:06
2. Sam Long (USA) 2:10:36
3. Rom Akerson (CRC) 2:12:21
4. Ben Hoffman (USA) 2:13:31
5. Leon Griffin (AUS) 2:14:24
6. Branden Rakita (USA) 2:16:38
7. Greg Bennett (USA) 2:18:00
8. Brad Zoller (USA) 2:19:13
9. Mario de Elias (ARG) 2:20:41
10. Brian Smith (USA) 2:20:53
1. Julie Baker (USA) 2:38:55
2. Suzanne Snyder (USA) 2:40:48
3. Maia Ignatz (USA) 2:42:37
4. Katherine Carter (CAN) 2:50:40
5. Elizabeth Gruber (USA) 2:52:34
6. Kara LaPoint (USA) 2:54:54
7. Debby Sullivan (USA) 3:00:20
8. Mayalen Noriega (ESP) 3:02:03
9. Sarah Graves (USA) 3:02:45
10. Caroline Colonna (USA) 3:07:44