Beaver Creek Resort - Avon, CO (July 20, 2013) -- Josiah Middaugh and Shonny Vanlandingham won the XTERRA Mountain Championship on a picture-perfect blue sky day at Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, Colorado this morning.
Middaugh, 33, the reigning XTERRA USA Champion and winner of three straight regional championship races on the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series, erased a two-minute deficit to the leaders coming out of the swim by the top of the first big climb at about mile four of the bike then posted the fastest bike and run times to take the tape in 2:08:00, nearly six-minutes ahead of runner-up Branden Rakita from Colorado Springs.
It’s Middaugh’s second XTERRA Mountain Championship victory in three years on his home turf where he lives just a mile from the course.
“Super excited because this is a really special race, one of the most important races I’ll do this year and it feels really good to win on my home course,” said Middaugh.
The win means Middaugh will take a perfect score into Nationals September 21 at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah and is in prime position to win the Series for the first time. Add his USA Championship win last year followed by a close-2nd to Javier Gomez at XTERRA Worlds with his three victories this year, and Middaugh could be the best he’s ever been.
“I’ve been injury free for a while and my training is as good as it has ever been. I feel like there wasn’t anything special about what I did today, I just did what I’m trained to do. In other years it hasn’t worked out when I’ve felt super strong -- I’d have a bad race or mechanicals. Maybe its experience I don’t know, but it’s all coming together so I guess you could say I’m at the pinnacle of my career right now,” said Middaugh.
Even so, Middaugh has no intention of letting up with Nationals and Worlds on the horizon.
“Well, first I’m going on vacation tomorrow morning for a week, then I’ll get back into it and put together a good progression, 10-week training plan to Ogden,” said Middaugh. “I focused on Ogden last year and played all my cards to have a big peak there and go confidently into Maui. I still want to have a peak performance at Nationals for sure, but I’ll have Maui in mind a little more this year.”
Behind Middaugh was a great race for second-place with Branden Rakita leading Ben Hoffman by a tail nearly all day. It would be Rakita’s career-best performance at a U.S. major, especially impressive considering he spent the last couple weeks in Europe racing at XTERRA France and the ITU Cross Tri Worlds in the Netherlands.
“Feels really good, like a lot of hard work has paid off,” said Rakita.
Hoffman, the Ironman great who’s won his last three long-distance IM races, hung with Rakita until a flat towards the end of the bike lost him some time and momentum but still managed to run strong into 3rd for the second straight year on this course.
Cody Waite also had a career-day, finished 4th for the first time. Waite also earned high-praise from women’s winner Shonny Vanlandingham, who credited the training program he built for her as one of the big reasons for her recent success.
“I started working with Cody and his EPC coaching business after Vegas and since then have gradually gotten more and more power. He’s great, and good with older athletes as it’s more about quality than quantity, his program is really working for me,” said Vanlandingham.
Also of note, Ryan Ignatz finished fifth to push him just a point behind Rakita in 4th in the Pro Series heading into Nationals. Dan Hugo earned some valuable points today as well with his 7th place finish (despite a bum hip), catapulting him into the No. 2 spot behind Middaugh. Kyle Leto made a splash in his XTERRA debut with the fastest swim and a 6th place finish.
Vanlandingham Wins, Dibens Returns
Shonny Vanlandingham has now won the Mountain Championship race here at Beaver Creek in four of the last five years (and she sat out last year due to injury).
The 2010 XTERRA World Champ was more than four minutes behind the swim leaders -- Julie Dibens and Flora Duffy -- but made it all up to take the lead into the bike-to-run transition and held on for the win in 2:29:51, nearly two-minutes ahead of last year’s winner Danelle Kabush of Canada.
“This is the first time my knee hasn’t hurt on the run since I injured it in 2011,” said Vanlandingham. “It’s a long rehab process, and I’m still rehabbing. I’m not as good as 2010 but hoping with two more months I can contend this year at Worlds. At one point I thought I would never contend again, but I’m encouraged lately and really happy to be getting stronger and stronger.”
Despite growing up in Texas, Vanlandingham -- a 7x member of the U.S. National Mountain Biking Team -- seems at home in the mountains. "I’ve been in Durango for 15 years, so probably more of a mountain girl now with a Texas accent.”
The day was made all the more special because her Dad was in the audience, witness to her latest triumph.
“I wanted to say thanks to my Dad for riding his motorcycle all the way up from Texas to watch the race,” said Vanlandingham at the awards ceremony. “He’s been my biggest fan. I’m 44 and played a lot of sports and he’s traveled all over the country on his motorcycle to watch my various activities … this one’s for you Dad.”
Danelle Kabush put together another strong Mountain race -- posted the fastest run split of the day -- to finish in 2nd and Kelley Cullen continued to show her prowess in the Rockies with a third-place finish.
With reigning XTERRA U.S. National Champ Suzie Snyder striding into fourth, it was a good day for the Luna Girls. Meanwhile Emma Garrard keeps getting faster, and had a season-best 5th place showing today, just seven months removed from having her first baby.
The feel-good story of the day goes to Julie Dibens, who raced her first tri since 2011 when she was leading off the bike at Ironman Worlds in Kona before having to pull due to injury. She led the bike through the first 10 miles before Vanlandingham took charge, and ultimately finished in 7th after testing the waters on what she could do on the run.
“It was great to be back out on the race course,” said Dibens. “Physically, it was much as I expected...fugly! Mentally, the hardest part was putting myself out there, but I'm glad I did! Injury wise... I held up pretty well. I struggled to run on the steep ups and downs, especially on the single track, but on flatter ground everything felt good. I now feel confident that I can push the fitness on in training a bit and see if I can get back in the mix with these tough girls.”
The best news for XTERRA fans is that Maui and a shot to become the first woman to win four XTERRA World Championship titles is in her sights.
Results are available from: JTLTiming.com.