High Altitude Showdown
Story and photos by Melanie Wong
Beaver Creek, CO (July 16, 2011) – The XTERRA Mountain Championship at Beaver Creek had it all – high altitude, mountainous climbs and stiff competition from the best racers in the sport. Top off-road triathletes arrived at Beaver Creek to battle it out on the last of six regional races in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series.
The course featured a calm, 2-mile swim in Avon’s Nottingham Lake, followed by a vertical heavy, 16-mile mountain bike course on smooth, winding singletrack. The final leg, a 6-mile trail run boasting two big hills, surprised many competitors with its toughness. The race boasted nearly 5,000 total feet of climbing, all topping out at an elevation of 9,000 feet.
“As far as toughness and climbing, it’s the hardest on the circuit,” said Gunnison’s Brian Smith, who finished third in the pro race. “The bike portion isn’t the toughest technically, but it doesn’t need to be with the climbing and elevation.”
Middaugh wins at home
The men’s pro race was a close match up between the top contenders, but Vail’s Josiah Middaugh came out on top. Boulder’s Seth Wealing took second a mere 19 seconds behind, and Gunnison’s Brian Smith took third 21 seconds behind Wealing.
For Middaugh, the win was special, not only because it was on his home turf on a course he helped design, but because the victory at Beaver Creek has eluded him until now. In previous XTERRAs, Middaugh took podium spots, but was always denied the win by chronic injuries, bad luck and tough competition.
“It’s mixture of excitement and relief to win… at the moment, mostly relief,” Middaugh said after the race. “For me, this race has been a monkey on my back. I didn’t do anything exceptional today, I just had a solid race and kept it together.”
Middaugh’s strategy went according to plan – survive the swim and catch up on the bike and run. He came out of the lake about 1 minute 40 seconds behind, and quickly gained on the bike portion, passing Wealing about halfway up. During the run, Wealing trailed close behind Middaugh. Smith and fourth place finisher Nico Lebrun were closing in fast as well.
“I saw (Wealing) with less than a mile to go, and I knew I had to keep going. I went hard and kept within myself and hung onto the win,” Middaugh said.
Wealing was deep in his own race, and said he didn’t realize he was closing in on Middaugh.
“With this course, it’s mostly about being smart and knowing yourself – knowing not just your strengths, but also your weaknesses, knowing when to go hard and when not to,” he said. “For me that means starting steady and building up. At the end, I was trying not to blow up. I’m happy with where I finished.”
“Shonny V.” does it again
The women’s race was a showdown between Durango’s Shonny Vanlandingham and Canadian Melanie McQuaid. Reigning XTERRA world champion “Shonny V.” came out on top, taking her fourth XTERRA Mountain Championship win at Beaver Creek.
McQuaid hadn’t originally planned to race at Beaver Creek until realizing that if Vanlandingham won, and she didn’t race, that she would be out of the running to win the overall XTERRA Pro Series. The Beaver Creek results mean that the two women will go head to head at the national championships at Odgen, Utah.
McQuaid said she had a close race with third place finisher Kelley Cullen of New Castle and fourth place finisher Sara Tarkington of Boulder, but finally managed to pull away during the run. The race was tough, she admitted, and she struggled with the high altitude.
“I came, I didn’t embarrass myself, and this is a good confidence booster,” she said. “I had an awesome battle with those girls out there.”
Top Ten Women
1. Shonny Vanlandingham 2:30:16
2. Melanie McQuaid 2:33:16
3. Kelley Cullen 2:35:00
4. Sara Tarkington 2:35:25
5. Emma Garrard 2:39:59
6. Tamara Donelson 2:44:41
7. Luisa Bryce 2:46:42
8. Christine Jeffrey 2:48:14
9. Susanne Snyder 2:48:32
10. Genevieve Evans 2:49:49
Top Ten Men
1. Josiah Middaugh 2:12:05
2. Seth Wealing 2:12:24
3. Brian Smith 2:12:46
4. Nico Lebrun 2:13:42
5. Branden Rakita 2:17:19
6. Brad Zoller 2:17:36
7. Jason Michalak 2:20:18
8. Timothy Reed 2:20:24
9. Cody Waite 2:21:53
10. Ryan Ignatz 2:21:58