Josiah Middaugh from Eagle-Vail, Colorado and Lesley Paterson from Scotland captured the 15th annual XTERRA Pan American off-road triathlon elite titles on a beautiful morning at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah.
It’s the third win in four years for Middaugh at this race, and the second in a row for Paterson. Both have now won the championship in Utah four times in their careers. Middaugh’s fourth win took place in 2012.
More than 500 athletes from 30 countries took part in the event, which was the culmination of a 12-stop series of off-road triathlons spanning South and Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada, and the U.S.
The challenge started with a one-mile swim in Pineview Reservoir (4,900-feet elevation), followed with an 18-mile mountain bike leg that climbed more than 3,000-feet to the top of Sardine Peak (7,300-feet elevation), and culminated with a seven mile trail run featuring another 700-feet of climbing on trails in the Wasatch Range.
In the men’s elite race Middaugh came out of the water less than one-minute behind the leaders, took the lead from South Africa’s Bradley Weiss at about mile eight on the bike, and took the tape in 2:26:34. Weiss finished second in 2:30:32, and Sam Long from Boulder, Colorado was third in 2:31:18.
One of the race favorites, 2016 XTERRA World Champion Mauricio Mendez, had to drop out during the mountain bike section due to a broken saddle on his bike that couldn’t be repaired.
Brad Zoller had the fastest swim of the day, but Mendez was second out of the water and was charging hard on the bike. Branden Rakita was next, followed by Ian King, Brad Weiss, Karsten Madsen, and Middaugh, who interestingly, didn’t know Mendez was out of the race.
“Going up Wheeler, Brad Weiss was riding off the front and Karsten was riding really well,” said Middaugh. “I caught them both and couldn’t see Mauricio. I thought he was a good minute or two ahead of me up the trail. I thought I was having a really bad day.”
It wasn’t until after the bike-to-run transition that Middaugh realized he was in the lead.
“I thought I was chasing and was pleased to find out otherwise,” said the 18-year veteran of XTERRA who posted the fastest bike split of the day. “But I always go as hard as I can from start to finish no matter what position I’m in. You can only do what you can do, and you never know what’s going on with other people.”
Brad Weiss experienced Middaugh’s hardcore racing strategy first hand.
“Starting the climb on the bike, I thought if no one wants the lead, then OK, I’ll take it. But as we gained elevation I could feel the altitude starting to creep in. When Josiah caught me, I thought, OK, try to stay with him. At last year’s race I managed to stay with him the whole ride, but this year, he kept surging and surging and I thought, man this is miserable. You got to give it to Josiah. When you race the King of Altitude at altitude you always have your back against the wall. I’m happy with second. It’s my best result here at the Pan Am Champs and it’s a great stepping stone to Maui.”
At T2, Middaugh had more than two-minutes on Weiss, and Karsten Madsen’s ride was strong enough to launch him into third place, which he attributes to a solid six-week training block in Vail working with Middaugh.
“I had a great ride and was really attacking this course all over when in the past it was just about surviving it,” said Madsen, who fell a third of the way through the run and came into the finish chute with a torn and bloody kit. “It was just one of those XTERRA experiences and Sam (Long) rallied and blazed by me. Today was all about putting forth the effort and hanging onto something sizable and I’m proud of my effort.”
Sam Long – who grew up mountain biking in Colorado – also had a strong bike segment and was only 20-seconds behind Madsen coming out of transition. As the youngest elite in the field, just 22-years old, Long surprised only himself with his performance today.
“My primary goal coming into the Pan Am Championship was to convince myself I belong at XTERRA Worlds in Maui,” he said. “I wasn’t even thinking about going to Maui this year, but after XTERRA Beaver Creek when I finished third behind Mauricio and Josiah, Mau came up to me and said, ‘You gotta go to Maui. You deserve to be there.’ I thought, ‘Well heck, if two world champions think I should go and I qualify, then maybe I should go.’”
Walter Schafer had the fastest run split of the day, which was enough to nudge him into fifth place overall. Madsen finished the race in fourth after Long passed him, and Weiss held on to second-place.
In the women’s elite race, Paterson was seventh out of the swim. She caught Suzie Snyder at about mile five of the bike and never looked back. Her winning time of 2:52:12 was more than nine-minutes faster than Snyder, who placed second. Fabiola Corona finished third in 3:04:49.
In past years, Paterson battled Lyme’s disease as well as several injuries, but the “Scottish Rocket” is nothing if not tough.
The day started with Magali Tisseyre, a road triathlon star from Montreal, coming first out of the water followed by Julie Baker, Jessie Koltz, Suzie Snyder, Fabiola Corona, and Allison Baca.
“I was seven minutes back in the swim but that’s pretty typical of me at altitude and I know that,” said Paterson. “The swim was a challenge. It always is. It was finding the feet, finding the rhythm. I came out a few minutes down and that was fine. I’m mentally tough and I’m strong and fit and have had a great block of training. I haven’t been injured in seven or eight months which is a miracle so I’m just going to keep it that way until Maui.”
After T1, Paterson passed most of the athletes ahead of her on the climb up Wheeler Canyon but it took her a bit longer to catch Snyder.
“Suzie did really well, and I was stoked to see that,” said Paterson, who had the fastest bike split of the day. “I passed her about a mile outside of Wheeler and then once you are in the weeds, it’s just about attacking.”
Snyder missed a few races last year because of a health condition that affects her vocal chords and her breathing.
“It took a little while to feel strong and I have to be really conscious of how I’m breathing which is frustrating because I just want to go,” said Snyder. “Then I found my rhythm early on the bike and pushed hard. When Lesley came by me I tried to stay with her as long as I could.”
Behind Snyder, Fabiola Corona from Mexico and Allison Baca from Colorado were engaged in a battle that began on the bike course. Corona came out of the water fifth with Baca just behind her.
“We rode together the whole way,” said Corona. “I told myself to keep her pace and keep it strong and follow her uphill because she is such a good climber.”
Paterson passed Corona and Baca at about mile two of the bike course. Then the two athletes passed Baker and Tisseyre.
“I passed Allison on the downhill and moved into third,” said Corona. “Then Allison caught me in transition, so we were running together again. It was both a physical and mental battle for me to push. It was a tough fight.”
About three kilometers from the finish, Corona moved ahead of Baca, but just when she thought she could relax, she looked back and saw Tisseyre.
“I really wanted that podium,” said Corona. “On the downhill, I was like a snowball. I didn’t care. It was podium or die and I didn’t care. So, at the end I was really, really happy with third place.”
Tisseyre was fourth in 3:06:21. Allison Baca was fifth in 3:07:18.
Tisseyre was a bit of a dark horse in today’s race. She finished sixth at the 2012 XTERRA World Championship in Maui against a tough field that included Lesley Paterson, Barbara Riveros, and Heather Jackson, but for the past two years has been concentrating on racing 70.3 road tri events and she sustained injuries that prevented her from racing during most of 2018.
“It just didn’t seem like the right thing for me anymore,” said Tisseyre of the roads. “I was starting to want to get out of the sport.”
Rather than quit, Tisseyre signed up for the XTERRA Pan Am Championship and started working with a new, local coach.
“I still need to work on my technique, but I loved the adrenaline rush out there today,” she said. “I’m just so happy. I feel like I got something back.”
Elite Men’s Results
|1||Josiah Middaugh, USA||2:26:35||200|
|2||Bradley Weiss, RSA||2:30:32||180|
|3||Sam Long, USA||2:31:19||164|
|4||Karsten Madsen, CAN||2:32:15||150|
|5||Walter Schafer, USA||2:35:21||138|
|6||Brian Smith, USA||2:36:58||126|
|7||Kieran McPherson, NZL||2:41:51||116|
|8||Branden Rakita, USA||2:41:55||106|
|9||Nelson Hegg, USA||2:47:45||98|
|10||Joshua Merrick, USA||2:49:33||90|
|11||Rafael Juriti, BRA||2:51:04||82|
|12||Ian King, USA||2:51:48||74|
|14||Humberto Rivera, USA||2:54:20||62|
|15||Hans Ryham, USA||2:58:37||56|
|Also: Brad Zoller, Michael Nunez|
Elite Women’s Results
|1||Lesley Paterson, GBR||2:52:01||200|
|2||Suzie Snyder, USA||3:01:39||180|
|3||Fabiola Corona, MEX||3:04:50||164|
|4||Magali Tisseyre, CAN||3:06:21||150|
|5||Allison Baca, USA||3:07:18||138|
|6||Tess Amer, USA||3:09:04||126|
|7||Kara LaPoint, USA||3:11:45||116|
|8||Julie Baker, USA||3:16:51||106|
|9||Katie Button, CAN||3:21:12||98|
|10||Jessica Koltz, USA||3:24:27||90|
|11||Heather Zimchek-Dunn, USA||3:33:59||82|
|12||Kelli Montgomery, USA||3:35:39||74|
|13||Emanuela Bandol, CAN||3:37:16||68|
|14||Anne Usher, USA||3:52:52||62|
|15||Rebecca Blatt, USA||4:22:32||56|
All-Time XTERRA Utah Elite Champions
|2018||Josiah Middaugh/Lesley Paterson||Pan Am Champs|
|2017||Mauricio Mendez/Lesley Paterson||Pan Am Champs|
|2016||Josiah Middaugh/Suzie Snyder||Pan Am Champs|
|2015||Josiah Middaugh/Emma Garrard||USA Champs|
|2014||Ruben Ruzafa/Flora Duffy||USA Champs|
|2013||Leonardo Chacon/Lesley Paterson||USA Champs|
|2012||Josiah Middaugh/Lesley Paterson||USA Champs|
|2011||Nicolas Lebrun/Melanie McQuaid||USA Champs|
|2010||Conrad Stoltz/Melanie McQuaid||USA Champs|
|2009||Nicolas Lebrun/Melanie McQuaid||USA Champs|
|2008||Conrad Stoltz/Melanie McQuaid||Mountain Champs|
|2007||Seth Wealing/Jamie Whitmore||Mountain Champs|
|2006||Mike Vine/Melanie McQuaid||Mountain Champs|
|2005||Robert Walsh/Toni Axelrod||Points Series Race|
|2004||Anthony Johnson/Amber Monforte||Points Series Race|