November 1, 2015 (Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii) – Josiah Middaugh, 37, from Eagle-Vail, Colorado and Flora Duffy, 28, from Devonshire, Bermuda won the 20th XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon elite titles on an incredibly scenic day in Kapalua, Maui.
It’s the first XTERRA World Title for Middaugh after 15 attempts, and he becomes the first American to win Worlds since Michael Tobin back in 2000. For Duffy, the win marks a perfect season with five straight wins, her second XTERRA World Championship in a row, and 12th XTERRA major victory in her last 13 attempts since the start of 2014.
Middaugh and Duffy each received $20,000 for their respective victories. The total purse was $100,000, and the event was filmed for international television distribution.
More than 800 endurance athletes from 43 countries participated in the event, which started in the relatively calm waters of the Pacific Ocean at D.T. Fleming Beach, continued with a 20-mile mountain bike that traversed the West Maui Mountains, and finished with a grueling 6.5-mile trail run. There was more than 4,000-feet of combined climbing on the bike and run courses.
After 15 years of trying Josiah Middaugh has his world title.
“15th time’s a charm,” Middaugh said to the crowd as he crossed the line, barefoot, holding the finish tape and an American flag with his son Porter and daughter Larsen by his side (his oldest son Sullivan and wife Ingrid were watching in admiration).
“I haven’t planned a single thing beyond this day so this is the end and the beginning right here, it’s amazing.”
The men’s race started out as expected with all the fast swimmers getting an early jump. Courtney Atkinson, Ben Allen, Jens Roth, Mauricio Mendez and Sam Osborne were the first to hit the 20-mile bike course.
What wasn’t expected was how well Middaugh would swim. He was still two minutes behind the swim leaders, but more importantly he was side-by-side with Ruzafa. Last year he was 1:41 down on Ruzafa coming out of the water.
“You never know how you are going to feel, you always feel sluggish the morning of the race. I felt good in the water, though, and I was psyched to come out with Ruben,” said Middaugh.
Those two worked their way to the front of the pack on the bike in no time but after a crash set Middaugh back, Ruzafa pounced.
“I felt really good on the bike,” said Middaugh. “I was riding with Ruben and then I had a spill on an off-camber corner. It was a little wet, lost my front tire and went down. It was just enough to lose 20 seconds to Ruben, and I was able to stay in that gap but some people filled in – Paco (Francisco Serrano) and Braden (Currie). Then I came down and washed out over another corner, turned the handlebars over and was then 45 seconds behind Ruben and I was just trying to keep it. Last year he put 45 seconds on me on the last five miles, this year he put one-minute on me. Nothing you can do, he’s an amazing rider.”
Ruzafa did indeed put some time on the pack, but the effort took its toll.
“At the top of the climb I passed Josiah and I put some time into him and arrived 1:45 at T2, but my body was not the same and I exploded on the run,” he explained.
Braden Currie and Francisco Serrano also had their share of misfortune. For Currie, it was a false alarm.
“I was disappointed with myself on the bike,” said Currie. “Ruben shot past me and got away from me. Josiah caught me up a long climb and we rode together for a while and then I thought I got a flat but it was just a piece of grass in my spokes, but I stopped to check it out and by the time I looked up Josiah was gone. That was my chance of holding his wheel, about three-quarters through the bike.”
For Serrano, it was a broken seat that went flying off halfway through the ride.
“My seat went poof, and was gone,” he said. “I was hurting with no way to sit down, no way to grab water bottles but this is the biggest race of the year so I couldn’t let it go. I pushed hard and tried to make it to the top five. I was close.”
Indeed he was, finishing 6th just 30 seconds behind Atkinson who ran his way into 5th.
Back to the front of the race, Middaugh was 1:40 down and then went to work.
“I caught Ruben right before the lake at the big climb. I was making back 20-30 seconds a mile on him. I was shocked. Last year he was climbing at the same speed as I was. I was charging as hard as I could, I was lifting my knees and pumping as hard as I could go and I knew I was coming back on him. It felt good.”
Middaugh said he also felt inspired.
“I was looking for some shoes to wear for this race because I don’t have a shoe sponsor. I found the Saucony Shay online. Ryan was a childhood friend of mine and he was an unbelievable runner. He collapsed and died in the Olympic trials in 2007 and he was the best runner I have ever known. It was a big inspiration to have those shoes on my feet and I felt like it gave me some wings.”
While Middaugh didn’t post the fastest run – that honor went to Mauricio Mendez and his 40:51 split which propelled him from 8th at T2 to 4th at the finish line – he did have the biggest dream come true.
“A couple years ago I knew I had to win it now,” said Middaugh. “I had to stop saying ‘one of these years’ and start saying ‘This year. This year I’m going to win this race.’ I felt it more than ever this year and knew I could do it, I knew I had to do it.”
Braden Currie, who had been battling with Middaugh all year on the American Tour, turned on the jets in the run and finished runner-up, his best showing yet in Maui.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all. The last split I got was three minutes down towards the top, and I thought that was that and I was happy with third but then all of a sudden I saw Ruben halfway down the downhill and he was sort of in a box and I think he maybe overheated,” said Currie.
As for Ruzafa, who had his 15-race win streak broken and his chance to become the only elite man to win three in a row disappear, he was just happy to finish.
“When Josiah passed me on the run I had to stay strong just so I could finish,” said Ruzafa. “Then I started to cramp on the downhill and Braden passed me. I tried to keep my speed so I could make it to the finish and finally in third is okay this year for me and I’ll try again next year. Lucky I started to feel better and started running harder again to hold Mauricio back.”
On getting out to a fast start on the run, Middaugh said, “I was going to have to run my ass off to even have a chance so I wanted to take it all back right away to see if I could do it.”
“I crashed twice on the bike, I crashed once on the run. That’s where I lost Ruben, crashed twice and lost him.”
“I feel it’s people behind me, not people I’m going to let down. They believed in me, I believed in myself and I believed in all the training I’ve done and I felt like I could do it.”
Pl Name – Age, Hometown Final Time Purse
1 Josiah Middaugh – 37, Eagle-Vail, Colorado 2:35:32 $20,000
2 Braden Currie – 29, Wanaka, New Zealand 2:38:30 $12,000
3 Ruben Ruzafa – 31, Malaga, Spain 2:40:40 $7,000
4 Mauricio Mendez – 20, Mexico City, Mexico 2:40:54 $4,000
5 Courtney Atkinson – 36, Mermaid Waters, QLD, Australia 2:42:27 $2,500
6 Francisco Serrano – 35, Monterrey, Mexico 2:42:57 $1,500
7 Yeray Luxem – 29, Merksem, Belgium 2:44:45 $1,100
8 Rom Akerson – 31, Tambor, Costa Rica 2:45:07 $800
9 Nicolas Fernandez – 32, Pelissane, France 2:46:51 $600
10 Ben Hoffman – 32, Boulder, Colorado 2:49:56 $500
Flora Duffy was determined.
“I had the big target on my back, and I came here with a mission. I wanted to defend, and got away with that by the skin of my teeth today,” said Duffy. “I really struggled. Hit a tree, slide out on a corner, fell in a big mud puddle, and all the while the time gap between me and Lesley was getting smaller and smaller.”
Duffy had the fastest women’s swim split (5th overall) and was 3:45 up on two-time XTERRA World Champion Lesley Paterson out of the water. Paterson posted the best bike split to pull back a couple of minutes and was seemingly in striking distance heading out on the run.
“There were moments out there when I questioned it,” said Duffy. “I really, really struggled on the bike this year, not sure why I just couldn’t stay on my bike, it wasn’t flowing. You have one of those days that everything goes wrong, that was my day. There were times on that run when I had no idea if I could hold on.”
Paterson was in a similar spot in second place.
“I was going for it on the bike, that’s where my strength is,” said Paterson. “I came off on the run and went for it and then I blew. It was really hot, it was brutal, and I deal with heat pretty well.”
In the end Duffy took the tape in 2:54:17, five minutes in front of Paterson.
“It was a crazy day out there,” she said. “I had a good swim and set myself up perfectly. On the bike it was all about perseverance for me. I kept crashing and picking myself back up, and I had Lesley charging hard from behind. Every split I got it was closer and closer. It was a tough day. For everybody it’s tough. You have obstacles you have to get over.”
Emma Garrard had a great race of her own to finish in third position, yet another step forward in her amazing progression through the years (she was 5th two years ago, and 4th last year). Garrard was once again the top American finisher.
Myriam Guillot-Boisset used a great run to move into fourth and Lizzie Orchard had the best race of her XTERRA career to finish in 5th.
Pl Name – Age, Hometown Final Time Purse
1 Flora Duffy – 28, Devonshire, Bermuda 2:54:17 $20,000
2 Lesley Paterson – 35, Sterling, Scotland 2:59:16 $12,000
3 Emma Garrard – 34, Park City, Utah 3:03:28 $7,000
4 Myriam Guillot-Boisset – 36, Brindas, France 3:07:27 $4,000
5 Lizzie Orchard – 29, Epsom, New Zealand 3:09:57 $2,500
6 Carina Wasle – 31, Kundl, Austria 3:11:23 $1,500
7 Helena Erbenová – 36, Jablonec, Czech Republic 3:17:12 $1,000
8 Jacqui Slack – 32, Stoke-On-Trent, United Kingdom 3:18:04 $800
9 Renata Bucher – 38, Lucerne, Switzerland 3:19:34 $600
10 Susan Sloan – 34, Benoni, South Africa 3:20:44 $500