Playa Conchal, Guanacaste – Reigning XTERRA Pan America Pro Series champions Josiah Middaugh and Suzie Snyder captured the fourth annual XTERRA Costa Rica Championship elite titles on a mercifully overcast morning at Playa Conchal in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
It’s the first win in four tries for Middaugh, who had been the runner-up at this race the past three seasons. “Hey, that’s better than 15 tries,” he laughed, referencing the 2015 XTERRA World Championship he won on his 15th attempt.
For Snyder, the win is her second in three weeks, the seventh in two years on the XTERRA Pan America Tour, and the ninth in her career.
“As I approached the finish and heard the announcer call my name as the winner I got goosebumps and broke out in a big smile,” said Snyder. “I’m happy that I had a good clean race without any silly mistakes, got another good hard early season race effort in the books, and was able to take home the win!”
Middaugh Wins 25th Major
All those hours in the outdoor pool at the Westin in the off-season, even as snow fell all around, paid big dividends for Middaugh today. The XTERRA veteran, entering his 17th season of racing, picked up his 25th career victory on a steamy day on the beach in Costa Rica thanks in large part to a solid swim.
Branden Rakita and Ian King were first out of the water, followed by Jean-Philippe Thibodeau and Panamanian newcomer Billy Gordon, but Middaugh was just one-minute off the pace.
“My off-season training has gone really well and I felt good all day today, really strong,” said Middaugh, who chased down the lead on the bike within the first two miles and never looked back. “I also added one more day to the front end of this trip, so was able to do the pre-ride three days before instead of two days before and I think that made a big difference.”
Middaugh posted the fastest bike split of the day in 1:08:34, nearly two-minutes quicker than Kris Coddens, and pulled further away on the run to take the tape in 2:06:51, four minutes ahead of the Belgian star.
“It’s good to win,” said Middaugh. “I realize Leo (Chacon) and Rom (Akerson) weren’t here today but I’ll look forward to seeing those guys later this season. And it’s been an amazing trip here with my wife, Ingrid, and our six-year-old daughter, Larsen. We’ve done some fun things, lots of pool time, beach time, some nature preserve exploring, and ziplining, too.”
Coddens, who finished third on the XTERRA European Tour last season and fourth at XTERRA South Africa to start this year, overcame an early setback coming out of the swim-to-bike transition to work his way into second where he finished comfortably.
“I had a good swim, exiting the water right behind Josiah, but made a mistake by coming out of transition on the beach,” said Coddens. “Someone fell in front of me and then I fell, so lost the connection with Josiah, but he was stronger than me on the bike.”
Like Middaugh, Coddens was able to pass the faster swimmers relatively early on, and then settle into a good rhythm.
“I really enjoyed the course, especially the beginning and end that went up and down,” he said. “The end of the bike is twisting and turning and the middle section featured flat wide roads which suited me well. I had another mistake coming into transition, by going on the wrong side of the cones, but it didn’t make a difference because Josiah was about 1:30 in front and the others more than 2-minutes back. And luckily the run is in the woods and the shade, because it was balancing effort out there between speed and heat. The run course was flat, too, which is good for me, but catching Josiah was impossible. He took some more time on me on the run, but I finished happily in second.”
Coddens, who is a teacher by trade and has two little ones of his own, brought his wife along for the trip and said “It’s been a very nice experience. We’ve been married 10 years now, and this race fell perfectly on school holiday. Now it’s time to enjoy Costa Rica for a few more days before going home again.”
Thibodeau finished five minutes behind Coddens in third, and took the lead in the Pan Am Tour standings as a result. Rakita, who was also taking part in his third race in as many weeks, finished fourth and moved into the second spot in the standings. Ryan Ignatz rounded out the top five.
Snyder from Wire to Wire
In the women’s race, it was all Suzie Snyder all day long, from the swim to the sand shuffle to the finish line. “I think the weather gods were on our side today, it was overcast for most of the race which was a huge relief because the course was challenging enough,” exclaimed Snyder.
“The bike course has some steep climbs and soft dirt that can really zap your legs, unless maybe I just had tired legs from the past couple weeks? My legs felt cooked when I began the run, so thankfully there was just one good hill right at the start, and I knew I had a 3.5-minute lead so I felt that if I focused on maintaining a smooth tempo and high cadence to regulate my effort and temperature until my legs loosened up, I should be safe. The temps were increasing but the legs started to come around on the forested single track loops so I tried to push it a little more there before hitting the soft deep sand over the last mile which I knew would be slow and tough to run hard through.”
Maia Ignatz, last year’s runner-up on the Pan Am Tour, was putting on a hard charge behind Snyder and had passed Kara LaPoint to move into the second spot and was closing in on the lead before taking a wrong turn.
“Well, today was bittersweet,” said Ignatz. “I had an amazing day, but I missed the second small loop on the run and ended up disqualified. It would have been close, I think, and it’s a tough lesson learned, massively disappointing and heartbreaking. I will do better next time. Onward and upward.”
Kara LaPoint, who was on her third race in as many weeks just like Snyder, finished second here in Costa Rica for the second year in a row.
“I had a solid race today, and am really happy with my performance,” she said. “Coming in my legs were a little bit tired from having raced the past two weekends, and all the travel along with that, but I ended up feeling pretty strong out there.”
Annie Bergen from Canada finished in the third spot, Laura Mira Dias from Brazil finished fourth for the third time in four years at this race, and Liz Gruber rounded out the top five.
|1||Josiah Middaugh, USA||2:06:51||75|
|2||Kris Coddens, BEL||2:10:51||67|
|4||Branden Rakita, USA||2:17:29||56|
|5||Ryan Ignatz, USA||2:18:31||51|
|6||Ian King, USA||2:19:44||47|
|7||Greg Schott, USA||2:24:01||43|
|8||Federico Venegas, CRC||2:24:08||39|
|9||Guiherme Goncalves, BRA||2:27:30||36|
|10||Billy Gordon, PAN||2:29:36||33|
|11||Micheal Nunez, USA||2:31:33||30|
|12||Andres Zuniga, CRC||2:31:38||27|
|1||Suzie Snyder, USA||2:41:44||75|
|2||Kara LaPoint, USA||2:42:31||67|
|3||Annie Bergen, CAN||2:50:57||61|
|4||Laura Mira Dias, BRA||2:51:52||56|
|5||Liz Gruber, USA||2:53:43||51|
|6||Caroline Colonna, USA||2:56:55||47|