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Middaugh, McQuaid Win XTERRA East Championship
RICHMOND, VA – Father’s Day couldn’t have gone any better for Josiah Middaugh from Vail, Colorado as the 29-year-old turned in a brilliant bike and gutsy run to chase down South African Dan Hugo in the last mile to become the first American since Michael Tobin in 2000 to win the XTERRA East Championship on the epic trails of the James River Park System in Richmond today.
Middaugh, with a winning time of 2:02:51 – just 24-seconds ahead of Hugo, has been the top American in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series for three of the last four years but this is just his second XTERRA championship race victory, and first since winning the Mountain crown in 2004.
“This one is for all the Father’s out there,” said Middaugh, who has two and four-year-old boys, to an appreciative crowd at the awards ceremony.
Overnight showers and early morning cloud cover created ideal racing conditions and a fast course with temperatures in the mid 80’s compared to the high 90’s just yesterday.
The short swim across the James River was predictably unpredictable with shallow water that was just knee deep at some points so racers could dolphin dive sections in the middle of the James. Craig Evans was first out of the water but after a quarter-mile run to the swim-to-bike transition Hugo was first out on the bike just 14 minutes after the race started. Hugo’s lead lasted just seconds, however, as Conrad Stoltz powered past him and started building a huge gap on the rest of the field.
This bike course is renowned for having some of the most technical trails in XTERRA and nobody handles the tricky stuff better than Stoltz – and through the first third of the course he’d already put a minute-thirty on Hugo and Evans. But what was shaping up to be a great race for 2nd place turned into the winner’s dual when Stoltz, winner of the last three East Championship titles, punctured his back tire.
“Went too fast and got a small cut in my bike tire,” said Stoltz, who was able to overcome a flat in Alabama last week to win the Southeast Championship. “I tried to fix it and my CO2 didn’t work, then Rom (Akerson) gave me his CO2 but by the time I got going again I was several minutes and 15 or so riders back.”
Knowing he could drop this race in the Pro Series and make up for it in Ogden at the Mountain Champs, and in order to save his strength for the next three consecutive XTERRA championship races in the United Kingdom (June 21), Czech Republic (June 28), and France (July 6), Stoltz called it a day.
“It's too bad because this is my favorite race, and I love this run. I really enjoy Richmond because there are spectators in the middle of the forest and they yell your name and cheer for you and it really energizes you. I felt really good too, so it’s disappointing,” said Stoltz.
Stoltz’ loss was seemingly Hugo’s gain, as the young up-and-comer took advantage of a similar situation when his mentor flatted to win the XTERRA South Africa Championship back in April. Towards the very end of the bike Hugo was one-minute 15 seconds ahead of a chase pack led by Middaugh that included Tyler Johnson and Craig Evans.
“Tyler was on my wheel the whole race and he rode great so we moved through the field together,” said Middaugh, who came out of the water with Johnson about a minute-20 after the leaders and together they passed the 11 pros ahead of them (including a tire-fixing Stoltz) to join Evans behind Hugo. Johnson had the fastest bike split at 1:10:01 and Middaugh had the second-best split in 1:10:04.
“I’d really like to thank Conrad for letting someone else win,” laughed Middaugh. “It was sad to see him out there with a flat but nice to have a race for first rather than a race for 2nd for a change.”
Heading into the run Hugo had about a minute-30 on Johnson and Middaugh, and Johnson was thinking this could be his day.
“I just went out way too hard and hit the wall,” said Johnson, who literally hit the wall a couple miles into the run when he reached the famous 80-foot vertical climb up old wood railroad ties dubbed the “Mayan Ruins” – which looks just as gnarly as a 2000-year-old temple.
Middaugh, on the other hand, was calm and collected. “Tyler was just gone, he went out so fast but I had to just get my breathing under control and work out some cramps,” he said.
Just after the big climb Middaugh took the lead and started making ground on Hugo, but it wasn’t until the final mile that he made his move.
“When Josiah passed me I was already giving it all I had so there was nothing I could do,” said Hugo. ‘When I realized it was him I just asked who was behind and he was kind enough to tell me I had some room.”
Hugo crossed the line just 24 seconds later in 2nd place for his third consecutive runner-up performance this year. Johnson was another 27 seconds back in third, his best showing in years and third top five in Richmond.
Andrew Noble had his best race of the season and chased down Ryan DeCook, Kelly Guest, and Craig Evans to move from 7th to 4th. Evans went into transition in 4th and held off everyone but Noble for 5th.
Ryan Ignatz had his best race of the season by posting the fastest run of the day (36:29) to move into 6th, and also of note was the young Ryan DeCook, who had the fifth-best bike split and went out in the run in 5th before a bunch of really fast runners chased him down and left him in 10th (Still his best outing as a pro). Rom Akerson from Costa Rica continued to be consistent with his third consecutive top seven finish.
McQUAID TURNS THE PAGE
In the women’s race three-time XTERRA World Champion Melanie McQuaid of Canada took the lead early on in the bike, never trailed thereafter, and cruised across the finish line in 2:18:45, more than four minutes ahead of runner-up Jenny Smith of New Zealand. It’s the second win for McQuaid in Richmond, her last coming in 2004.
“It was really important to silence my own inner-critic and show myself what I can do,” said McQuaid, referring to a rare sub-par 8th place finish at the Southeast Championship last weekend. “I was kind of hard on myself all week and finally last night I just put last week aside, told myself today is a new day, and just went for it.”
McQuaid was certainly back to her normal self, coming out of the water just a minute behind super-swimmer Christine Jeffrey (who once again had the fastest swim split), Candy Angle, and Lesley Paterson. She made her way to the front in a matter of minutes, put in the best bike of the day (a 1:18:34, almost a minute better than Jenny Smith and two minutes faster than Shonny Vanlandingham) then had the second-best run to Danelle Kabush’s 42:42.
“I had a super day, there were a lot of “yippee” and “woohoo’s” coming from me out there because I was having so much fun,” said McQuaid. “This is my favorite bike course by far; the trails are in amazing condition and so much fun to ride. Richmond is lucky to have so many great volunteers that take care of this place.”
Jenny Smith and Shonny V were the 11th and 12th female pros out of the water and more than two minutes behind McQuaid. While pushing each other the pair made up a ton of ground and had a tight race for second.
“It was entertaining to have Shonny out there on the bike with me and she was great to ride with because I could see that I wasn’t suffering alone,” said Smith, who’s come along way back since tearing her Achilles in January.
Shonny came off the bike in third and passed Smith, and the two ran together for the last couple miles but at the end Smith kicked into another gear to take second.
“I had a hard day on the bike, got two flats – my left leg and my right leg,” laughed Vanlandingham, who picked up her first XTERRA championship win at the Southeast regional in Alabama last Sunday. “I’m still learning how to prepare for XTERRA and think I just over did it this week. It’s good though because I’m learning, and I’m really impressed with Richmond, they’ve got a great park system here. This course reminds me of some of the world cups I’ve done in Europe where they have small forests around cities and use every inch of available space for trails.”
Candy Angle had her best race of the season to finish fourth, Danelle Kabush’s speedy run moved her into 5th from 7th coming off the bike, and Kristy Lanier finished 6th for the second straight week.
Quote of the day: “This course is insane, certainly worthy of flying half way around the world to race here.”
2008 XTERRA East Championship Pro Results ($20,000 Pro Purse)
Fastest 0.93-mile river swim (time taken out of transition): Dan Hugo (14:41), Christine Jeffrey (15:48)
XTERRA U.S. PRO SERIES: The 2008 XTERRA National Championship Series for pros consists of five events:
May 18 - XTERRA West Championship (Temecula, CA)
The top 15 pros at each event are awarded points based on overall pro finish. Pros can drop one of their scores from the first four events, but must count the points they get (or don’t get) in Nevada. Thus, the final point total combines athletes best three scores in the first four races, plus the USA Championship race points. He/she with most points in the end is declared Series Champ. The U.S. Series will dish out $190,000 in prize money. $20,000 in Temecula, Pelham, Richmond, and Ogden, $40,000 in Nevada, plus $70,000 will be distributed to the top overall points scorers in the Series.
Note: The XTERRA World Championship Oct. 26 in Makena, Maui is a stand-alone event worth a $125,000.
UP NEXT: For the U.S. Pro Series it’s the XTERRA Mountain Championship in Ogden/Snowbasin, Utah on August 16. Overseas a stacked pro field including Nico Lebrun, Conrad Stoltz, and Dan Hugo will race at XTERRA Wales in the UK on Saturday (where Melanie McQuaid will square off against current XTERRA World Champ Julie Dibens in the women’s race). Then the XTERRA Czech Championship and XTERRA France Championship on consecutive weekends.
AMATEUR RACE: Erin Kummer from Boulder, Colorado and James Walsh from Carlsbad, California were the top female and male finishers for the second straight week (the pair also won the amateur races at the XTERRA Southeast Championship in Alabama last Sunday). Walsh was the 18th overall finisher while Kummer placed 14th overall female. The top Virginian across the line was Justin Riddle (2nd amateur and 19th overall) from King George with a time of 2:18:08. The top finisher from Richmond was Rudy Kahsar (2nd in the 20-24 division, 30th overall). The top female Virginian was Denelle Grant of Charlottesville, who won the 30-34 division in 2:47:12. The top female from Richmond was Kate Lucas who won the 40-44 division in 2:54:00. Also of note, Michelle Lindsay of Blacksburg won the 25-29 division in 2:47:29, and Tom Doyle of Midlothian won the 60-64 division in 3:10:46.
XTERRA EAST CHAMPS (FEMALE BY DIV.)
15 - 19 Sarah Carter 4:21:33 Mattituck, NY
XTERRA EAST CHAMPS (MALE BY DIV.)
15 - 19 Matus Kriska 2:34:45 Mt. Airy, NC
XTERRA COLLEGIATE DIVISION: Justin Morison of Virginia Tech University and Jennifer Belt of Virginia Commonwealth University won the men’s and women’s collegiate divisions. Morison finished in 2:49:12, more than a minute ahead of fellow Tech racer Jordan Chang, while Belt crossed the line in 2:50:04.
A special thanks to Nathan Burrell, the trails manager for the James River Park System, the Richmond Chapter of MORE (Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts), the James River Outdoor Coalition, Friends of the James River, Richmond Sportsbackers and all the volunteers who have dedicated countless hours of work towards creating a magnificent trails system for the XTERRA Tribe and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.
The XTERRA East Championship is presented by Paul Mitchell and XTERRAGear.com. Sponsors include Breeder’s Choice, GU, Gatorade, Rodale, Zorrel, and the Nevada Commission on Tourism.
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