XTERRA Beaver Creek, scheduled for July 16 in Avon, Colorado, has always had a way of luring legendary road triathletes onto the dirt.
Remember 2013 when Flora Duffy took to the trails for the first time? She finished 7th that year and swore she’d never do another. Lucky for us she did, and look at her now, literally, on top of the world with the ITU Cross Tri World Title, the last two XTERRA World Titles, and the No. 1 ranking in the WTS under her feet.
Could there be something to the challenge against Mother Nature that brings out the best in athletes?
Superstar couple Greg and Laura Bennett are about to find out.
“This will be our first XTERRA, so our expectations are low,” said Greg, one of the most decorated triathletes of all-time. “We got on our mountain bikes (the first-time ever for Laura) and 28 years ago for me, back in November. We’ve had a ball, and are enjoying the process. We feel like newbies starting a brand new sport… so much to learn… can’t wait!”
Laura, a two-time Olympian, said “I am having thoughts of intimidation. Not only because I know I won’t be as prepared as I would like to be but because I feel like race brain will take over and I will be riskier than my skill level, & I would really not like to get hurt ;)”
“We only just tried mountain biking for the first time last fall, and fell in love with it! I like the dynamics of it (more on the uphill skill challenges than the all-out downs of just letting go). You are getting a great workout in, while staying entertained the whole time. I will always keep in touch with my running and swimming, so having XTERRA if we want to do some racing is brilliant! I really wish I would have tried it sooner in my career, when I was younger, fitter, and had less development of my frontal lobe!”
The Bennett’s will have plenty of fans and familiar faces from around Boulder joining them on the start line in a few weeks with the likes of three-time XTERRA World Champion Julie Dibens and American Ironman great Ben Hoffman.
“Excited to make my annual appearance at the XTERRA Beaver Creek Championship in a few weeks and see where I stack up against some of the best athletes on the circuit,” said Hoffman, who finished second last year behind Middaugh.
“This year should be even more interesting as plenty of the on-road guys are having a crack at the high-altitude course in the Colorado mountains, including a big crew from Boulder (AJ Baucco, Sam Long, Rodrigo Acevedo, Leon Griffin, among others). Last year was the closest I've come to Josiah on his home course, and it will be fun to do battle again and see if I can take down the current world champion. He's on the top of his game right now, and always shows up ready in Beaver Creek, so it won't be easy."
Indeed Beaver Creek is never easy, although Middaugh has made it look pretty easy while winning the last three years on the course here he helped to design. This year, the 37-year-old father of three enters the race as the reigning XTERRA World Champion, a title he chased for 15 years ever since he moved to Colorado.
"I was in Maui last year for Josiah's big win, and it's great to see an American bring it home after so many years without a title,” said Hoffman (noting Michael Tobin was the last American to win Worlds back in 2000). “He'd been right there so many times, and it's really cool to see the perseverance pay off. XTERRA is truly a global sport now, and to have the trophy back in the U.S. is definitely special."