Last year’s XTERRA USA and World Championship runner-up Braden Currie of New Zealand is headed to Utah to give Josiah Middaugh another run for his money at the XTERRA Pan America Championship next Saturday, September 17.
Last year’s race in the Wasatch Range was a thriller between those two as they traded leads on the bike and run until about mile four of the run when Middaugh opened a little gap and held on for a 26-second margin of victory.
“Braden Currie just never gives up, and I was really wishing he would have, but he didn’t. It was never over, I just kept having to dig deeper and deeper,” said Middaugh after the race last year.
Currie, who has been rehabilitating a calf strain, is hopeful to push the pace once more.
“This race is my only lead-in event to the XTERRA World Champs, and I am hoping for a good day out,” said Currie. “If anything the injury only fueled my fire and increased my commitment to my main goal of becoming a World XTERRA Champion this year. I intend to put everything into the next seven weeks and our plan to stay in Lake Tahoe after the Pan Am Champs and train is the best possible training environment I could hope for going into this event. Each year we learn a little bit more and make better decisions about my training and racing and I really feel as if I am making the right steps towards this goal.”
Currie isn’t the only racer for Middaugh to worry about. Karl Shaw from Great Britain, who got the better of Middaugh at the Pan Am Pro Series opener in Costa Rica back in March, will toe the line and so will Rom Akerson, who upset the champ at XTERRA Dominican Republic (thanks in part to an epic mechanical on the bike for Middaugh).
Another guy to look out for is Karsten Madsen, who is having the best season of his life.
“This season has been a massive breakthrough that I didn't really expect,” he said. “I have gotten strong in every race since Alabama. My goal in Utah is simple. I want to win. I have found when I shoot for the stars I have reached them this year (he won both XTERRA Mine over Matter and XTERRA Victoria) and I respect everyone I race with and this will be the biggest field yet, but I have bested some pretty amazing athletes this year and I want to keep that going in Utah. I have a massive amount of trust in the training I have done leading into this race. I will be racing with an eye over my shoulder as Josiah will be a man on a mission and he can never be counted out so many people have over the years and he proves them wrong. To beat him on this course you need a day where everything goes perfect and in XTERRA that's far from reality. The game plan is simple on my end swim hard and get away early. Then back up the bike with one of the day's fastest run splits. I look forward to putting the fitness to the test.”
Matt Lieto is back as well, looking to improve on his 5th place showing last year.
“I love this race because it suits my strengths (fitness and power) and limits my weakness (you know, riding down the hills),” Lieto joked. “Seriously though, since most of my time spent training is on a TT bike having a mostly uphill time trial on the mountain bike is pretty great for me. Also, it’s freaking beautiful, and at a good time of year to get in the dirt. Last year I made the podium with a 5th, and this year I’ll be looking to be top three. It’s a BIG ask, but this race rewards an athlete willing to hurt, and that’s what I’m best at. Embrace the pain. I’ll be riding an MTB about 6-8 times before the race, but focusing on sustained climbs and hour efforts in my training. Should set me up well.”
With so much talent on the start line including 20-year-old rookie pro Sam Long, who was second at XTERRA Beaver Creek, looking to make his mark on the sport and 41-year-old veteran Brian Smith – looking to be one of the top Americans and grab a spot on Team USA for Cross Tri Worlds – one thing is for certain … this race is going to be exciting.
Follow the elite race live on twitter @xterraoffroad starting at 9am on Sept. 17.
XTERRA PAN AM CHAMPIONSHIP ELITE START LIST
Bib #/Pan Am Pro Series Rank – Name, NAT
1/1 - Josiah Middaugh - 38 - Vail, Colorado
2/2 - Rom Akerson - 32 - Tambor, Costa Rica
3/3 - Karsten Madsen - 24 - Guelph, Ontario, Canada
4/4 - Kieran McPherson - 24, Matamata, New Zealand
5/5 - Branden Rakita - 35 - Colorado Springs, Colorado
6/6 - Chris Ganter - 37 - Boise, Idaho
7/7 - Ian King - 26 - Virginia Beach, Virginia
8/9 - Sam Long - 20 - Boulder, Colorado
9/10 - Thomas Spannring - 40 - Longmont, Colorado
10/12 - Cody Waite - 38, Lakewood, Colorado
11/16 - Karl Shaw - 36, Great Britain
12/21 - Ryan Ignatz - 37, Boulder, Colorado
14/37 - Brad Zoller - 39, Avon, Colorado
15/45 - Dan Molnar - Bismark, North Dakota
16/46 - Brian Smith - 41, Gunnison, Colorado
17/47 - Michael Nunez - 35, Salt Lake City, Utah
18/56 - Eduardo Marcolino - 36 - Sao Paulo, Brazil
19/62 - Patrick McKeon - 27, Philadelphia, Penn.
20/NR - Rodrigo Acevedo - 30 - Bogota, Colombia
21/NR - Felipe Barraza - 24 - Santiago, Chile
22/NR - Barret Fishner - 33, Blodgett, Oregon
23/NR - Matt Lieto - 37, Bend, Oregon
24/NR - Alex Martinek - 24 - Durango, Colorado
25/NR - Alex Modestou - 29, Durham, North Carolina
26/NR - Cameron Paul - 26 - Taupo, New Zealand
27/NR - Jean-Philippe Thibodeau - 25 - Quebec, Canada
28/NR - Walter Schafer - 25 - Centennial, Colorado
29/NR - Braden Currie - 29, Wanaka, New Zealand
30/NR - Alex Roberts - 26, Taupo, New Zealand
31/NR - JP Donovan - 29, Incline Village, Nevada
Race #/Pan Am Pro Series Rank - Name - Age - Hometown
51/1 - Suzie Snyder - 34 - Reno, Nevada
53/3 - Maia Ignatz - 36 - Boulder, Colorado
54/4 - Kara LaPoint - 29 - Truckee, California
55/5 - Sabrina Gobbo - 39 - Sao Paulo, Brazil
56/7 - Katharine Carter - 29 - North Vancouver, BC, Canada
57/8 - Debby Sullivan - 35 - Stafford, Virginia
58/9 - Caroline Colonna - 52 - Taos, New Mexico
59/10 - Rebecca Blatt - 36, Lakewood, Colorado
60/12 - Sarah Graves - 39 - Ballantine, Montana
61/13 - Julie Baker - 40, Sonora, California
62/17 - Liz Gruber - 27, Colorado Springs, Colorado
63/28 - Lisa Leonard - 28 - Las Vegas, Nevada
64/36 - Amanda Felder – 34, Del Mar, California
65/NR - Elizabeth Orchard - 31 - Auckland, New Zealand
66/NR - Annie Bergen - Kelowna, B.C., Canada
NR = Not Ranked in Pan Am Pro Series