Sam Long, one of the most electrifying racers in all of triathlon, is taking his talents off-road to compete at XTERRA Beaver Creek on July 17 in Avon, Colorado.
“I want to race because I can't help but push my limits,” said Long, fresh off his course record-setting win at Ironman Coeur d’Alene on Sunday.
Long said he’s also eager to return to the mountains where he made his elite debut five years ago when he was a 20-year-old college student at CU Boulder.
“Being in the mountains is where my roots are and where I am the happiest,” said Long, who grew up in Boulder, Colorado and spent his summers riding around Crested Butte, thus feels right at home mountain biking in the thin air of the Rockies.
In his XTERRA Beaver Creek debut in 2016, Long came out of the water with XTERRA World Champ Josiah Middaugh and hung with him all the way up the notoriously brutal first climb that ascends roughly 2,000-feet in four miles. Along the way those two passed triathlon greats like Rom Akerson, Ben Hoffman, Leon Griffin, Greg Bennett, Michi Weiss, and a dozen others. Long got off the bike in fourth that day then posted the fastest run split to catch Hoffman and Akerson and finish in second place just 20-seconds behind Middaugh.
Sam Long in 2016
“Outrageous, I can’t even believe it,” said Long after the race, just a month into having his pro card and in the midst of completing a double major in psychology and integrated physiology. “To finish 2nd in a pro race, against these guys, it’s incredible.”
It was a sign of things to come for the 6-foot-4 all-star, who finished in third place at XTERRA Beaver Creek in 2017 and 2018 behind Middaugh and Mauricio Mendez from Mexico. Mendez won it 2018, Middaugh in 2017, and both are on the start list again this year along with Kiwi standouts Sam Osborne and Kieran McPherson, American greats Eric Lagerstrom, Mike Meehan, Curtis Feltner, Branden Rakita, and many more.
“Racing XTERRA Beaver Creek against the best of the best is a tall feat when I have been focused on the on-road scene, but I want to see how I stack up” said Long, who last raced XTERRA in 2018. “Josiah is an absolute legend of the sport and racing against him is a true honor, and Mau and I have an ever-growing rivalry. Plus, I miss the XTERRA family, and this sounds like a great time.”
Middaugh, however, is still the man to beat at 42-years-old. He’s won six of the last seven since 2013 on this course, a grueling mountain challenge he helped design more than a decade ago.
“It’s always motivating to go up against tough competitors, and I am fortunate to be able to race such a strong international field in my backyard,” said Middaugh, who added that he fell in love with XTERRA on tough mountain courses and honed his craft up high in the Rockies.
“The altitude and the course profile pose a unique challenge but Mendez, Osborne, Long, and McPherson are living and training at altitude already. Still, racing above 8,000 feet in triathlon is not common. Other things equal, the best antidote for altitude is supreme fitness.”
For Lagerstrom, who was first out of the water in his XTERRA debut at Oak Mountain in May and kept up with Sam Osborne on the bike until he flatted out, Beaver Creek poses a whole new challenge.
“This sounds more like a breathing contest than anything, so I'm just going to try and stay out of the red zone where you can't bring it back at that altitude,” said Lagerstrom, who despite being new to XTERRA is quite familiar with the competition.
“I'm looking forward to racing Mauricio on the dirt. I've raced him quite a few times on the roads now and I'm really curious to see how he rides on the trail. Sam Long will be entertaining as always. I was super psyched to ride with Sam Osborne for the brief few miles before my flat in Beaver Creek, and I've been looking forward to getting the opportunity to do that again. Of course, it's hard to imagine giving Josiah too much of a fight when he lives at this insane elevation, but we'll see what happens!”
Lagerstrom also noted that he’s been riding a lot of trails since moving to Bend, Oregon a few months ago, “It's pretty hard to get out on the roads once you get the mountain bike bug, and there are endless options for me to ride here. It's like discovering a new playground every time I go out,” he said.
Tentative Elite Men's Startlist
Place at 2019 Beaver Creek - Name, NAT
1 - Josiah Middaugh, USA
2 - Sam Osborne, NZL
4 - Mike Meehan, USA
5 - Branden Rakita, USA
7 - Brad Zoller, USA
8 - Brian Smith, USA
9 - Will Ross, USA
10 - Elliot Bach, USA
11 - Evan Pardi, USA
NA – Hans Ryham, USA
NA – Eric Lagertsrom, USA
NA – Curtiss Feltner, USA
NA – Garen Marter, USA
NA – Mauricio Mendez, MEX
NA – Steve Croucher, USA
NA – Sam Long, USA
NA – Paul Stevenson, USA
NA – Kieran McPherson, NZL
NA – Benny Smith, USA
In the women’s race Suzie Snyder is back to defend her Beaver Creek crown, but is up against Samantha Kingsford and Amanda Felder who finished 1,2 in front of her at XTERRA Oak Mountain two months ago.
“I feel good, and I’ve been training hard and spending a lot of weekends up in the mountains at altitude,” said Snyder, a three-time XTERRA U.S. Champ and the top American finisher at XTERRA Worlds for the past four seasons.
“I know Samantha and Amanda are going to be tough competition, as always, but the real challenge is taming the Beaver Creek beast, which is all about pacing and racing your own race- whatever that means to you!”
For Felder, this will be her first-time racing at Beaver Creek, but she did visit the area last summer and got to ride the bike course.
“I think the altitude suits me, and I love being in the high mountains in the summer,” she exclaimed. “I've been at altitude for the last month already, and I'm feeling strong and adapted in training. Also, I think that racing at altitude is more of a test of aerobic fitness rather than speed, and I think it will be helpful that having a big cycling base was a major focus of mine this year and last. It'll be tough for sure, but I think I'll be ready for it.”
Kingsford, the 2019 XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ, has been living and training at altitude in Colorado since her win at XTERRA Oak Mountain in May and is certain to be in the mix come July 17.
Tentative Elite Women's Startlist
Place at 2019 Beaver Creek - Name, NAT
1 - Suzie Snyder, USA
4 - Samantha Kingsford, NZL
9 - Michelle Mehnert, USA
NA – Rebecca Zitnay, USA
NA – Amanda Felder, USA
NA – Brandi Swicegood, USA
Find more information about the course, schedule, registration, where to stay and what to do here.
XTERRA Beaver Creek
All-time XTERRA Beaver Creek Elite Champions
Year - Man/Woman
2019 - Josiah Middaugh/Suzie Snyder
2018 - Mauricio Mendez/Lesley Paterson
2017 - Josiah Middaugh/Lesley Paterson
2016 - Josiah Middaugh/Julie Baker
2015 - Josiah Middaugh/Flora Duffy
2014 - Josiah Middaugh/Chantell Widney
2013 - Josiah Middaugh/Shonny Vanlandingham
2012 - Conrad Stoltz/Shonny Vanlandingham
2011 - Josiah Middaugh/Danelle Kabush
2010 - Nico Lebrun/Shonny Vanlandingham
2009 - Nico Lebrun/Shonny Vanlandingham