A summer pilgrimage to the town of Avon high-up in the Colorado Rockies has been an XTERRA tradition since 2009, the year adventure racing legend Mike Kloser invited all his racing buddies to Beaver Creek Resort for an endurance challenge like no other.
For many spirited souls, the annual quest begins at DIA - Denver’s International Airport - with a 65mph drive past the wildest looking blue mustang sculpture on earth.
Locals call the 32-foot behemoth “Blucifer - the demon horse” and after taking just one look into its fiery red eyes, it’s clear this is no ordinary destination.
From there the trip rolls onto Interstate 70 and for the next 120 miles heads west, leaving the Mile High City behind in search of air that’s even thinner. It doesn’t take long for snow-capped peaks to come into view, and around every corner the landscape rises higher and higher.
About halfway to Avon is the old town of Idaho Springs. It’s where the Colorado gold rush started in the 1800s, and a stroll down Miner Street is akin to taking a walk back in time.
It’s the perfect spot for modern day prospectors to quench their thirst at the Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub, or grab a bite to eat at Beau Jo’s to discover what Colorado-Style Pizza is all about.
Continuing west, drivers will know they’re way up there when they get to the Continental Divide at the Eisenhower Tunnel, at 11,000+ feet it’s one of the highest tunnels on earth. On the other side of it, a sea of towering green trees and mountain ranges, rivers and creeks, and endless opportunities to explore await.
While there are a lot of neat things to see on a roadtrip across the 70 West - from Red Rocks Park to the Georgetown Loop Railroad - when you get off at the XTERRA stop, Exit 167 to Avon, it’s all about things to do!
Avon is the gateway to Beaver Creek, one of the worlds’ premier ski resorts in the winter and a nature lover’s paradise in the summer.
Many are drawn to Eagle River to kayak, raft, or fish for Trout. Others take to the trails to hike, bike, or run for miles.
The place is awesome, and the locals go out of their way to take care of it.
Upon arrival in Avon for XTERRA week in 2022, visitors marveled at community leaders showing school kids how to identify and eradicate invasive weeds around Nottingham Lake.
They’d look around and see the nearby Walking Mountains Science Center team hard at work on waste mitigation tasks, and hear about local businesses owners like Jake Wells who volunteer their time to maintain their local trails.
Wells, a former pro cyclist who runs Form Attainment Studio, adopted a three-mile stretch of the Wild West Trail in the West Avon Preserve in conjunction with the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance adopt-a-trail program.
“This trail is in our backyard. We love to ride it and want to keep it nice, so twice a season we get our community together to walk the trail, share some time, clean-up whatever needs to be taken care of, and then go get some food,” he said.
There are roughly 70 other businesses who do the same thing!
In lock-step with every effort are the good people from the Town of Avon, whose commitment to environmentalism seems to inspire the entire community to do their part.
It may have been Mike Kloser that started the fire for XTERRA in Beaver Creek back in ‘09, but it has been Josiah Middaugh, his wife Ingrid, and their kids Sullivan, Porter, and Larsen who have kept it burning bright all these years.
The Middaugh family lives in Eagle-Vail, and are universally regarded as the nicest, most generous, humble, and talented humans you’ll ever meet.
Josiah helped the XTERRA crew connect “his favorite, most fun to ride trails” to create a killer new bike course this year. On race week, he was out bushwacking brush to clear parts of the course, his version of rolling out the red carpet for his friends who were coming to town to visit.
The 15x Elite U.S. Champion and 2015 XTERRA World Champ also led the XTERRA University clinic to share his knowledge with others, he gave interviews, took pictures, and coached-up a small army of racers wearing Middaugh Coaching kits to be their best on race day.
One of those pupils was “Sully,” his 18-year-old son who just graduated from nearby Battle Mountain High School and traded in his Middaugh jersey for a Team USA kit. It was his time. The kid is so good, before the race Josiah said he “couldn’t imagine anyone stronger in the field.”
He was right. Sullivan blitzed everyone, and despite losing more than a minute to fix a flat, took the XTERRA U.S. Elite title from his dad (who finished second).
It was an incredible moment, and at the awards ceremony that night - we all witnessed the literal passing of the torch.
Get this … 16-year-old Porter Middaugh finished 10th overall ahead of several elite racers and won the overall amateur crown in addition to the 15-19 division. Must be something in the water!
By doing so, Porter, along with 50 other super speedy Americans, earned a qualifying spot to race at the XTERRA World Championship to be held in Trentino, Italy on October 1, 2022.
It’s the first time XTERRA Worlds will be held outside of Maui, providing U.S. athletes with an opportunity of a lifetime to take on the European contingent on their home turf.
For qualifiers and everyone who conquered “the Beast at Beaver Creek” - the highest XTERRA on the World Tour - the 70 West delivered a memorable adventure to and through the Colorado Rockies.
And as the sunset lit up the lake in magnificent hues of yellow and orange, racers and locals joined together to dance the night away to the soulful sounds of a quintessential Colorado string band. The kids ran free in the big grassy field, the Sierra Nevada beer was cold and plentiful, and life was good.
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