Josiah Middaugh and Flora Duffy won the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series opener at the XTERRA West Championship around the desert of Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev. Sunday.
For Middaugh, the day started 2:30 behind the lead swimmers but as he has so many times before, he pedaled his way back into the race on the bike. He picked off 10 of the 11 guys ahead of him by the second-lap and passed Dan Hugo when his troubles struck and took a 15-second lead into the bike-to-run transition that he built into a comfortable two-minute margin of victory.
“Certainly wish Dan would have had a mechanical-free day so we would have had a clean race, but it was still a good race, and a good day for me,” said Middaugh, who has won five of the last six U.S. Pro Series majors since 2012. “Brad (Weiss) was climbing stronger than I’ve ever seen him and he was pretty much matching me on the climbs so he’s going to be tough this year, and Mauricio is really figuring it out.”
For Brad Weiss, it was a career day. When Middaugh caught him on his hard charge towards the front on the bike the young South African responded with everything he had and went along for the ride something not many have ever been able to do. He was rewarded with a U.S. Series career-best runner-up finish against a class field.
“Today, for the first time, when he (Middaugh) caught me I was really aggressive and I wasn’t going to let him go. I sat on his wheel most of the second lap, and he’s riding a step above what I’m capable of, so I was really hurting by the end there. Still, for the first 4K or so on the run the gap didn’t change much. Into the descents though he seems to have the longer stride and really opened the gap up and there was not much I could do.”
Mendez, the rising star from Mexico City, beat everybody out of the water then hung tough with some of the sports best riders and entered the bike-to-run transition with Branden Rakita and Craig Evans. Despite the heavy legs he had enough in the tank left to pull away and finish third in convincing fashion.
“It was a very hard race, very tough but it feels amazing and such a great experience being with all these guys I really admire,” said Mendez. “When I finished the bike, I was like ‘oh my gosh I have nothing left,’ but I gave all I had on the run and it was a very good result. It’s my dream to follow this path.”
Branden Rakita and Craig Evans finished fourth and fifth, respectively. It’s Evans best performance in the desert yet, made even sweeter because his wife and two kids flew in from Tennessee to watch it unfold up-close. Also of note Ryan Petry was stellar in his pro debut, finishing sixth overall. ”
Duffy was sensational on Sunday, posting the fastest swim, bike and run times on her way to a convincing win in the desert.
Just a year ago after placing sixth at the Mountain Championship race in Colorado Duffy wasn’t sure she ever wanted to do another XTERRA. Then she had a break-out race at XTERRA Worlds, placing third, trained in South Africa over the winter (where she spent a lot of time on the mountain bike) and won the XTERRA South Africa Championship.
“I rode my mountain bike all winter so I think that’s showing and I feel more comfortable on it so I can go through things faster which makes a huge difference,” said Duffy. “I was pleased I could ride it pretty well. Some sections were so rutted out and dry, it was hectic out there.”
Emma Garrard, who won the race for second and was the top American for the third time in a row said Flora “is super talented, and I think she may have just found her niche in triathlon.”
Shonny Vanlandingham overcame a big deficit out of the water to bike-and-run her way into the third position, with Suzie Snyder and Chantell Widney rounding out the top five. Danelle Kabush ran into sixth and Kara LaPoint finished in the money in her first race as a pro.
XTERRA West Championship
Lake Las Vegas, Nev. – April 13, 2014
1. Josiah Middaugh 2:10:07
2. Bradley Weiss 2:12:08
3. Mauricio Mendez 2:13:00
4. Branden Rakita 2:15:11
5. Craig Evans 2:15:40
1. Flora Duffy 2:25:48
2. Emma Garrard 2:37:06
3. Shonny Vanlandingham 2:37:59
4. Suzie Snyder 2:38:24
5. Chantell Widney 2:39:14