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, Nevada.
It's the third time in four years Middaugh has captured the West Championship title.
It started in the calm 58-degree waters of Lake Las Vegas fronting the Reflection Bay Golf Clubhouse with 18-year-old sensation Mauricio Mendez (last year's amateur XTERRA World Champion from Mexico) leading the swim ahead of a pack that included Dan Hugo, Craig Evans, Branden Rakita, and Flora Duffy.
Hugo, winner at XTERRA South Africa, Philippines, and Guam already this year, quickly asserted his will on the bike and broke away from the field. He had a one-minute lead on second-place Mendez after the first of two bike laps and when he zipped by the 13-mile mark he looked poised to run away with the win. That was until he flatted on a tricky section a few miles later, and then again not long after. They weren't your ordinary flats, either, rather the kind that would send most to the bike shop for help, and it took him totally out of the race. He soldiered on to finish 7th. Hugo put it mildly when he said "It was a nightmare. Never had that happen before, but its part of the game."
For Middaugh, the day started two minutes, thirty seconds 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 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.
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.
Branden Rakita and Craig Evans finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Its 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.
2014 XTERRA West Championship Results:
Henderson, Nevada - April 13, 2014
|Pro Men Results||Time||
|Pro Women Results||Time|
|Josiah Middaugh (USA)||2:10:07||
|Flora Duffy (USA)||2:25:48|
|Bradley Weiss (RSA)||2:12:08||
|Emma Garrard (USA)||2:37:06|
|Mauricio Mendez (MEX)||2:13:00||
|Shonny Vanlandingham (USA)||2:37:59|
|Branden Rakita (USA)||2:15:11||
|Suzie Snyder (USA)||2:38:24|
|Craig Evans (USA)||2:15:40||
|Chantell Widney (CAN)||2:39:14|
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 6th and Kara LaPoint finished in the money in her first race as a pro.
Photo credits: XTERRA
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