Two of the sports biggest stars – 2015 XTERRA World Champ Josiah Middaugh and 2016 XTERRA World Champ Mauricio Mendez – will go head-to-head once again in the thin air of the Colorado Rockies in a battle for the XTERRA Beaver Creek crown on Saturday, July 21 in Avon, Colorado.
Two of the sport’s biggest stars – 2015 XTERRA World Champ Josiah Middaugh and 2016 XTERRA World Champ Mauricio Mendez – will go head-to-head once again in the thin air of the Colorado Rockies in a battle for the XTERRA Beaver Creek crown on Saturday, July 21 in Avon, Colorado.
“Mauricio for sure will be tough to beat,” said Middaugh, who beat him last year by 41-seconds to win on his home course for the fifth straight year. “Mauricio thrives at altitude since he was born and raised at similar elevation in Mexico. He is also a world champion and knows how to win.”
Mendez, who has wins at XTERRA Chile and XTERRA Tahiti this year, says he’s up for the challenge.
“Racing this course is always tough,” said Mendez. “Aside from all the climbing and altitude, we all know it is Josiah’s backyard and he knows it better than anyone. Plus, he finished second at XTERRA Victoria last week and I am pretty sure he will come in pretty motivated because of that. From my side, I also have one thing above everything else on mind, and that is breaking the tape before anyone else.”
As for his strategy, Mendez said “There is nothing to do but push, push, and push again. That is what I want to achieve. Everyone in the XTERRA (world circuit) is racing great, you can see that if you follow a little of it, and I need to establish myself as the athlete I know I am.”
One of those guys who is racing great is Kieran McPherson, the current XTERRA Pan America Tour leader, who has three wins this year and just proved he is one of the fastest runners in the sport by chasing down Middaugh on the run to win XTERRA Victoria on July 8.
“Kieran is racing really well and seems to be climbing better than ever so he is the big wild card,” said Middaugh. “It is going to be competitive up front with a very strong pro field, so there is no room for error.”
Indeed the field is strong, with each of the top five ranked men in the XTERRA Pan Am Tour on the start line with McPherson, Karsten Madsen, Branden Rakita, Middaugh, and Alex Roberts.
Canadian Karsten Madsen may have the most motivation, having had to pull from ITU Cross Tri Worlds in Denmark due to sickness on Tuesday.
Brian Smith, who was third at XTERRA Oak Mountain in May, and fourth here last year, is also one to watch.
“I have raced here 4-5 times on and off since its inception and would say the fitness required to compete at this event given its altitude and elevation gain make it one of the most challenging on the circuit,” said Smith. “I live at 7700 feet in Gunnison, Colorado so I regularly train at elevations similar to the race venue. In addition, climbing is one of my strengths on both the bike and run. My weakness is the swim and last year I had a shocker in Nottingham Lake. I went out too fast and was with the lead group at the first buoy. It took me more than five minutes to recover and I lost contact and several minutes to the leaders. Even though my swim was rough, I was able to claw my way back to a 4th place finish and kept myself in the Pan Am Series overall.”
One of the more interesting entries is two-time Olympian Tyler Butterfield from Bermuda, who will be doing his first XTERRA in nearly eight years.
“I think 2010 was the last time I raced XTERRA here in Colorado and I loved it,” said Butterfield, who was seventh elite male at the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt on July 8.
Beyond just the competition, Butterfield and the rest of the field will be up against one of XTERRA’s toughest challenges. Host to XTERRA Championship racing since 2009, the Beaver Creek course is an absolute beast, boasting the highest elevation of any major on the XTERRA World Tour*.
It starts with a mile swim in the cold waters of Nottingham Lake situated at 7,400-feet elevation. Nottingham is just big enough to get a full mile swim with 2 laps, and Buck Creek flows into the reservoir so even though the lake is small, the water temp rarely tops 70 degrees. The next step involves roughly 15 miles of mountain biking that climbs 3,500-feet into the thin air of the Rockies. The first climb on the bike gains 2,000 vertical feet in five miles.
The bike course peaks out at above 9,400 feet above the Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch ski slopes, then turns into some well-maintained single track that switches through the aspen trees and works its way to the village-to-village trail and down to Beaver Creek Village. And the final piece of resistance is a calf-burning, six-mile trail run which breaks down into essentially two challenging climbs that each have over 500 vertical feet of climbing (roughly 1,050ft for the course).
“That course at Beaver Creek is a tough one, no doubt about it,” said Middaugh, who helped design it. “Even though I love my home course, I have to be firing on all cylinders. If you’re having a bad day there is no way to hide it. This is the first big Mountain race of the year and in my mind kicks off the second half of the season with the big three races Beaver Creek, Ogden, and Maui all with similar course profiles. It takes a different kind of conditioning and more attention to pacing, nutrition/fueling, and perseverance. If your preparation has any deficiencies, they will show.”
Elite Men’s Start List
XTERRA Pan Am Tour Rank – Name NAT
1 – Kieran McPherson NZL
2 – Karsten Madsen CAN
3 – Branden Rakita USA
4 – Josiah Middaugh USA
5 – Alex Roberts NZL
15 – Brian Smith USA
17 – Mauricio Mendez MEX
20 – Sam Long USA
NR – Tyler Butterfield, BER
NR – Lewis Elliot USA
NR – Josiah Merrick, USA
NR – Ryan Petry USA
NR – Hans Ryham USA
NR – Alex Willis USA
NR – Brad Zoller USA
In the women’s race Lesley Paterson returns to defend her Beaver Creek title just a few days after winning the ITU Cross Tri World Championship for the second time. The “Scottish Rocket” now has four world titles to her credit, two from ITU and two from XTERRA.
“This Beaver Creek course is a real challenge, you’re breathing out your bu*# the whole time,” exclaimed Paterson. “You have to be in tip-top shape to fight for the win, and the strategies are pretty tough for this race because the swim is hard, it’s hypoxic in nature, so the first 400 is really tough. I think the key is just getting comfortable being uncomfortable and trying to find a rhythm. And you have to stay on top of your nutrition here.”
Julie Baker, who won this race two years ago in her elite debut, is back for another go and fresh off a win of her own at XTERRA Victoria on July 8. When asked how to beat Paterson on this course, she said “Um, I think my only hope in Beaver Creek would be to get way ahead of Lesley in the swim…like maybe a rogue wave will come through Nottingham Lake and carry her backwards. And then if she got about 12 flat tires that would probably be enough to hold on during the run.”
Baker is being modest, but perhaps realistic. “I like climbing courses but that is definitely Lesley’s strength as well, so without some technical descents to even things out she will probably run away with it. But, as always you never know what can happen out on the course so I will do my best to at least make it a race. And enjoy the mountain scenery and blue flowers along the way!”
XTERRA Pan Am Tour leader Fabiola Corona will also be on the start line, with hopes of adding a bunch of points to her tally and keeping the lead.
“This is going to be my first-time racing at XTERRA Beaver Creek,” said Corona. “I’ve studied the course and hope the altitude will play on my side. I know it’s a tough course but I fill strong and confident. My goal is to earn as many points as I can towards the Pan Am rankings. The game plan is simple … swim like a shark, ride like a goat, and run like a gazelle.”
Kara LaPoint and Allison Baca, ranked 2nd and 5th respectively, will also be gunning for top spots and big points as just four races remain in the 12-stop XTERRA Pan America Tour. After Beaver Creek, it’s on to XTERRA Mexico on August 4, XTERRA Quebec on August 18, then the finale in Utah on September 15.
Elite Women’s Start List
XTERRA Pan Am Tour Rank – Name NAT
1 – Fabiola Corona MEX
2 – Kara LaPoint USA
5 – Allison Baca USA
6 – Julie Baker USA
12 – Lesley Paterson GBR
13 – Rebecca Blatt USA
16 – Heather Zimchek-Dunn USA
29 – Emanuela Bandol CAN
NR – Erin Ray USA
Find elite race updates on twitter @xterraoffroad and pics and videos on Facebook.com/xterraplanet.
All-time XTERRA Beaver Creek Elite Champions
|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|
*The XTERRA America Tour points series race Indian Peaks bike course tops out higher, at 9,648.
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