Josiah Middaugh and Flora Duffy win second race apiece to climb atop Xterra US Pro Series

Josiah Middaugh takes first for the elite men at the 2014 Xterra Southeast Championships, and move into first in the US Pro Series standings [photo: courtesy XTERRA]

Josiah Middaugh (USA) and Flora Duffy (USA) captured the ninth annual XTERRA Southeast Championship race at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Alabama last Saturday, May 17 amidst some wacky weather conditions that went from cool and cloudy to torrential downpours to bright sunshine over the course of three hours.

With two wins a piece Middaugh and Duffy have the early stranglehold on the five-stop XTERRA U.S. Pro Series.  Elites count their best three-of-four regional scores plus whatever they get at Nationals to determine the Series winner.  Brad Weiss (RSA) and Emma Garrard have equally solid footing in second.

It was without a doubt the coolest weather XTERRA has ever experienced for this race, a wetsuit-legal event for pros and amateurs with Oak Mountain Lake reading 64F in the morning.

While the rain came down during the early morning hours it calmed enough for a dry start, but about 15 minutes into the bike leg an ominous black cloud came down dropping buckets of water and creating eerily dark conditions in the tree-covered forest.

“It was an adventure out there,” said Middaugh.  “We thought the rain was done and all of a sudden it got really dark and the skies opened up and dumped rain for 20-30 minutes and then we went into the Blood Rock section with all that mud and rain, it was wild. Then the sun came out, it was a strange race.”

Strange, albeit fairly predictable race dynamics with Dan Hugo (RSA), Mauricio Mendez (MEX), and Craig Evans (USA) getting the early jump out of the water, Middaugh 2:20 back and charging hard, and Weiss, Branden Rakita (USA), Ryan Ignatz (USA) and company kind of in the middle of all that.

What seemed different was just how close the racing was today.

“Everything was so tight, and I think that’s a testament to the strength of the field, it was a battle out there for everybody.  It was a true race, everybody was fighting hard,” said Middaugh.

Xterra Southeast Championships elite women’s winner Flora Duffy [photo: courtesy of XTERRA]

Duffy put another stamp on her XTERRA passport today winning her fourth major of the season – and third in the last month.

She posted the fastest swim, coming out of the water with Christine “Big Fish” Jeffrey (USA) and all the lead men, and then torched one of XTERRA’s most challenging mountain bike courses.  Her women’s leading bike split was three minutes quicker than that of the next best time, posted by Emma Garrard, and by the bike-to-run transition she had a five-minute advantage.

“Mountain biking obviously was my weakness last year but I worked really hard on it over the winter and that seems to be paying off, and I think it’s kind of like my secret weapon right now,” said Duffy.  “I think I showed my skills are improving, and it’s really a boost to my confidence.”

Garrard, who since last year’s USA Championship race has established herself as the fastest American in the sport, had another impressive performance today.  She posted the second-best bike and the fastest run of the day.

“I was five minutes back starting the run and it can be hard to keep pushing yourself facing that kind of gap but you never know what’s going to happen,” said Garrard, who cut one-minute into Duffy’s lead on the twisty track around the lake.  “I think Flora was close to 11 minutes in front of us in Vegas and hope I was able to cut that in half.  Flora is in phenomenal shape and to do well on a course like this says something about her technical riding skills.  She’s a good bike handler.”

Suzie Snyder (USA) and Jeffrey had their best races in some time, finishing in third and fourth, respectively.  Snyder came into T2 in 3rd and went out in 4th, joking that Jeffrey “disrobed” her in transition, but was able to regain the lead.

Chantell Widney (CAN), Danelle Kabush (CAN), and Kara LaPoint (USA) finished 5-6-7 for the second straight XTERRA U.S. Pro Series race.

Molnar, Ignatz win overall amateur titles

Last September Dan Molnar was in the shape of his life and hoping to win the amateur title at XTERRA Nationals in Utah before a bad crash left him battered-and-bruised and unable to compete.  Today, those memories were wiped away with a career-best showing that saw him place 12th overall.

Molnar had a blazing run to catch Grayson Keppler for the win.

“It feels great to be back and be able to go hard,” said Molnar. “I pushed really hard on the bike and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run that fast so being able to respond feels good.”

In the women’s amateur race Ignatz was faster than the top six finishers from last year and placed eighth overall, and almost four-minutes ahead of 40-44 XTERRA World Champion Mimi Stockton.

“It’s my first-time here and I just loved it,” said Ignatz, a former age-group XTERRA World Champ herself.  “It was a super interesting race with all the weather conditions and slick roots and rocks.  Certainly happy with my performance today.”

2014 XTERRA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING EVENTS

The XTERRA Southeast Championship was the 12th of 36 events where the fastest amateur athletes from around the globe could qualify to race at the 19th annual XTERRA World Championship at Kapalua, Maui on October 26, 2014.

Date Race Location / Pro Winners
23-Feb XTERRA South Africa Dan Hugo / Flora Duffy
8-Mar XTERRA Motatapu Braden Currie / Nicky Samuels
15-Mar XTERRA Philippines Championship Dan Hugo / Renata Bucher
29-Mar XTERRA Guam Championship Dan Hugo / Renata Bucher
29-Mar XTERRA Costa Rica Leonardo Chacon / S. Vanlandingham
30-Mar XTERRA Great Ocean Road Ben Allen / Jacqui Slack
5-Apr XTERRA Saipan Championship Ben Allen / Carina Wasle
12-Apr XTERRA New Zealand Championship Conrad Stoltz / Barbara Riveros
13-Apr XTERRA West Championship Josiah Middaugh / Flora Duffy
26-Apr XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship Dan Hugo / Flora Duffy
3-May XTERRA Malaysia Dan Hugo / Jacqui Slack
17-May XTERRA Southeast Championship Josiah Middaugh / Flora Duffy
24-May XTERRA Mauritius Bois Cheri
24-May XTERRA Spain Championship Cartagena, La Manga
1-Jun XTERRA Portugal Golega
8-Jun XTERRA Brazil Championship Ilhabela, Sao Paulo
15-Jun XTERRA East Championship Richmond, Virginia
21-Jun XTERRA Greece Lake Plastira
28-Jun XTERRA Switzerland Championship Vallee de Joux
29-Jun XTERRA Norway Horten
5-Jul XTERRA Ontario – Canadian Cross Tri Champs Milton, Ontario, Canada
6-Jul XTERRA France Championship Xonrupt, Gerardmer
6-Jul XTERRA Victoria British Columbia, Canada
6-Jul XTERRA Freedom Fest Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii
13-Jul XTERRA Sweden Hellasgaarten
19-Jul XTERRA Mountain Championship Beaver Creek Resort, Avon, Colorado
26-Jul XTERRA Italy Championship Abruzzo, Scanno
2-Aug XTERRA Mexico Championship Tapalpa, Jalisco
9-Aug XTERRA Czech Championship Prachatice
16-Aug XTERRA Germany Championship Zittau
17-Aug XTERRA Canmore Alberta, Canada
24-Aug XTERRA England Cranleigh, Surrey
31-Aug XTERRA Denmark Tisvilde
31-Aug XTERRA Quebec Lac Delage, Quebec, Canada
7-Sep XTERRA Sleeping Giant Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
20-Sep XTERRA USA Championship Ogden/Snowbasin, UT
26-Oct XTERRA World Championship Maui, Hawaii