It’s the first win in four tries for Middaugh, who had been the runner-up at this race the past three seasons. “Hey, that’s better than 15 tries,” he laughed, referencing the 2015 XTERRA World Championship he won on his 15th attempt.
All those hours in the outdoor pool at the Westin in the off-season, even as snow fell all around, paid big dividends for Middaugh today. The XTERRA veteran, entering his 17th season of racing, picked up his 25th career victory on a steamy day on the beach in Costa Rica thanks in large part to a solid swim.
Branden Rakita and Ian King were first out of the water, followed by Jean-Philippe Thibodeau and Panamanian newcomer Billy Gordon, but Middaugh was just one-minute off the pace.
“My off-season training has gone really well and I felt good all day today, really strong,” said Middaugh, who chased down the lead on the bike within the first two miles and never looked back. “I also added one more day to the front end of this trip, so was able to do the pre-ride three days before instead of two days before and I think that made a big difference.”
Middaugh posted the fastest bike split of the day in 1:08:34, nearly two-minutes quicker than Kris Coddens, and pulled further away on the run to take the tape in 2:06:51, four-minutes ahead of the Belgian star.
“It’s good to win,” said Middaugh. “I realize Leo (Chacon) and Rom (Akerson) weren’t here today but I’ll look forward to seeing those guys later this season. And it’s been an amazing trip here with my wife Ingrid and 6yo daughter Larsen. We’ve done some fun things, lot of pool time, beach time, some nature preserve exploring, and ziplining too.”
Coddens, who finished third on the XTERRA European Tour last season and 4th at XTERRA South Africa to start this year, overcame an early set-back coming out of the swim-to-bike transition to work his way into second where he finished comfortably.
“I had a good swim, exiting the water right behind Josiah, but made a mistake by coming out of transition on the beach,” said Coddens. “Someone fell in front of me and then I fell so lost the connection with Josiah, but he was stronger than me on the bike.”
Like Middaugh, Coddens was able to pass the faster swimmers relatively early on, and then settle into a good rhythm.
“I really enjoyed the course, especially the beginning and end that went up and down,” he said. “The end of the bike is twisting and turning and the middle section featured flat wide roads which suited me well. I had another mistake coming into transition by going on the wrong side of the cones, but it didn’t make a difference because Josiah was about 1:30 in front and the others more than 2-minutes back. And luckily the run is in the woods and the shade because it was balancing effort out there between speed and heat. The run course was flat too which is good for me, but catching Josiah was impossible. He took some more time on me on the run, but I finished happily in second.”
Coddens, who is a teacher by trade and has two little ones of his own, brought his wife along for the trip and said “It’s been a very nice experience. We’ve been married 10 years now, and this race fell perfectly on school holiday. Now it’s time to enjoy Costa Rica for a few more days before going home again.”
Thibodeau finished five minutes behind Coddens in third, and took the lead in the Pan Am Tour standings as a result. Rakita, who was also taking part in his third race in as many weeks, finished fourth and moved into the second spot in the standings. Ryan Ignatz rounded out the top five.
1 Josiah Middaugh, USA 2:06:51
2 Kris Coddens, BEL 2:10:51
3 Jean Philippe-Thibodeau, CAN 2:15:30
4 Branden Rakita, USA 2:17:29
5 Ryan Ignatz, USA 2:18:31