XTERRA Beaver Creek Mens Race Preview

Thursday 13 July 2017
The seventh stop on the XTERRA Pan America Tour heads to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains for the ninth edition of XTERRA Beaver Creek on Saturday, July 15, 2017.

The annual summer classic attracts the best elite racers from the U.S. and around the world.

In the men’s race all eyes are on the highly anticipated showdown/rematch between 38-year-old XTERRA legend Josiah Middaugh, the 2015 XTERRA World Champion who lives and trains right here in Beaver Creek, and 21-year-old phenom Mauricio Mendez, the 2016 XTERRA World Champion from Mexico City.

“Having Mauricio here changes the dynamics of the race and will make it a suffer-fest right from the start,” said Middaugh, winner of the last four races at XTERRA Beaver Creek. “I’m going to have to go hard and make up time early on the bike because with a guy like Mauricio if I don’t make the catch by the run, it’s not going to happen. Mau has raced here before and is not afraid of the altitude since Mexico City is at similar altitude, and he’s one of the fastest all-around guys in the game right now.”

For Mendez, who finished third the last time he raced here back in 2014, having the opportunity to compete against “the master” in his own backyard is a dream opportunity.

“I am craving the dirt as never before,” said Mendez. “To be here in Josiah’s hometown is very special. I have always admired Josiah, and learned a lot from him over the years. For me, I just want to cross the finish line knowing that I gave it my all and see where I stand. I’ve learned that everything is about the moment, the opportunity, and I am here to make something special happen.”

Other big names in the men’s race include a pair of Boulder’s best with Ben Hoffman, who has placed in the top four here five years in a row, and Sam Long, a 21-year-old who finished runner-up to Middaugh in his XTERRA debut last year.

“I always love to include a little XTERRA during my season, and the race in Beaver Creek is the perfect option to throw my hat in the ring against some incredible athletes close to home,” said Hoffman. “With both World Champions from the last two years toeing the line in the mountains of Colorado, I’ll have a perfect opportunity to test myself against the best off-road guys, and jump start the second half of my season. The XTERRA atmosphere always gets me fired up and it’s the perfect change of pace for me during a season of long course racing. It’s the ideal balance of pain and pleasure racing with such a beautiful backdrop while the legs and lungs burn in the thin air. With an eye on defending my Kona-Maui Double crown yet again, I wanted to punch my ticket in Beaver Creek and get a little more experience before the big race in Hawaii later this year.”

As for Long, who is in his last semester of college (CU) as a double major in physiology and psychology (he threw in a business minor for fun), he’s just “stoked” to do this race again.

“I love XTERRA’s, they really are kinda my thing since I grew up as mountain boy and still love nothing more than spending time up high in the mountains. When I race XTERRA I find I can push myself harder and get into a flow state very easily. I just spent two weeks in Crested Butte doing a high-altitude camp so I am feeling prepared. I also feel my mountain bike skills are dialed in, so hopefully I can do as well, if not better : ) than last year. I’m up against the best in the world with Josiah and Mauricio and Ben and all the other guys. I love racing Josiah, he is one of my idols both in and outside of the sport. I dream of having a similar career and lifestyle as him (personal trainer/triathlete).”

While Josiah, Mauricio, Ben, and Sam are the “favorites” there are a dozen other elite men in the field with big credentials and possibility, including but not limited to Pan Am Tour No. 1 Branden Rakita from Colorado Springs, who finished second here in 2013, Veit Hoenle, a German star from the European Tour, the reigning XTERRA Thailand Champ Kieran McPherson from New Zealand, and perennial XTERRA mountain specialists like Ryan Ignatz and Brian Smith.

“With all the talent in this field on Saturday I’m going to have to be on,” said Middaugh. “To have the best racers in the sport come to your home turf and have the chance to race them here, that’s what athletes dream about.       Now I just have to rise to the occasion.”

Pan Am Pro Series Rank – Name, Age, Hometown

1 – Branden Rakita, 36, Colorado Springs, Colorado
3 – Josiah Middaugh, 38, Eagle-Vail, Colorado
7 – Kieran McPherson, 25, Matamata, New Zealand
10 – Ian King, 27, Virginia Beach, Virginia
11 – Ryan Ignatz, 38, Boulder, Colorado
13 – Cedric Wane, 31, Papeete, Tahiti
17 – Brian Smith, 41, Gunnison, Colorado
20 – Michael Nunez, 36, Salt Lake City, Utah
24 – Veit Hoenle, 25, Savannah, Georgia
NR – Taylor Charlton, 25, Brisbane, Australia
NR – Mario de Elias, 32, Boulder, Colorado
NR – Ben Hoffman, 33, Boulder, Colorado
NR – Sam Long, 21, Boulder, ColoradoNR – Mauricio Mendez, 21, México City, Mexico
NR – Joshua Merrick, 35, Fraser, Colorado
NR – Brad Zoller, 39, Avon, Colorado
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