A racer navigates the mayhem on Buttermilk Trail.
It was a lot of fun riding around with Trey Garman, XTERRA’s marketing/media maven, and Jesse Peters, local photographer extraordinaire, during yesterday’s XTERRA East Championship race here in Richmond. We zipped around the course, trying to catch the male and female leaders as they passed certain key spots. We started on Belle Isle for the swim, watched the bike portion in three or four spots, then the run in a couple. It was hot as heck, but a good time. Here’s Garman’s write-up along with my pics. (I shot the video above at the infamous “rock face” party zone on Buttermilk Trail as fans waited for the racers to come by.)
Josiah Middaugh and Suzie Snyder captured the 17th annual 2015 XTERRA East Championship off-road triathlon pro race titles on a hot and humid day around the James River Park System.
Riders make their way over Reedy Creek in Forest Hill Park.
Both came from behind out of the water, took charge on the bike, and held on during the run. It’s the second career Richmond win for Middaugh, who last won it all in 2008, and the first-ever win on the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series for Snyder.
The elite race started an hour earlier than the amateur race, right at 7:50am in the warm and shallow waters of the James River. There was a spot in the middle of the river that had everyone running across water – quite a sight for those watching from underneath the CSX Railway line or across the river on Belle Isle.
Craig Evans led the pro men out of the water on Belle Isle, midway through the swim, followed by Ben Collins, Brad Zoller, Braden Currie, and Branden Rakita. Those five would post the quickest swim times (roughly 15 minutes) but Middaugh was only about one-minute back and got in the mix on the bike right away.
Men’s champ Josiah Middaugh on the run.
“This is a really challenging course for me,” said Middaugh, who lives and trains at altitude in Vail, Colorado. “It’s really different than what I train on all the time so it’s always presented a really good, hard challenge for me. I won it one year when Conrad (Stoltz) had a flat tire, it was on Father’s Day, but it’s been a while. I wasn’t able to do much pre-riding but luckily I’ve done this race like nine times or something so I felt like I knew the course, just wasn’t practiced at race speed on it. So I felt pretty good and surprisingly, I’ve worked on my technical skills a little bit and that’s starting to pay off. Keeping weight on my feet and getting around those corners. Today I had no problems, that’s the big thing. I’ve had a lot of mechanicals here in the past but today I made it through the course unscathed.”
Middaugh may have been one of the few racers today who didn’t go down at some point. Runner-up Braden Currie from New Zealand said it was all he could do to stay on his bike.
“That was a tough day out, I tried to do what I could do and I just didn’t have it,” said Currie, who came in with three straight wins at XTERRA New Zealand, Australia, and the Southeast Champs. “I’m a bit gutted really. I would have liked to been a lot closer to Josiah. It’s a bit annoying to fall off so much at the end, but that’s racing. Haven’t had the best few weeks so I’ll just take it as it is.”
There were goats in the James River System along the course. That’s correct — goats.
Without the seemingly invincible duo of XTERRA World Champs Flora Duffy and Lesley Paterson in the line-up, the spotlight seemed destined to shine on either Emma Garrard or Suzie Snyder. Those two have finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, at four of the last five regional championship races.
Garrard was coming off a brilliant effort winning last weekend’s Mountain Games in Colorado, while Snyder was still not 100% from her crash at last month’s Southeast Championship that bruised her ribs and strained her shoulder.
The two posted identical swim times and headed out on the bike behind Sara McLarty, Christine Jeffrey, and Catherine Sterling but it was all Snyder after that. By midway through the first lap in Forest Hill Park (about mile four) she had passed everyone and put two minutes on Garrard.
These dudes seemed to be enjoying themselves waiting for riders on Buttermilk Trail.