The annual XTERRA offroad triathlon in Beaver Creek has long been one of the valley’s signature summer sporting events. For the past decade, however, it had played second fiddle to bigger races held elsewhere in America: the XTERRA World Championship in Hawaii and the US Championship in Utah. That is changing this summer.
With the worlds moving to Italy after 26 years in Maui and the race venue in Snowbasin, Utah, suffering from a drought that prevented last year’s national championship from featuring a swimming leg, top local pro Josiah Middaugh received a series of calls this winter from XTERRA organizers. “They asked if I thought it was a possibility to move the US Championship here, and I was all for it,” says Middaugh, who lives in Eagle-Vail. “I was pumped to have the opportunity to showcase our valley on a bigger stage.”
Middaugh, a 15-time US champion and the 2015 world champ, helped design the original Beaver Creek course with local adventure-racing legend Mike Kloser. He often saw valley athletes win their age groups in Maui and Utah, but he was always disappointed when the sport’s biggest names prioritized those races over his hometown event. “Some people would kind of duck out of the Beaver Creek race, but you’d see them in Utah,” he says. “To have US Champs here now, I think we’ll see really deep fields in every age group as well as the pro ranks.”
Unlike traditional road triathlons, XTERRA events—which started in 1996 and became wildly popular in the early 2000s, when Middaugh took up the sport—include a trail running and a mountain biking leg. The addition of dirt, rocks, and substantially more climbing added an adventure component to what was otherwise a predictable sport. It also fostered a grassroots atmosphere among competitors, who were required to have more skill and take more risk.
Now, as the only championship race on American soil, one of the sport’s premier courses will finally test a premier field—a prospect welcomed by the Town of Avon, as well. The July 16 race will include a festival-style, family-friendly expo at Nottingham Park, complete with a Friday night movie and stand-up paddleboard race.
“It just came at us fast and furious—XTERRA said, Hey, do you want to do this? and we said yes, because we’d been toying with it for a few years with their past executive team and looking at how to activate Nottingham Park more,” says Danita Dempsey, Avon’s culture, arts, and special event manager.
The occasion will be especially significant for Middaugh, who at 43 is mostly retired. When he races this summer, he will toe the line next to his 18-year-old son, Sullivan, who won his age group in Maui last December but has never entered a pro race. Spectators can expect to see about 500 racers in the field, on a course that begins with a 1,500-meter swim in Nottingham Lake, then continues with a 15.5-mile bike leg starting on the Elkhorn Trail before finishing with a 6-mile trail run into Beaver Creek Village. The overall prize purse is $25,000, but at least for Middaugh, the ultimate payoff isn’t about the money.
“The overall goal for this race,” he says, “is to really have a bigger community tie-in.”