PELHAM, Ala. — Josiah Middaugh captured the Eighth annual Xterra Southeast Championship at Oak Mountain State Park on a rainy Saturday in Shelby County, Ala.
It’s the first time Middaugh — an 8-time Xterra national champ — has won the event as Conrad “the Caveman” Stoltz swept the last six races here in Shelby County.
Saturday Stoltz held the lead through the swim, mountain bike and first half of the six-mile run before pulling with an injured calf.
“I had a big crash (at the Xterra West Champs) five weeks ago and cut my hand quite badly and got five stitches and surgery,” Stoltz said. “One week after that I was doing mountain bike racing, and because I couldn’t put weight on the handlebar it made me compensate so the left hip started cramping up and caused the hip to get semi-injured, and that transferred to my calf muscle. I’ve been struggling with the calf injury all week, and knew it was going to be touch and go if I was going to be able to run well. I felt good on the run but the injury got worse and worse and worse and I knew I had to stop because if I kept running it was probably going to tear.”
Despite the injury to Stoltz, due credit belongs to Middaugh who came out of the water about a 1 minute, 30 seconds behind the leaders, then posted the fastest bike split of the day to bridge the gap and took over on the run to capture his second straight win to start the 2013 Xterra U.S. Pro Series.
“I was happy to be able to keep the tires down and stay focused on my own race,” said Middaugh. “I really had no idea how far back I was on the bike so kept riding hard. I usually lose a lot of time in that last four miles of switchbacks so I didn’t know if I was going to come off the bike four minutes behind or one minute behind.”
Turned out he was about 1:15 behind Stoltz and a minute or so behind Dan Hugo coming into the second checkpoint of the leg.
Middaugh caught Hugo a little past the halfway point on the run then passed Stoltz right as he pulled up at the end of the first lap.
“I asked if he was OK and he said his leg was hurting. When I came around the second lap to the finish he was there cheering me in. He’s a good sport,” said Middaugh.
Hugo, who took a nasty spill in the bike-to-run transition as he slipped on the wet concrete coming in, stayed strong to finish in second. Of note, Hugo has placed 2nd at 13 of his last 14 Xterra races since winning the South Africa title in 2011.
“Josiah is the man to beat. At the end of last season he won Nationals, was incredible at Worlds and won last month’s West Championship. I knew that coming in today and he lived up to it easily, he really had it covered,” said Hugo. “I think he had it sewn up before the run. We’re going to have to lift our game to compete with him this season.”
For all the competitors, Mother Nature was their biggest competitor.
“The roots and bridges were really slick,” said Middaugh. “My front wheel slide out on the roots a lot but luckily hooked back up on the dirt. The dirt was tacky but anything root or rock was slick and the bridges were bad so I really made a point out of lining those up straight. Better to take a few seconds here and there and play it safe then lose a couple minutes by crashing.”
“We’ve never raced on this course when it was wet and the rain really changes it,” said Stoltz. “Slippery roots and the bridges were really slick so it was quite an adventure out there … everyone has a story.”