Middaugh ultimate in the Ultimate

Stephen Kasica
vail daily
Vail Daily/Dominique Taylor

VAIL – When Josiah Middaugh enters a competition, history repeats itself.

The perennial victor of the GNC Ultimate Mountain Challenge at the Teva Mountain Games received his sixth first-place medal Sunday afternoon. In second was Travis Macy. Luke Jay took third place. Sari Anderson won the women’s competition, followed by Gretchen Reeves, and Sara Tarkington in third.

The Ultimate Mountain Challenge tests an athlete’s capabilities in the four essential mountain sports: kayaking, mountain biking, long-distance running and cycling. Only five male and three female athletes entered this year challenge.

The competition began on Saturday with the Bud Light Lime Down River Sprint, a three-mile kayak race through Class II and III rapids along Gore Creek. Macy, the expert paddler, took an early 39-second lead away from the Middaugh after the first event, 2 minutes and 28 seconds over Jay.

“In kayak the whole goal was not to flip. I’ve been in the boat just a few times the last couple weeks – just to get ready for it,” said Jay.

Ultimate Mountain Challenge competitors have the option of doing a stand-up paddle board race in lieu of the kayak race, but it was canceled this year because of low water levels. Because a paddleboard moves so much slower than a kayak, Macy would never compete in it.

Middaugh quickly recovered during the Volvo X-Country Mountain Bike Race. Back in the comfortable environment of mountain-bike saddle, Middaugh placed eighth overall, despite starting two minutes behind the professional wave of the race.

Anderson and Reeves also infiltrated deep into the professional field despite the initial deficit. The two women finished in fifth and sixth place among the field, respectively.

“We were really close to each other. Sari was just ahead of me,” Reeves said. “But we ended up having a pretty good time compared to the pro women – so that was pretty cool.”

After paddling and riding, the athletes are able to rest before the second day.

Sunday’s competition hit the ground running in the Volvo 10K Spring Runoff. Competitors ran up the ski slope gaining 1,800 feet of elevation through the cat walks of the Vail Mountain ski area. Middaugh placed fourth in the running, approximately two minutes off of the leader, who came fresh at the start line that morning.

“I definitely trashed my legs a little bit there, but finished pretty well, you know, overall, and first among the Ultimate Mountain Challenge people,” Middaugh said.

The series concluded with a cycling time trial up Vail Pass, up the same course ridden by legendary riders Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault in the late 1980s: The Road Bike Time Trial.

Since 2007, Middaugh has stood on the first place podium after all the announcing was said, and the racing was done. And since 2009 Macy has finished as the runner-up.

“If I’m going to finish second to someone, Josiah is a great guy to do it to.” Macy said, “He had a great mountain bike ride yesterday and I had a pretty mediocre ride.”

And Jay’s entry in the race was greatly welcomed by race veterans.

“It’s definitely welcomed, any new competitors in this event. It’s such an awesome event and I wish there’d be more top competitors that would come. But it was fun to have a couple of new faces out there,” Middaugh said.

Rivalries and second chances will come to beat Middaugh and Anderson; both will be competing in races on bike, and foot this summer.

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