As he rested after one of his last hard training efforts in preparation for the XTERRA Pan American/USA Championship, Josiah Middaugh acknowledged he will be the target of many a racer when the pros take to the off-road triathlon course at Snowbasin on Saturday, Sept. 16.

But the thought of being a carrot for a field stocked with some of the world’s best racers doesn’t bother Middaugh. He has gotten accustomed to the role after spending 10 years at or near the top of the XTERRA standings. This year might even be his best.

Off-road triathlete Josiah Middaugh is a leading contender as the XTERRA Pan American/USA Championship hits Snowbasin on Saturday, Sept. 16.
Off-road triathlete Josiah Middaugh is a leading contender as the XTERRA Pan American/USA Championship hits Snowbasin on Saturday, Sept. 16.

Middaugh enters Saturday’s event undefeated on the Pan Am Tour, having won XTERRA races in Costa Rica, Oak Mountain, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Beaver Creek, the latter of which he finished 40 seconds ahead of current world champ Mauricio Mendez.

Given his results and the familiarity of the Snowbasin course, with its mountain trails for running and biking and Pineview Reservoir for the swim, Middaugh wouldn’t be faulted for being a little cocky as he talked about the race. He isn’t.

Josiah Middaugh

Hometown • Eagle-Vail, Colo.

Titles • 2016 Pan American Champion; 2016 Pan American Series Leader; 2015 XTERRA World Champion; 11-time XTERRA USA National Champion; XTERRA USA Pro Point Series Champion 2013, 2014, 2015

In addition to Mendez, Middaugh said other racers in the field deserve respect.

“There are going to be guys coming from the European series who are getting ready for worlds and some from Australia and Canada and Bradley Weiss from South Africa who beat me in France, so there are a lot of guys who could be at the front,” Middaugh said. “It’s going to come down to who has the goods that day.”

Middaugh won the 2015 race by 26 seconds, then outsprinted Braden Currie for the win, finishing in 2 hours, 20 minutes and 23.57 seconds to Currie’s 2:20:23.64 — the closest finish in XTERRA’s 21-year history.

(Jesse Peters | XTERRA) Josiah Middaugh, right, is chased by Braden Currie during the 11th XTERRA National Championship in Huntsville in 2015.
(Jesse Peters | XTERRA) Josiah Middaugh, right, is chased by Braden Currie during the 11th XTERRA National Championship in Huntsville in 2015.

This year Middaugh’s strategy is the same as he has employed in the past: Survive the swim, then be the fastest guy in the bike and run portions of the race.

Working in his favor is the terrain that is familiar to the Eagle-Vail, Colo., resident.

“Everything about this course suits my strengths,” he said. “I live at altitude and I excel on sustained climbs. It’s good for me to get into a rhythm and use my big aerobic engine. It usually plays out in my favor the higher and longer the climbing is.”

Middaugh set the foundation for his aerobic fitness level at Central Michigan, where he was a distance runner. He picked up XTERRA racing, which uses an off-road triathlon format, when he moved to Colorado.

Now 39 years old, he has been racing professionally for 15 years. He hasn’t grown tired of the challenge, he said.

“It’s such a dynamic sport and every course is different,” he said. “Even if you are on the same course, there are so many variables, it keeps things exciting.”

While he has had a dream season so far in the Pan Am division, Middaugh said he will wait until after Saturday’s effort and then the world championships in Maui on Oct. 29 to really judge his season.

“These are my most important races,” he said. “I know I have to perform really well.”

XTERRA Pan American/USA Championship

When • Sept. 15-17, Snowbasin

Main race Saturday

Distance • 1.5k swim/28k mountain bike/10k trail run

Winners in each age division earn a slot in the XTERRA World Championships. The top finisher in each age group will be honored as a Pan America champion and the top American in each age group will be designated as the USA champion.

For more on the events, see xterraplanet.com.