New Zealand’s Braden Currie literally put it all on the line at the XTERRA Pan America Championship today, sliding towards the finish tape in the ultimate attempt to wrest the inaugural title from Josiah Middaugh, in Utah, United States.
In a “brutal” twist of fate Red Bull endurance athlete Currie thrust forward the foot that did not have his timing device on it and reigning XTERRA World Champion Middaugh snatched the win by the smallest 7/100th of a second. It is the closest finish in XTERRA’s 21-year-history, 2hours:20minutes:23.57secs to 2:20:23.64.
Wanaka’s Currie (30) had led Colorado-based Middaugh for the whole 1.5km swim, 28km mountain bike and 10km trail run race – up until the last 5m.
Despite his obvious disappointment, Currie has plenty of positives to take forward as he attempts to better his 2015 runner-up result at the XTERRA World Championships in Hawaii in five weeks. He has recovered from a recent calf strain and will be able to dedicate the next five weeks to mountain biking, after having a largely road bike-focused past six months.
The event began strongly for Currie, who lined up with a massive 35-pro athlete field for the swim.
“There was definitely some depth there that I hadn’t raced before,” Currie says.
He worked his way into the top bunch of four and exited with them into the first transition. Using his lightening quick change-over skills, Currie was first away on the especially steep 28km mountain bike ride. It featured 1036m of climbing and was an uphill slog for the entire first hour.
“This sort of big climbing course seems to suit me. I got to the Sardine Peak Trail summit (2225m) and this is where Josiah caught me last year, so my goal this year was to get there without him in sight, which I did,” Currie says.
A technical descent followed and he kept the pace up to arrive into the run transition 23secs ahead of Middaugh.
After only four days acclimatising to Ogden’s higher altitude, the run, which began at Snowbasin resort at 1950m, was “pretty brutal,” Currie says.
“I felt like I was breathing through a straw on the climbs. I knew that would be the toughest part with Josiah, as he is really strong on the climbing because he lives and trains at altitude in Vail, Colorado”
Middaugh alternately gained and lost time to Currie over the single loop run zig-zagging its way along a scenic trail and featuring a few short, very steep uphill sections with about 250m of climbing. The last fateful descent was where Middaugh started to gain ground on his rival.
Sprinting down the finish chute, Currie still had a 4sec advantage but then in the final 5m Middaugh edged alongside and in desperation the Kiwi athlete drove a leg forward under the line.
“If only I knew which foot my timing chip was on,” Currie says, ruefully after the race.
The closeness of this race has onlyfueled his fire and increased his commitment to his main goal of becoming a World XTERRA Champion this year.
“I intend to put everything into the next five weeks and our plan to stay in Lake Tahoe after the Pan Am Champs and train. It is the best possible training environment I could hope for going into the Hawaiian event.”
Braden Currie’s up-coming events
23rd October World XTERRA Championships, Hawaii.
13th November Xiamen 70.3, China
19th November ITU World Cross Tri Championships, Lake Crackenback Australia
10th December Taupo 70.3
7th January Port of Tauranga Half ironman
21st/22nd January Red Bull Defiance
CAPTIONS In the closest of finishes in XTERRA history it looks as if Braden Currie slid his leg under the finish arch and over the timing mat ahead of Josiah Middaugh, but his timing chip was on his back trailing leg which was behind Middaugh’s timing chip. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSE PETERS
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Braden Currie’s multisport campaign is made possible with the support of
Flight Centre Active Travel, Subaru of New Zealand, Specialized, 2XU and Red Bull