After a 10 year absence, the Xterra Canadian Championships returned to Whistler Saturday, and by all accounts the event was a bruiser - maybe the toughest Xterra event in the world. Some rain overnight made things even tougher, especially on some rooty sections of the bike leg.
Josiah Middaugh of Vail, Colorado and Mike Vine of Edmonton (North Vancouver until last year) duked it out on the course, which included a 1.5 km swim on Alta Lake, a 30 km bike on Whistler's west side and a 9 km run on technical trails with a lot of climbing.
Middaugh took the win after passing Vine on the run, but it wasn't easy.
"It's a lot different than a lot of races we do. There were some really technical sections," said Middaugh. "But it's got a good mix of everything, so you can use your fitness whenever you can and just hope you have the technical skills for the other parts.
Middaugh crossed the finish line in two hours, nine minutes and 30 seconds, with Vine less than a minute back in 2:10:22.
Vine was faster in the water by 35 seconds and just one second faster on the bike. Middaugh's run time was the difference, 1:25 minutes faster than Vine.
"Mike really had my number on the bike. He was just whaling all the downhills and he would put about 40 seconds on me on the downhill in a lap. I would catch him on the climb, but just barely - I'd get back on his wheel and he'd be gone again. I had a couple of fumbles on the roots where I was just sliding around and he was just ripping through that stuff. I don't know what he was doing but it was impressive."
While Middaugh had the legs for the run, he also paid a price and said his legs were like rubber by the finish.
For his part, Vine was glad to be in the mix.
"Last year I was in North Van and I was up in Whistler all the time riding the trails. But I moved to Edmonton this year and shifted gears from full-time racer to working full-time in a physical trade. It's been a tough summer working my butt off and then trying to fit in a little bit of training where I could... so for me to be in the mix and slugging it out, I'm totally pumped about that."
Vine also gave the course high marks.
"This is a national level event and all the Xterra pros want to see a challenging course like this," he said. "Some of the races down in the U.S. aren't as rigorous or technical... and a lot of guys prefer this. And I think those are even some of the tamer trails around Whistler."