STEINBACH-HALLENBERG, Germany (Aug. 29) – Three-time Olympian Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO),Â enjoying the best preseason of his career, finished third Sunday in a sprint event, the final nordic combined Summer Grand Prix contest, as he clinched the overall title. Johnny Spillane (also Steamboat) was 10th in the finale and finished third overall.
“It's been a fun few weeks and I'm definitely psyched,” said Lodwick, who was third two years ago in the Grand Prix, second a year ago…and now champion. “To have Johnny on the podium with me at the end is great.” Lodwick won three straight individual events before the finale while he and Spillane also won the lone team (i.e., two-man) event.
Austrian Christoph Bieler, third in the jumping, won the last competition in this village outside Oberhof and moved past Spillane in the final standings to second place. He edged Germany's Ronny Ackermannn by 9.7 seconds after the seven-lap 9.3K race with Lodwick third, 11.3 seconds back. Spillane, seventh in jumping but victimized by an equipment problem in mid-race, was 10th, 1:06.8 out.
“We only had one round of jumping,” Lodwick said, “and the wind changed from a headwind after about the first 15 guys, and there was no wind, so that was no fun…and I didn't have my best jump over here, but to be second was satisfying. In the race, Bieler and Mario [Stecher, an Austrian teammate] had a strategy and he passed me in about the fourth lap. Stecher dilly-dallied around the course until Bieler and I were just about to pass him and he helped bieler go away. I only had about three meters on [Bieler] and when they took off, I couldn't keep up.”
Lodwick, who was disqualified because of no brake on his inline skates after apparently finishing second in the opening event in Kandersteg, Switzerland, finished with 410 points. Bieler had 326 and Spillane, the reigning sprint gold medalist from the 2003 World Championships, at 302.
Since they were 1-2 in the standings, Lodwick, who won the sixth World Cup contest of his career last winter, and Spillane stuck around for the last two events after the rest of the U.S. combined squad headed home a week ago. “It's been a good three weeks for the guys but it's also been exhausting,” Coach Lasse Ottesen, jumping coach for the combiners. “You're always 100 percent focused and trying to be on your game, and that can be very tiring on the mental side, so it will be good for the boys to get home, get some rest and then begin their fall training.”
He and technician Ole-Johan Oyseter took the blame for Spillane having to ski more than a lap with the wrong ski pole. “We could have managed it better for him,” Ottesen said, “because he had the wrong pole so he had to go one and a half rounds, and, for sure, that had some impact on the race.”
The World Cup season opens Nov. 27-28 in Kuusamo, Finland.