Editor’s Note: The cross-country portion of th race was held on the same course as the Tour de Ski final climb.
VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (Jan. 10) – It was history in the making in Italy Sunday as World Champions Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) and Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO) took first and second, marking the first time two U.S. athletes have made the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup podium together.
Demong had built a sizeable lead over Norway’s Magnus Moan, who dropped off the pace of the remaining Americans and eventually finished fifth, and he powered ahead of Lodwick to a 15-second margin of victory – his first since March in Vikersund, Norway, and ninth overall.
“It’s been a little bit of a mystery,” Demong said of his failure to find the podium this season prior to Sunday. “I’ve been scratching my head and just trying to be patient. From now on, it’s about trusting that what I’m doing is working.”
Both Demong and Lodwick took the lead in the 9K individual gundersen hill climb on a mission to support teammate Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO) in his bid for 2010 win No. 2.
“We kind of expected for Johnny to be our guy,” said Demong, who had recently struggled in World Cup races – at least by his lofty standards.
The trio sustained a big early move and left just five in the lead group through 7 kilometers – three of them wearing red, white and blue. However, Lodwick stepped on Spillane’s pole with less than two miles to go, and the team struggled to get its lead horse the proper replacement as he battled up an 11 percent grade and fell behind dramatically.
“Johnny would have been right up there,” Nordic Combined Head Coach Dave Jarrett said. “We failed him with the equipment today.”
Boosting the U.S. fortunes was poor weather Sunday morning that caused organizers to scrap the final jump and use provisional results – in which the American triumvirate all finished top seven Friday.
“You’ve gotta treat the provisionals as a competition, because you never know what’s going to happen,” Jarrett said.
Spillane started just 23 seconds back of Finland’s Anssi Koivuranta, and the team’s move reduced that gap to 16 seconds by the first interval.
“The style of racing is a little bit different now,” Jarrett said, pointing to the importance of team tactics. “It seems like there’s quite a bit of parity in the field. It’s all about being in the right position in the pack to attack.”
On a day for firsts, Taylor Fletcher also earned his first-ever World Cup points in 29th place.
The men will travel to Chaux-Neuve, France, for two competitions next weekend.