SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Dec. 13) – Veteran Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO), returning after a two year absence, led a podium sweep of U.S. nordic combined skiers in the opening FIS Continenal Cup event Saturday at the Olympic venue in Soldier Hollow. Lodwick ran away with the win, followed by the U.S. Ski Team's Brett Camerota (Park City, UT) and Bryan Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, CO). Defending series champion Marco Pichlmayer of Austria was fourth.
Wind and blowing snow Saturday morning forced officials to scrub the jump and use a provisional jump from Friday. New snowfall at Soldier Hollow dropped 8-10 inches, but snow subsided as the eight-lap race went on.
It was the first time the USA has swept a Continental Cup (formerly known as World Cup B), a series featuring all of the top budding stars in the world.
“The top three guys as a Team – that was impressive,” said Lodwick. “Hopefully I've had a hand in letting them know they have the talent and can do even better. It was an absolute positive today!”
Lodwick, a two-time Olympian, retired after the 2006 Olympic season to settle down with his family in Steamboat Springs. But he felt he had unfinished business and made a decision last spring to come back. He has trained together with the U.S. Ski Team since summer. Saturday's competition marked his first major international event.
“One of the things I wanted to do today was to build confidence in how I feel in the race,” said Lodwick. “And I definitely felt I had some reserves.”
Lodwick went out fourth, 18 seconds behind jump leader Robert Hauser of Austria. He had the lead at the end of the first 1.3K lap and controlled the pace the rest of the way, allowing Camerota and Taylor to make their way to the front. Camerota moved up to second from his start in ninth, with Taylor making the big jump from 18th to third.
“When you're out in front you can control the pace,” said Lodwick. “Brett and Bryan proved today that the training we've been doing together all summer is paying off.”
“We thought going in that maybe we had a chance to get three in the top five,” said Camerota. “But when Fletcher caught me, I knew we had a chance to get us all into the top three. Fletcher really helped me out!”
“This is what you dream about,” said U.S. Ski Team Nordic Combined Head Coach Dave Jarrett. “We knew we had to beat Pichlmayer, but Todd had 10 seconds on him at the start and made him work. Then Brett and Bryan caught him and finished it off.”
Lodwick, Camerota and Fletcher ended up with the second, third and fourth fastest cross country times of the day behind leader Steffen Tepel of Germany, who finished eighth overall. U.S. juniors Brett Denney (Steamboat Springs, CO) and Nick Hendrickson (Park City, UT) were impressive at Soldier Hollow with the eighth and ninth fastest times.
The race was run with eight laps on a 1.3K course of manmade and natural snow with about 40 meters of climb on each lap. Heavy snow fell most of the day leading up to the event.
What made it even more special for Jarrett was that the event almost didn't happen. “When I got back from the World Cup last week and people still had their golf clubs out, I was worried,” he said. “My hats really off to Soldier Hollow and also [Chief of Competition] Keith Jenson for helping us with a backup plan at Snowbird in case we couldn't run here. It all worked out and we had a great comp here today.”
Lodwick's plan is to compete in the opening four Continental Cups, two in Utah and two this coming week on the Olympic venue in Whistler, BC. After the holidays, he'll head to the World Cup for events in Oberhof and Schonach, Germany. His primary focus of the season is the World Championships in late February in Liberec, Czech Republic.
“This is an important step for Todd in his goals,” said Jarrett. “If he wants to win a medal, he has to win or at least be on the podium here.”
The final competition in Utah is scheduled Sunday, with the jump at 9:30 a.m. at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City and cross country back at Soldier Hollow at 2:30 p.m.
FIS NORDIC COMBINED CONTINENTAL CUP
Soldier Hollow, UT
Sat. Dec. 13, 2008
(jump/XC rank, distance back)
1. Todd Lodwick, Steamboat Springs, CO, (4/2) 30:30.5
2. Brett Camerota, Park City, UT, (9/3) 00:22.0 back
3. Bryan Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, CO, (18/4) 00:47.9
4. Marco Pichlmayer, Austria, (5/11) 00:59.2
5. Matthias Menz, Germany, (6/12) 01:05.7