Steamboat Springs Todd Lodwick's slip on Wednesday's slushy snow gave Bill Demong the chance he needed to break free in the last downhill of the 10K race to capture his second straight Nordic combined national title.
Coming into the race in first place after the jumps earlier that day, Demong turned in a stellar performance by never relinquishing the lead as he defended his Chevy Truck U.S. National Championship title.
Demong and Lodwick stayed within a stride from the time they descended into the stadium on their first lap of the 10K race until the last downhill.
"I decided to break away in the last 1.5K," Demong said. "In slow conditions like this, I didn't want to race to the finish. At some point, someone has got to make the move. I thought I had a better chance to pull away from him on the hill instead of going over the flats."
As Demong was making his move, Lodwick's ski tip caught on the snow to send him to the ground. Slight sleeting before the start of the race and slushy snow from Wednesday's warm temperatures made conditions less than desirable.
"It's really hard (to race) at the end of the year with the snow so rotten," Lodwick said.
With his fall at the top of the last hill, Lodwick said he could not make up the 10 to 20 seconds Demong gained on a course that ended on downhill and flat terrain. Demong finished the race 56 seconds ahead of Lodwick.
"I was just trying to stay behind (Demong) and conserve energy," Lodwick said of his strategy during the race. "It would have been nice to have a sprint to the finish. It would have been fun for the crowd."
After the morning's two K-90 jumps put Demong in first place heading into the cross country race and Lodwick starting 12 seconds behind him in second place, Demong was not too surprised by Wednesday's results.
"If I had a race plan, that was it to a 'T,'" Demong said. "I knew that (Lodwick) would catch up with me at the start. I knew we would ski together. Beating him by pulling out at the end is how I hoped it would go."
Last year, Demong took his first U.S. title when he beat Lodwick to end his three-year streak of national titles.
Matt Dayton moved up five places to take the last podium spot Wednesday. After finishing the early morning jumps in eighth, Dayton quickly jumped ahead to trail Johnny Spillane in fourth place at the start of the second lap. Dayton pulled ahead in the second half of the race to pick up a third and finish 1:20 ahead of Spillane.
"In between hills in the second lap, I picked up the pace and put some time on him," Dayton said.
Steamboat's Nathan Gerhart and Alex Glueck finished fifth and sixth.