Lodwick wins in Austria

Johnny Spillane 23rd in Nordic combined

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Steamboat Springs Olympian Todd Lodwick out-sprinted Jens Gaiser of Germany in final stages Friday night to win the opening Nordic combined Summer Grand Prix, which was held in Villach, Austria.

Lodwick, a three-time Oly-mpian who's won five World Cup races in his 10-year career, overcame erratic wind conditions to finish second in the jumping on the 90-meter hill and was two minutes behind David Zauner of Austria when the 15-kilometer inline skating race got under way.

"The weather was back and forth. Some people got good wind, some didn't, but overall the (jumping) competition wasn't that far off what had been happening in training," Lodwick said.

The Steamboat native caught Zauner and then inline skated the rest of the way with Christoph Eugen, another Austrian, who placed fourth in the jumping, and Gaiser, who placed fifth.

However, in the end, Lodwick posted the 12th fastest skate time en route to finishing the race 1.8 seconds ahead of Gaiser, and 5.2 and seconds up on Eugen.

Fourth place went to Austrian, Michael Gruber, who was more than a minute and a half behind Lodwick. Zauner fell to 11th in the final standings 2:11 off the winning pace.

Carl Van Loan was 22nd posting the 10th-fastest cross country time, while Steamboat's Johnny Spillane jumped to 17th in the field of 51 athletes, and slipped to 23rd in the race. Bill Demong, who was in his first competition since fracturing his skull a year ago, raced to 46th place.

"They skied together and then Todd, who's learning the tactics in this kind of race, took them at the end," said U.S. coach Bard Elden. "He's been really consistent all summer."

Elden said the victory was a bonus for the American team because the squad does not train on inline skates. During the Grand Prix, athletes jump on plastic covered jumps and then inline skate. He said his team travels to the Grand Prix event to gauge where they are in terms of jumping.

"Roller balding is a completely different technique from cross country, so we don't do it at all, except when we come to the Grand Prix," Elden said.

The four-event Grand Prix resumes Sunday in Oberhof, Germany. Elden said Nathan Gerhart would replace Van Loan on the American teams four-man quota for each Grand Prix event.

-- U.S. Ski Team reporter Paul Robbins contributed to this report.

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