After weeks of rumors and speculation, U.S. Nordic combined coach Bard Elden made it official this week, announcing that three-time Olympian Todd Lodwick will ski in a pair of World Cup B events scheduled at Howelsen Hill this weekend.
"Point-wise, these races are no big deal," Elden said. "It's more about allowing these skiers to keep competing and to compete at home."
Elden said a strange break in the World Cup's main schedule has put the American skiers in an unusual situation. The 12 days separating the events in Lillehammer, Norway, from the final event of the World Cup A's first period in Ramsau, Austria, forced the U.S. team to develop a plan to build up to the Olympic games in Italy in February.
The team could have stayed in Europe or endured the cost and stress of traveling back and forth to Europe between events. Instead, the U.S. team decided it was best to return home, where it could train together and, when possible, compete.
"My main goal is the Olympics," Lodwick said. "This is a great opportunity for our team to train and compete. It will be nice to have a couple of races at altitude and then see how I feel."
The alternative for the three American skiers on the World Cup A circuit was to remain idle until the second period of the World Cup season begins in late December. The team opted to have Lodwick and Bill Demong compete in their hometowns for the first time in years. This will be the first time Lodwick has competed in World Cup B. However, he competed -- and won -- an Intercontinental Cup in Lillehammer in 1993. The Intercontinental Cup was the precursor of World Cup B.
"I wanted to compete here because this is my hometown," Lodwick said. "This is potentially my last season, and it will be nice to compete in Steamboat in an international event."
Many of the country's other skiers heading to Steamboat for this weekend's event aren't as excited about facing America's best skier with key World Cup B points on the line.
Lodwick said he isn't taking this week's competitions lightly.
"I approach every competition the same way, and I never take winning for granted," Lodwick said. "There will be some good skiers here this weekend. ... You never know."
Top Americans, including Carl Van Loan, Alex Glueck, Jed Hinkley Eric Camerota and Brett Camerota, are expected to be in this weekend's field of more than 80 skiers. Lodwick said those skiers will be eager to pick up the points they need to move up to World Cup A when the next period begins.
The Americans are allowed to enter one World Cup A skier in each of the six World Cup B events in the United States. Elden said the team decided to start Lodwick in both of Steamboat's events, and Demong, who is training in Park City, Utah, is expected to compete in Lake Placid, N.Y., which is close to his home in Saranac Lake, N.Y.