Steamboat Springs U.S. Nordic combined skier Bill Demong was hoping his teammate Todd Lodwick might have an off day on the cross-country course Saturday afternoon, but he didn't expect it.
"Todd is really strong at home," Demong said. "I think he's really comfortable here. He gets up in his own bed and eats breakfast in his own house.
"He's been around long enough that it's up to me to do my very best just to compete with him."
But after falling 46 seconds beh--ind the defending national champion and Nordic combined legend in jumping Saturday morning, Demong knew it was going to take more than his best to catch Lodwick.
He needed a few breaks.
But Lodwick didn't have an off day and cruised to his 17th national title in the past 13 years.
Lodwick extended his advantage along the 7.5-kilometer cross-country racecourse beating Demong to the finish line by 58 seconds.
Brett Camerota, another U.S. Ski Team member, finished third 2 minutes and 16 seconds back, Eric Camerota was fourth 2:44 back, and Carl Van Loan placed fifth at 2:48 behind the leader.
Steamboat Springs skiers Alex Glueck was sixth, Bryan Fletch--er was ninth, Alex Miller was 10th, and Davis Miller was 11th.
"When the gun goes off, and there's a race and a course and a national title and money on the line, I don't think there's anybody that takes it easy," Lodwick said. "I've never been able to relax and just go easy. It's either all or nothing for me."
Lodwick said he was a little worried knowing Demong, who recently placed in the top 10 of a World Cup event in Germany, was less than a minute behind when the race started.
"Deep down, I was a little worried," Lodwick said. "But I've been training really, really hard in Steamboat, and I know the altitude.
"I'm thrilled that my training program -- the one I started at the beginning of the year -- is starting to pay off."
Demong was able to make up some ground on Lodwick during the first two kilometers, but the gains were shortlived.
"Billy did push a little bit today," Lodwick said. "I think he really wanted to knock me off the top of the podium in my last race. He would have loved to do that, but there was some money on the line, so I wasn't going to let that happen."
Demong said winning would have been nice, but he was happy his teammate could win in his final national championship race.
"I'm psyched to see him finish on a high note," Demong said. "But I really would have liked to have thrown a wrench in his plans."
Lodwick and the rest of the field will be back at Howelsen Hill this morning for the third and final event of the U.S. Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Championships on the HS-100 hill.
The trial round is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. followed by the first official round at 10 a.m. If things go according to Lodwick's plan, he will have pocketed his 18th national title before noon.
-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org