Steamboat Springs If it’s a sign of things to come, the next 18 months could be mighty fine for the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team.
The squad capped a long training tour in Europe with a trip to Sochi, Russia, where the athletes used several summer Grand Prix Nordic combined competitions to gather their first impressions of the facilities for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The early returns were great for the U.S. team's Steamboat Springs-based skiers.
Todd Lodwick, who plans to make Sochi his sixth Olympic Games, won one weekend event and finished second in the other. He excelled in the 10-kilometer cross-country roller ski races in both.
He won Sunday, jumping to fifth place on the facility's new jumps. Then, starting 29 seconds behind Austria’s Bernhard Gruber, Lodwick laid down the day’s best cross-country roller ski time — 19 minutes, 10.7 seconds — to edge out Gruber and win the day. He won by the narrowest of margins, 0.4 seconds.
Fellow Steamboat resident and Olympic medalist Johnny Spillane was seventh in the same competition after jumping to sixth place. Steamboat’s Taylor Fletcher was 10th after jumping eighth, and Bryan Fletcher was 21st.
Gruber, an accomplished international competitor who logged one World Cup victory and four other podiums last winter, won the competition Saturday, holding off Lodwick. Lodwick jumped ninth but again was the fastest on the roller skis. He came up four seconds shy, however.
Billy Demong was seventh Saturday, Spillane was 14th and Bryan Fletcher was 16th.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com