Norway’s Kokslien at home in Steamboat on his countryman’s hill | SteamboatToday.com

Norway’s Kokslien at home in Steamboat on his countryman’s hill

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Skiing in Steamboat Springs doesn't just have some Norwegian roots.

Its roots are almost entirely Norwegian, the sport brought to the small mountain town 104 years ago by Carl Howelsen.

Howelsen — Karl Hovelsen in his native Norway — was to ski jumping in the United States what Johnny Appleseed was to apple trees, and when he moved to Steamboat in 1914, he planted the seeds that grew into the city's current jumping complex on the slope named after him.

Saturday, another Norwegian felt right at home on Howelsen's hill, Mikko Kokslien, who won a Nordic combined Continental Cup race in Steamboat for the second consecutive day.

He broke from the pack late during Friday's cross-country ski race to win the first of the weekend's three events, but Saturday, he flexed his muscles, pulling away early in the 10-kilometer ski race, then holding that fat lead for the rest of the event.

"I'm more happy with the performance today than yesterday," Kokslien said. "I was pretty confident after three laps, but it's mentally very different to ski in front. I'm usually the one who's chasing. Luckily, I had that big of a gap, and I was able to maintain a decent pace."

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He went on to win by seven seconds.

There was one minor switch Saturday, but the faces on the podium remained the same through the weekend's first two events. This time, the hard-charging Frenchman Hugo Buffard skied into second place after a third-place finish Friday, while Norway's Truls Johansen was third, swapping spots with Buffard.

Kokslien "was too far from me. It was not possible for me to catch him, but I'm happy," said Buffard, who had the fastest ski time for the second race in a row.

"I'm happy to start like this, and I hope I can go to the World Cup in January," he said.

The Americans came away with a familiar story, as well. For the second consecutive day, 19-year old U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team member Ben Loomis shined brightest, turning in a huge result on the ski jumping hill into a fifth-place finish in the cross-country ski race.

Loomis started the race in third place and hung with the top pack for the first two of the five laps. Kokslien broke away on that second lap and while Loomis later said he wasn't trying to catch back up to the Norwegian, that he was just pushing at the pace that was comfortable, he also ditched that pack and skied alone for the third and fourth laps.

A well-constructed chase group caught him for the final lap, but he didn't yield much for his second fifth-place finish in as many days.

"It feels good to be working at the front and I'm really happy to walk away with that great race experience, working with the top guys," Loomis said. "I know the hill well, know the jump, and I'm staying relaxed. That's really helped."

Steamboat Springs and U.S. team skier Jasper Good also had a strong second day. He was 10th Friday, then was even better Saturday, skiing up to eight.

He now has three career top-10 Continental Cup finishes after entering the weekend with just one.

Stephen Schumann was 15th for the United States, moving up after jumping to 29th. Steamboat skier Ben Berend gained several spots on the cross-country ski course, moving up from 28th to finish 24th.

Steamboat’s Grant Andrews was 30th, Jared Shumate 33rd, Beckett Ledger 40th and Aidan Ripp 42nd.

The Continental Cup returns Sunday for its third and final competition. Jumping will start at 10:30 a.m. at Howelsen Hill with the cross-country ski race to follow at 2:30 p.m.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

Sunday, competition No. 3

9:30 a.m. Trial round jumps at Howelsen Hill HS75 jump

10:30 a.m. Competition jumping begins

2:30 p.m. 10K cross-country ski race at Romick Rodeo Arena at Howelsen Hill

3 p.m. Awards at Romick Rodeo Arena