Lodwick third, Demong fifth at Summer Grand Prix

Lodwick third, Demong fifth at Summer Grand Prix{mosimage}American Todd Lodwick finished third and teammate Bill Demong fifth Sept. 4 as the weather-plagued Summer Grand Prix for nordic combined came to a strange ending in Steinbach-Hallenberg, Germany.

Lodwick’s podium lifted the defending champion – who had two top-5s and two other top-10s – to sixth in the final standings for what turned out to be a four-event schedule; two competitions, set for Aug. 27-28 in Oberstdorf, Germany, were canceled because of the flooding that ravaged much of central Europe last month.

Austrian Christoph Bieler, who won two of the four events including the finale in this area near Oberhof, is the 2005 Grand Prix champion.

The Summer Grand Prix features a variation on nordic combined, presenting jumping on a hill with a plastic out-run and inline skating to simulate cross-country skiing.

‘The Germans and Austrians train on inline skates quite a bit, but we don’t do a lot of inline training, so our main concern at the Grand Prix is seeing how the guys are jumping’ explained U.S. head coach Bard Elden. ‘Any good results are almost a bonus, and, of course, last year Todd won it and Johnny [Spillane] was third, and Todd was second in ’03 … so that’s always good.’

On Saturday, Sept. 3, high winds forced organizers to postpone the jumping portion of a mass-start sprint event until Sunday. Lodwick won the 10K inline race by one-tenth of a second over Austrian Felix Gottwald. Sunday morning, winds limited the jumping phase to one round and German Georg Hettich was the winner with Lodwick dropping to 10th place.

Sunday night, the final event – a sprint with one round of large hill (HS 140) jumping and a four-lap 7.5K race – was held. Bieler and Norway’s Petter Tande tied for the jumping lead with Demong third and Lodwick fifth. Bieler and Tande led the 7.5K from the start and officials gave the victory to Bieler in a photo finish. Lodwick was 12.5 seconds back with Demong fifth, another .3 off the pace.

In the post-event press conference, Lodwick said, ‘The competition today went OK for me. Sure, the wind had its hand in it, but we’re an open-air sport, so we have to deal with it. …We have a lot to do before winter.’

The nordic combined World Cup season opens Nov. 25-27 in Kuusamo, Finland.

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