Cunningham leads Team USA on snowy Altenberg track
ALTENBERG, Germany (Nov. 29, 2015)- Nick Cunningham (Monterey, Calif.) and his push crew of Frank Del Duca (Bethel, Maine), James Reed (Garmisch, Germany) and Sam Michener (Gresham, Ore.) were the top American team in today's Altenberg four-person bobsled World Cup with a 14th place finish. Steven Holcomb (Park City, Utah) teamed with Carlo Valdes (Newport Beach, Calif.), Nic Taylor (Hayward, Calif.) and Adrian Adams (Reidsville, N.C.) for 17th place after a troublesome start to the four-person bobsled season.
"It was a difficult day for us," said USA Bobsled Head Coach Brian Shimer. "The highs are always really high and the lows are really low, there never seems to be anything in between. It's snowing pretty heavily, so it was a bit of luck of the draw since they are sweeping for every two to three sleds. Hey, that's part of the sport; we know we can't control Mother Nature. Unfortunately, we had some bad luck today."
Cunningham, Del Duca, Reed and Michener weren't lucky enough to receive a sweep before their start in the first heat, and it reflected in their push time of 5.38 seconds. The crew rallied back in the second heat with a start of 5.29 to finish with a combined time of 1:53.85 to lead Team USA in 14th place.
"Nick's team wasn't on the good side of the sweep in the first heat, but the guys came back and pushed in the 20s, which was promising to see them come back strong," Shimer said. "Del Duca also stepped in today for his first World Cup race and he did a great job."
Team Germany swept the medals on their home track. Francesco Friedrich and his crew of Martin Putze, Jannis Baecker and Thorsten Margis were victorious with a two-run total of 1:51.79. Nico Walther and his team of Marki Huebenbecker, Christian Poser and Eric Franke were in the lead after run one, but fell back into second place in the final heat with a total time of 1:51.88. Maximilian Arndt, Kevin Kuske, Ben Heber and Kevin Korona rounded out the podium in third place with a combined time of 1:52.03.
Holcomb, Valdes, Taylor and Adams had a mishap at the start in the first run. Holcomb said he had trouble hearing with people cheering and the wind and that the crew started moving the sled at the start before he was prepared.
"My guys realized we weren't on point and had the right frame of mind to stop and bring the sled back so we could do it right," Holcomb said. "It's a mistake that rarely happens, but if we had kept going with that start, it would have been a horrible time."
Forty-five meters down the start ramp Holcomb felt a strain in his quadriceps and had trouble loading and settling into the sled. With lack of control, the sled skid and hit the wall out of corner two, scrubbing speed from their time.
"I'm obviously disappointed and curious as to why the injury happened; I warmed up well and haven't had any issues," Holcomb said. "It caught me off guard."
Holcomb opted to sit in the sled for the push in the second heat, and regardless of the deficit at the start, the team was able to gain a spot thanks to Holcomb's impeccable driving. Their first run time was 57.19, and despite sitting in at the start and posting a push time of 5.63, Holcomb bettered their finish to 57.06. The crew finished with a total time of 1:54.25 to move up a spot after the first heat for 17th place.
"It's kind of an exciting moment when I just get to take a seat and drive," Holcomb said. "I'm joking of course, but it is what it is. I just had one of the best runs of my life in that run, it was near perfect, so I'm happy with that. My guys also pushed really well considering they were pushing me in the sled, and I'm not exactly a light guy."
The medical team will evaluate Holcomb this afternoon to determine if he will push or sit in during training this week.
The final heat of today's four-person race will air on Universal HD at 1 p.m. EST today. The World Cup tour moves on to Winterberg, Germany this week for the second of three stops of the first half.
"We're looking ahead to getting better each week," Shimer said. "It's about getting experience and building on that, and I have a lot of faith in this team."
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1. Friedrich, Baecker, Putze and Margis (GER) 1:51.79 (55.81, 55.98);
2. Walther, Huebenbecker, Poser and Franke (GER) 1:51.88 (55.65, 56.23);
3. Arndt, Kuske, Korona and Heber (GER) 1:52.03 (55.75, 56.28);
14. Cunningham, Del Duca, Reed and Michener (USA) 1:53.85 (56.99, 56.86);
17. Holcomb, Valdes, Taylor and Adams (USA) 1:54.25 (57.19, 57.06);
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