LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — The scene has played out the same way in five races this season. Steven Holcomb emerges from his sled, removes his helmet and laments whatever mistakes he's made.
Then he goes to pick up a gold medal. His results couldn't be better. The scary thing for the rest of the sliding world might be his insistence that he still has many ways to improve. Holcomb is now 5-for-5 in World Cup races this season, teaming with Steve Langton to win a 2-man race at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Friday to extend his perfect start. Holcomb and Langton finished two runs in 1 minute, 50.62 seconds, beating Switzerland's Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann by 0.63 seconds.
"What Holcomb's doing ... it's embarrassing," Canadian pilot Lyndon Rush said. By any measure, Holcomb has been dominant in sweeping 2- and 4-man races at Calgary and Park City to open the season, and he now has two more chances to win on home ice in Lake Placid this weekend. He will race with Chris Fogt in another 2-man race Saturday, then pair with Curt Tomasevicz, Fogt and Langton for a 4-man race Sunday — the last World Cup event in North America before the circuit shifts to Europe.
"The last few years we've been testing a lot of stuff, changing things around, our sleds were kind of falling apart a little bit because of a lack of maintenance," Holcomb said. "So, yeah, everyone kind of thought we were kind of out of the game. I think they realize we're back now. We've refined everything, this is the year it counts, everything we've learned over the last four years is now being applied and it's going to pay off."
Friday's race was over early. Holcomb and Langton were the third sled to start in the first heat and finished in 54.93 seconds. No one came close to getting near them. Nick Cunningham and Dallas Robinson of the U.S. finished the opening heat in 55.46 seconds, second by a wide margin, so to say Holcomb and Langton were dominant in the first run would have been accurate and probably an understatement.
The gap between first and second place at that point: 0.53 seconds. The gap between second and 13th place: 0.52 seconds. That means 12 sleds were more closely bunched in the race for second than anyone was with Holcomb for the race lead.
"We get to see where we stand, starting in North America, and so far so good," U.S. coach Brian Shimer said. "But we've seen time and time again, we get on European soil and on those European tracks, the Germans are very tough. Actually all the Europeans, since that's where they've got all the runs. So it's good to be a second or so up here, knowing we have a little cushion maybe."
Even though Holcomb said he made more mistakes in the second run than he had in any all season, he still finished that heat in 55.69 seconds — the fastest in the field in that round of racing. "The BMW sled is pretty good," Holcomb said. "But I think when you've got 16 years of experience driving, you've got the best pusher in the world, it's hard to keep up."
Cunningham and Robinson finished third, 0.01 seconds behind Hefti and Baumann. Cory Butner and Chuck Berkeley were fourth for the U.S., meaning the Americans had all three sleds finish ahead of any Russian or German sled — something that isn't easy to accomplish, whether on home ice or otherwise.
"I've never had five World Cup wins in a year in my career," Langton said. "This is a good little stretch. We've talked about this a little bit and what it comes down to is never being satisfied. Curt and Holcomb, they achieved the highest honor in our sport, winning a gold medal four years ago. We're back here and we all have the same goal. I'm very content with the way today went, but this race is behind me and now I'm looking forward."