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Holcomb’s feels heat from Hays at America’s Cup

If Park City native Steve Holcomb had a rear-view mirror on his bobsled, he would see Todd Hays (Del Rio, Texas) rapidly approaching him. The two aren’t really racing head to head, but their immense talent as drivers is making the American team a lot more competitive. The two drivers and their respective teams finished one and two in the final America’s Cup race on Sunday morning at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP). Holcomb won with runs of 49.91 and 49.71, for a combined time of 1:39.62.

"We came out and competed," Holcomb said.

Holcomb is driving a brand-new four-man sled and his crew of Justin Olsen (San Antonio, Texas), Steve Mesler (Calgary, Alberta), and Curt Tomasevicz (Shelby, Neb.) were able to give the sled the fastest push of Holcomb’s career — an identical 4.79 in both heats.

Finishing 1.10 seconds behind Holcomb in second place was Hays with a total time of 1:41.22. Hays and his squad of Jesse Beckom (Chicago, Ill.), Bill Schuffenhauer (Ogden) and Casey Strickland (Oxford, Fla.) had push times of 4.92 and 4.98, to runs of 50.87 and 50.35, respectively

Hays, who won the silver medal in Park City in the 2002 Olympic Games, took a break from the sport after the 2006 Olympics. Aiming to make a comeback for the 2010 Games in Vancouver , he started competing again this season.

Holcomb has his own set of hardware, becoming the first-ever American two-man World Cup champion in 2007 and earning the combined (two-man and four-man) World Cup championship in the same year.

Holcomb has sat relatively uncontested at the top of the U.S. rankings in Hays’ absence, but now that Hays is back, Holcomb doesn’t see the battle between the two as a bad thing, but rather incentive for both drivers to improve.

"I try not to worry about our team." Holcomb said. "I’m more worried about the Germans and the Swiss. It’s good to have another guy really pushing us. Competition breeds excellence."

And thus far, there has been a good competition. Holcomb and Hays traded first wins in the two-man races on Thursday and Friday.

Because of his performance last year, Holcomb earned a bye onto the World Cup team and is just getting back into the swing of competition this week and feels his driving could get better in the two-man race. He took second on Thursday with a two-run time of 1:38.63 and won Friday with a time of 1:39.16.

"The two-man is struggling," he said. "I got off to a slow start."

Hays, on the other hand, was thrilled with his two-man performance, winning with a total time of 1:38.54 Thursday and finishing just 0.03 seconds behind Holcomb, with a combined two-run time of 1:39.19, on Friday.

Hays said that Holcomb has really helped to push him in his comeback.

"It’s great to be able to gauge yourself against the No. 1 guy in the world," Hays said. "And it’s even better for the USA to have two good drivers."

Although both teams are very supportive of one another, Holcomb said that they don’t do a lot of cross-training or sharing of tips.

"Each team has its own language," he explained.

The weather and the track’s condition on Sunday may have offered the American’s a little extra preseason training The teams had a bit of rain to contend with and the drizzly weather made the track bumpy. All of the teams reported slower times than usual.

"The track gets really funny," Holcomb said. "Some parts are fast, some slippery. You speed, then you slow down."

But the weather should help the teams prepare for the opening of World Cup competition at the end of the month in Winterberg, Germany on a track well-known for getting plenty of wet weather.

"It gave us a good look at that," said Hays.

This weekend wrapped up what has been an intense couple of weeks for the American team that has been racing in team trials and America’s Cup for the last three weeks. Hays said the schedule has been rough but he thinks it will only make the U.S. that much stronger.

"It’s extremely hard, but it’s a great preparation for a long World Cup season," he said. "In World Cup competition, the U.S. has got to be ready."

The two men and their two-man and four-man crews were both named officially named to the World Cup team this weekend and head back to Lake Placid this week to start intense training before the World Cup season starts later this month. Hays said he was happy to be able to get back up to the top so quickly after the lay off.


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