PARK CITY — Another race, another victory for defending Olympic champion Steve Holcomb and his Night Train crew.
“I’m pretty happy with the way we performed today,” said the Park City native and pilot of the Night Train sled after he drove to the evening's two fastest times for his third win on the track in team selection races this week at the Utah Olympic Park. “We were back in the original Night Train. It’s still fast. We were able to go back this summer and put it back together the way it was originally, and refurbish it and it had some really good speeds.”
Holcomb and his crew — Alpine’s Chris Fogt, Massachusetts’s Steve Langton and Nebraska’s Curt Tomasevicz — tied a track start record Friday, but they were just happy to get the win Saturday night after a grueling week of training and media obligations.
“It’s been a long week testing sleds, filming commercials, doing NBC promos,” Holcomb said. “It’s one of those bittersweet things that happens when you’re Olympic champions. It’s awesome to get all of the attention, but it’s exhausting.”
Fogt, who joined the Night Train crew in August after winning the U.S. push championships, said it was a much different experience than when he pushed for USA 2 in 2010.
“It’s been a whole different experience seeing it from this side of the house,” said the UVU and American Fork High graduate. In addition to all of the media commitments that come with being part of USA 1, Fogt said team time trials are a slower pace that make it harder to stay ready as an athlete.
“We’ll do four runs over a five-hour period,” Fogt said. “When you ride in the sled when you’re body is not warm, you feel it a lot more. We’re all just kind of beat down right now.”
The team will be announced Sunday morning, but Holcomb has an automatic spot because of last year’s performance. That means Saturday’s runner-up, USA 2 pilot Nick Cunningham, was actually the top qualifier. His crew pushed him to a 4.80 start both runs, the second of which was faster than the Night Train’s second push by .01 second. His total combined time was 1:36.33, while Cory Butner was third with a combined time of 1:36.72.
“My guys keep me in contention,” said Cunningham, who had Fogt on his crew last year. “My push crew is unbelievable. … They pushed their hearts out. I did leave a lot of time on the track, made some pretty costly errors. That’s one of the positives I take from this … There is still time to be found, and that’s the biggest thing I’m taking out of this race.”
All of the men said the quality of athletes vying for spots on the World Cup team is so competitive, it benefits everyone.
“USA 2 beat us in that last run,” Fogt said of the push times. “I’ve always had the motto, competition breeds excellence. In the weight room or on the track, you’re always trying to be the next person.”
Cunningham said trying to catch — and learn — from Holcomb is a unique experience.
“When you have the best in the world, every single day, every single race, it makes you want to be better,” Cunningham said. “Holcomb is so good. Any race you race with Holcomb, he will humble you in a heartbeat. Last night putting our push times together and all of a sudden Holcomb is tying a track record. He’ll never let you have an easy day. He makes you earn every second of (your time). And that’s actually really good for us.”