Pittsfield's Chuck Berkeley's team is third in Olympic bobsled trials
Steven Holcomb did not have to compete in the U.S. two-man bobsled team trials, given that he's already assured of a spot on this season's national squad based on past performances.
Still, given that it's an Olympic season, Holcomb figured it's never too early to start building momentum.
And with the way Chris Fogt was pushing his sled, it almost looked easy for the longtime pilot of USA-1.
The 2010 Olympic gold medalist teamed with Fogt to win the second and final race of the two-man trials Sunday night in Park City, Utah, finishing two runs in 1 minute, 37.20 seconds.
That time is two-tenths of a second faster than what Holcomb clocked at Park City last winter on the way to winning a World Cup race on the 2002 Olympic track -- and this is still essentially just preseason, which makes the time they posted Sunday even more impressive.
"We've been training as a team for the last two months, and that's been huge for us," Fogt said. "I'm from Utah, my parents live here, my wife is here and I didn't invite anyone to this race. I didn't want anyone here. It was the most nervous I've been for a race in a long time. I felt the pressure to perform well and it went the way I wanted to. I could not be happier with those push times."
Nick Cunningham and Dallas Robinson were second in 1:37.55. Cory Butner and Chuck Berkeley were third in 1:37.62, and Codie Bascue and Adam Clark took fourth in 1:38.29.
Holcomb, who drove the U.S. four-man sled to gold at the Vancouver Games four years ago, is competing in these trials with hopes of getting the winning vibe going early this season.
So far, so good.
"That's actually exactly it," said Holcomb, who will still have to qualify for a spot in the Sochi Olympics this winter. "Couple years ago I made the mistake of taking team trials lightly, and then we got to the first race and realized we weren't as prepared as we should have been. The results don't matter, so we were able to try some things, and it went well. We found some stuff that's going to help us in the season."
The order of finish for the drivers was the same as the first race in the series, which occurred in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Oct. 12. Some sleds had different brakemen for the runs in Lake Placid, which is not unusual and gives both coaches and drivers a chance to see how certain combinations click.
Holcomb and Fogt had the two fastest start times Sunday night, a 4.75 in their first run and a 4.79 in their second. That, combined with Holcomb's driving ability on what he considers his true home track, made them the ones to beat.
Cunningham and Robinson were closest after the first heat, finishing 0.21 seconds off Holcomb's pace. Butner and Berkeley were just 0.08 seconds off Holcomb's time in the second heat, but it wasn't enough to move into the top two spots overall.
"Feeling better each week," Butner wrote on Twitter after the race. "Drove well just a couple mistakes at the bottom cost us 2nd."
Sunday's race was the start of what's shaping up as a hectic 11 days for the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. Trials are scheduled to begin in Lake Placid on Monday morning for the women's and men's skeleton teams. Women's bobsled trials -- which started in Lake Placid -- resume in Park City on Friday night, with four-man trials being held on the same track Friday and Saturday.
The skeleton teams complete their trials in Park City on Oct. 29 and 30, with the World Cup season in all disciplines starting next month.
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