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World champ Lodwick toasts small French cars

September 11, 2009 |  4:29 pm


Nordic combined world champion Todd Lodwick says he has a new thing to love about France.

The old one was French wine.

The new one is the size of the cars many French drive.

That may have saved Lodwick's life after he crashed into a car when he and some 20 other members of the U.S. Nordic ski team were cycling back to Albertville, France, on July 22 after watching part of stage 17 in this year's Tour de France.

Speaking about the accident today at the 2010 OIympic team media summit in Chicago, Lodwick figured he was going about 25 miles an hour downhill when a car in front of him stopped suddenly in traffic congestion after rounding a curve on a two-lane road.  He then had to quickly decide whether to run into the back of that car full-speed or go toward oncoming traffic, which he could not see because of the blind curve.

He chose the other lane and wound up in a head-on collision.

He said the car, a small Fiat, was worse off than his custom-made titanium bike.

"Great bike builder,'' Lodwick said, referring to Kent Eriksen of Steamboat Springs, Colo., Lodwick's home town.  "There was no more fork and no more front tire and a lot of stuff damaged, but all in all, a little fix to the frame, and we were good to go again.''

(You can see pictures of Lodwick's bike and the car on Eriksen's website.)

Lodwick miraculously needed only some little fixes himself after flying through the windshield of the car, which had to be towed away. He had a bruised hip, a lower leg bruise, scrapes and bruises, but he walked away.

"If it was a bus, a dump truck, an RV, no chance,'' Lodwick said.  "I wouldn't be here.''

Lodwick was back on a bike within two weeks. He returned to ski training in 10 days.

"I didn't quite feel the same as I had been, but after a (recent) camp in Norway, I really feel I am coming back to my own.''

Lodwick, trying to become the first Nordic combined medalist in U.S. history, wasn't daunted even in the immediate aftermath of the crash.  

"The thought never crossed my mind that my season was over,'' he said.  "It was an unfortunate accident.  Thank God I'm alive.

"I appreciate the French for two things now. One, their wine. Two, driving small cars.''

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Todd Lodwick celebrating one of his two Nordic combined gold medals at the 2009 world championships. Credit: Petr David Josek / Associated Press