December 12, 2014

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis had the fastest start in each run of the season-opening World Cup two-man bobsled race of the season.

The German duo also didn't have to run over any hats.

Friedrich and Margis won the two-man race at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Friday with a pair of clean runs, and getting some help when U.S. driver Nick Cunningham ran over a large red-and-white flannel hat that someone inadvertently dropped onto the track late in his second run.

The hat got wrapped around one of the runners attached to Cunningham's sled and likely slowed him down, though probably not to the point where it cost him the victory.

Cunningham was angry initially, kicking the hat in disgust after he finished the run. Moments later, he was laughing about what happened.

''Can't be too upset,'' Cunningham said afterward, semi-proudly wearing the hat that was ripped down the middle and declaring it an official part of his crew going forward. ''We still get the American flag on one of those poles waving in the wind. That's all we can ask for.''

Friedrich drove the fastest times in both heats, finishing in a combined 1 minute, 51.14 seconds. Latvia's Oskars Melbardis and Daumants Dreiskens were second in 1:51.31 and Cunningham teamed with World Cup rookie Casey Wickline for third in 1:51.40.

Swiss sleds driven by Beat Hefti and Rico Peter were fourth and fifth. U.S. driver Steven Holcomb, a three-time Olympic medalist, was sixth.

Holcomb - whose top goal for the season is peaking for the season-ending world championships in Germany - has been slowed while recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon, an injury he was dealing with quietly at the Sochi Olympics when he won bronze in two- and four-man events.

''Enough to wreak havoc,'' Holcomb said of the injury's severity. ''It took a long time to recover from that. Coming in, it's hard. You can't go 100 percent for four years. Sochi's over, we've got a brand new team, let's take a step back, recover ... it's just going to be rebuilding.''

Also for the U.S., Codie Bascue and rookie Alex Harrison were 13th.

(Previous versions of this story stated that Bascue and Harrison were 11th.)

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