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Winner Noelle Pikus-Pace of the U.S. speeds during the women's Skeleton World Cup in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Saturday, January 11, 2014. (AP hoto/Keystone/Arno Balzarini)
Winter sports: Utah’s Noelle Pikus-Pace wins third skeleton race

First Published Jan 11 2014 09:49 am • Last Updated Jan 16 2014 08:35 pm

Noelle Pikus-Pace continued to thrive on the skeleton World Cup circuit in advance of the upcoming 2014 Sochi Olympics, winning her third race of the season in Switzerland on Saturday.

The Orem native and Eagle Mountain resident blitzed the field on the St. Moritz track where she won the 2007 world championship by the widest margin in history, clocking a two-run combined total of 2 minutes, 19.88 seconds — a whopping 0.40 seconds faster than top rival Elizabeth Yarnold of Great Britain.

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"This has been such a great week," she said. "I was a little behind at the start today and I knew some athletes made some mistakes in the first run, so I needed to attack each curve. This is such a special track, and I feel great with the result today."

Combined, Pikus-Pace and Yarnold have won all six World Cup races this season, with Pikus-Pace having a silver and a bronze and Yarnold two silvers and a bronze.

It’s clear the two are the runaway favorites to fight for gold in Sochi.

Pikus-Pace enjoyed a surprise visit from her brother and some sponsors from Utah-based crane company Mountain Crane Service, and put herself in line to win the FIBT Triple Trophy and its €100,000 prize. To do that, she must win the final three races of the year and be fastest in all six runs over the span.

After crashing in training during the week, Pikus-Pace was the only slider under 70 seconds in each run on Saturday, with the remaining races next weekend in Igls, Austria, and Jan. 26 in Konigssee, Germany.

"I hadn’t even thought about that," she said. "I don’t do well when I think about results or prizes, so I just need to execute one curve at a time, one race at a time, and be happy with that."

Park City’s Steven Holcomb and Alpine’s Chris Fogt finished fifth in the two-man bobsled race later Saturday, 0.55 seconds behind victorious Beat Hefit and Alex Baumann of Switzerland.

It was the fourth straight race in which Holcomb has failed to reach the podium - all in Europe - after winning the first seven races of the season in North America. His four-man race is Sunday.

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"We knew it was going to get harder when we came to Europe," Holcomb said, "but it doesn’t mean we’re still not trying to win. … It’s not like 100 meters is 100 meters in our sport. There are so many nuances to each track, and we have limited runs over here. We knew it would be a battle, but it’s one we’re ready to fight."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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