By Martyn Herman
WHISTLER (Reuters) - Night Train pilot Steve Holcomb knows that a solid lump of Teutonic granite named Andre Lange is blocking the railroad to Olympic gold this weekend.
Holcomb, who shoulders American hopes of a first men's bobsleigh gold since 1948, would not want it any other way and relishes the challenge of trying to outpace the sport's most decorated Olympian in this weekend's four-man.
The burly 29-year-old from Utah beat the so called Thuringia Express to win last year's world championships in Lake Placid and also topped this season's World Cup standings with his crew Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and brakeman Curtis Tomasevicz.
He would be hot favorite for gold here too if it were not for Lange's uncanny ability to dominate Whistler's daunting 16 curves, as he demonstrated so perfectly last weekend to win gold with trusty brakeman Kevin Kuske in the two-man.
But rather than wish the veteran Lange a speedy retirement, Holcomb prefers to learn from the master.
"I like racing against Lange, we have a good rivalry," Holcomb, who matched Lange with a time of 51.73 in training on Wednesday for the second fastest of the day, told reporters after climbing out of Night Trains, his gleaming back sled.
"I know that he wants to go out with a bang and I want to stop that. Competition breeds excellence, you are always trying to catch him and getter better and better and faster and faster.
Lange is set to retire after the Olympics and could be joined by Canada's Lyndon Rush, who was quickest in training on Wednesday. Rush will make his decision after the Olympics.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)