Used to being on the podium in previous years, Billy Demong started this season fairly slowly by his standards, placing between 8th and 14th in his World Cup finishes. But this Sunday’s World Cup in Val di Fiemme (press release here) saw Demong back on top, his teammate Todd Lodwick by his side in 2nd place. Johnny Spillane, who started the weekend with a 4th place finish, dropped out of the lead after he broke a pole during the race.
What went well today, in order for all three of you to have such stellar races?
As a team we have been jumping really well this year. Although we are all fit and racing pretty good it seems the level of nordic combined is very tight and a lot of guys have put more time into cross country making for more pack finishes. Yesterday we set ourselves up with great jumps and started the race Johnny 3, Todd 5, And I in 7. We quickly made our way to the front in a pack of 3 and Team Trialed into the base of the climb up Alpe Cermis. Once we were on the hill it was a fitness test and I think this really favored our team more so than playing games with 15 other guys on the last 2.5 km lap, jockeying for position.
Did you start out feeling great, or at what point in the race did you realize that you could win the race?
I have been a bit up and down this year and yesterday I really wanted to just go put the hammer down. I went out hard to catch Johnny and Todd and then did a good bit of leading into the climb. I really expected Johnny to come around on the climb, but he broke a pole right at the base. I kept my head down and wanted to lead so I could dictate the pace up the mountain and although I felt controlled I eventually skied away from the group and then opened a small gap on Todd and Magnas Moan. It is such a brutal race that it was not until maybe 200 meters to go that I was confident I would win. Even the last 200 takes a minute or so!
The race took place on the final hill stage of the Tour de Ski: Were there many fans along the course, or other factors of the course that affected the conditions and atmosphere of the race?
There were a ton of people on the hill all the way up so that was hugely motivating. There was also a Helicopter hovering overhead, and I think in a small way it really pushed me as well. As far as snow was concerned we skied up over 1500′ on a north facing slope so the snow changed immensely as the race went up from wet slop to cold fine snow. It was important to choose a good all around ski with a universal grind.
It was mentioned in a press release that the team strategy was to help Johnny top the results list: how is team strategy used/executed in a nordic combined race? Why not “every racer for himself”?
Especially in Nordic Combined when you have as many as 20 guys skiing in a pack there is alot to do with strategy in terms of who can win. In some ways you have to put the hammer down to get into the right places to fight, but in other ways you have to conserve for the finish. Our thought was to help get Johnny (who has been skiing the strongest) a good fast lead into the base of the climb so he could start fresh. I think our team approach to racing helps us get results and it is way more fun to ski together with your teammates when it is possible.
The team will have a break coming up soon, is that right? What will you try to do in that time to keep sharp and make sure you go into the Olympic period as strong as you are feeling now?
I’ve done a very specific training block and recovery phase going into the past 2 world championships and I aim to do the same starting next week when I get home. I hope if anything to be a little stronger as I near a peak during the games.
Any lingering pain from your injury [FS note: Demong experienced a shoulder injury while rollerskiing this October, a fracture of the rotator cuff where it attaches to the bone] ?
I finally feel close to 100%! It took alot of PT and diligent work to get close and seemingly a cortisone shot a month ago reduced the inflammation to a point where I finally got range and strength back to normal.