It’s a pretty good sign for the U.S. Nordic Combined Team that a fourth-place World Cup finish for Bill Demong isn’t greeted with a whole lot of fanfare.
With 28 days before the first race of the 2010 Olympic Games, Demong and his teammates have already been on the podium four times this year, despite the fact that Head Coach Dave Jarrett says that his athletes haven’t even tried to peak yet.
In Sunday’s World Cup in Chaux-Neuve, France—his last before heading home to the U.S.—Demong finished just outside the top three, as Mario Stecher (AUS) caught and passed him in the stadium right before the finish. Five years ago, the result probably would have been treated with significantly more reverence, but today it seemed like more of a pedestrian effort.
Conditions in Chaux-Neuve were dicey this morning, and officials almost scrapped the jumping round. Had they done that, Jarrett said that the Americans would have been well-positioned for the cross country race, but the weather ended up giving the organizers just enough of an opening.
After the jumping round, Demong was sitting in ninth place. In the ensuing race, eventual winner Magnus Moan caught him from behind, and the two skied together almost until the finish, Jarrett said in a phone interview from Europe.
In the finale, the American couldn’t quite hold Moan’s pace, and ended up getting dropped by the Norwegian, who was on his way to his second win in as many days. Jason Lamy Chappuis of France also came by.
“We thought Bill was going to get third going away at the top of the last hill,” Jarrett said. “He was just cooked. Mario came back to him in the stadium, and they had kind of a drag race.”
At the line, Stecher came out on top, 1.2 seconds ahead of Demong. Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane followed in 13th and 16th, respectively, and Brett Camerota finished in 35th.
Following this weekend’s races, the Americans will head home for some training. After six races in two-and-a-half weeks, Jarrett said that the team is skipping the next two World Cup weekends to ensure that “everybody’s going into Whistler with the right taper and the right preparation.”
“Training-wise, they haven’t tried to peak yet, so hopefully these next three weeks, we’ll hit it right,” he said.
The first nordic combined event of the 2010 Olympics is on February 14th. Jarrett said that his team is planning its final camp for Park City, one week before they leave for the Games.
The initial team for Whistler will be announced on Thursday.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.