Park City, UTAH – “It was definitely a hard day on the jumping hill with tail winds and soft conditions,” Taylor Fletcher said, admitting that this was not his best jump ever.
But once on the course, Fletcher was in control.
“I’ve skied well on this course before and I knew I could do it again,” Fletcher said, explaining that going balls to the wall was not an option. He had to ski smart. “It was almost 50 degrees so we were skiing in about a foot of slush, It was very important to go out at a very moderate tempo and not too hard, If you were to go too hard you would certainly blow up in the second lap out of five laps,” Fletcher said.
“I didn’t pull too hard to start with, just followed them. Then I started picking off people, and by the third lap I was in fifth place. I followed the Norwegian guy who was in second place pretty well, but when we came up to the finish I just couldn’t outsprint him, and I had to settle for third place,” Fletcher said.
Geoffrey Lafarge of France won, clocking in at 26:52.9, with Joergen Graabak (NOR) in second place (27:23.9) and Taylor Fletcher in third (27:30.4).
Looking back, Fletcher thinks he could have placed higher had he made his move earlier. “Maybe I could have stayed ahead of the French skier and dropped the Norwegian,” he theorized.
Regardless, Fletcher is satisfied with the day and considers it mission accomplished.
“It was a big confidence booster. This helped secure another World Cup spot for us, and that was the goal of the competition today,” Fletcher said. By shutting the top Austrian and German racers out of the podium, Fletcher secured an extra spot for the next two rounds of the World Cup.
While Taylor Fletcher landed a podium finish, US Nordic Combined Head Coach Dave Jarrett said there were plenty of highlights for the US team Sunday. He is particularly happy to see Brett Camerota both jump and ski well.
“Brett Camerota won the jumping and had a good race until the last lap when the pack containing the eventual podium winners caught him. Fortunately, Taylor Fletcher was in that pack,” Jarrett said, noting that Camerota managed to stay in the top ten overall.
Additionally, Jarrett was happy to see the developing skiers deliver solid races.
“Brett Denney had a good race and moved up to 23rd, while Nick Hendrickson was a bit tired today and didn’t have it for the race,” Jarrett said, adding that Hendrickson did a good race Saturday when he was 15th.
“The young guys had a great period. Cliff Field scored points in three out four completions. Erik Lynch scored his first points in Steamboat and Michael Ward scored his first points today,” Jarrett said.
Fletcher and the rest of the US team left for Austria on December 13. They will arrive on the 14th, then do an easy day on at the venue, hammer out some intervals on Wednesday, take Thursday off to prepare for the official training Friday, and then let it rip for the races starting Saturday. The group defending the Stars and Stripes for the World Cup in Ramsau, Austria, consists of Todd Lodwick, Eric Camerota, Nick Hendrickson, Bryan Fletcher and Taylor Fletcher.
Complete results from Sunday.
FIS Cup standings.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.