The US Nordic Combined team, with Johnny Spillane returning to the scene for the first time since March, placed a respectable seventh place in the Nordic Combined World Cup Team Competition in Seefeld, Austria, crossing the line two minutes and 37.4 seconds behind first place Norway.
Norway, in third place after the jumping, won the competition in 47 minutes, 31.2 seconds, leaving a gap of 11.9 seconds to Austria in second place and 47.9 seconds to France in third. Norway’s Magnus Moan quickly passed the French team on the first leg of the cross-country relay, but nothing was decided until the last leg was completed. Norway and Austria were virtually even in first place after the initial exchange, before Norway opened a 12-second gap on Austria on the second leg, only to have Austria come back on the third leg. However, Mikko Kokslien sealed the deal for Norway with a strong anchor leg.
As for the US team, US Nordic Combined head coach Dave Jarrett said the squad did well on the hill, earning them a seventh place after the jumping. He had, however, hoped to advance on the course.
“In the race we were just off the back of Germany and Japan and couldn’t close the gap, eventually losing time. In the meantime, Italy caught us and passed us. We finished where we started which was disappointing. However, keeping things in perspective is important. We were not very far off the front today and we can improve on that for sure,” Jarrett said in an email to FasterSkier after the team competition Friday.
Overall decent job
“It was a pretty good day today when you look at individual aspects,” Jarrett said. He pointed out that the provisional competition results for Bryan Fletcher and Todd Lodwick were particularly good, and that everyone jumped well in the team competition compared to how they have been in training lately.
Jarrett also emphasized that having Johnny Spillane back on the team is great, but that he has not raced since March and will need some time to get his race legs under him.
“While it was awesome to have Johnny back in the competition scene, it was his first competitions since last March so we need to be patient,” Jarrett said.
Bryan Fletcher, who has improved his jumping throughout the season, was satisfied with his contribution to the team competition.
“I was pretty happy with my performance today. My jumping was good today. I was able to put a 101.5 meter jump for the team event,” Fletcher said to FasterSkier, noting that the course was a bigger challenge for him today.
“The cross country was a little tough and I definitely made some mistakes on the course, but now I know and I can use that to my advantage for tomorrow hopefully making the race a bit easier,” he said.
“Tomorrow is an individual event. I will be trying to do the same thing on the jump hill and hopefully be starting in a good comfortable spot for the race,” Fletcher said.
Younger brother Taylor Fletcher also logged a good day at the office Friday, explaining that things worked in his favor, especially on the hill. This is all good prep for the World Championships, he said.
“I was pretty happy with the jumping as it a large small hill so people can go much further and it is still small hill points,” said Taylor Fletcher, who also found the course to be the harder part of the competition.
“5k races are so hard for me. We all get used to racing one distance and a pace,” he said, noting that when you’re used to do 10K races, a 5k course almost feels like a sprint. Add to that a technical course that was icy in spots making it hard to ski corners at full speed, and it made for a challenging day.
Taylor Fletcher is aiming to jump at least as well as today in the individual event tomorrow, and then improve on the course, which will be the normal 10K distance.
“Tomorrow I will try to jump the same as I did today, and I feel like I can easily do that! Then have a race that I know I can do and score some points,” Taylor Fletcher said. “This is all training for World Championships and its starting to be in good form!”
Complete results here.
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.