The youngest of the two Fletcher brothers is doubling up with his second FS Award of 2015, this time in the performance category for his showing in Sapporo, Japan.
There in late January, Taylor, 24, rose from 28th on the large hill to third in the 10-kilometer Gundersen start with the fastest cross-country time for his second-career World Cup podium.
He worked with older brother Bryan, who jumped to 27th and started two seconds ahead of him, as the two tried to pick off the places with a “controlled but quick pace,” according to Taylor.
While Bryan was battling sinus/head cold symptoms in Japan and planned to settle into the lead group once they caught it, Taylor wasn’t ready to let up.
“Taylor went right to the front, as soon as he did that the group shattered and guys were coming off the back,” Bryan recalled.
Taylor continued to push the pace, dwindling the pack of 15 into two remaining groups of three and five. Ultimately, the race came down to an all-out sprint for the final 1 1/2 kilometers.
“It was a matter of putting yourself in a position at the end,” Taylor wrote in an email. “I decided it was better to ‘Go Ugly, Early’ and not wait for the field sprint. So just into the first hill I made almost a cycling attack and tried to get away from the rest of the skiers.”
Two men passed him in the stadium before the finish: German winner Eric Frenzel, who topped him by 3.5 seconds and Japan’s Akito Watabe, who was 1.7 seconds ahead of him in second. The bronze medal marked Taylor’s second individual podium since 2013 in Seefeld, Austria.
“To get another podium feels incredible as I knew it was possible,” Taylor wrote. “My last podium was not a fluke. I have been struggling with my jumping for a year and half now but in the last couple weeks it has been getting better.”
While Bryan placed eighth that day in Sapporo and skied the second-fastest 10 k behind his brother, that wasn’t the single performance that earned him honorable mention.
At 2015 World Championships in Falun, Sweden, the 28-year-old Bryan notched his season-best individual result (and career best in four World Championships) of fifth in the large-hill/10 k. He skied up from 13th to do so.
“It was like, ‘Well since these are the Championships, and it’s not really worth being anything but on the podium, I’m just going to go for it as hard as possible and lay it all out there,’ ” he recalled.
He started 44 seconds behind Austria’s Bernhard Gruber, who led the competition after the jump, and finished 23.4 seconds behind Gruber, who also won outright. Bryan was 8.5 seconds off the podium and 8.3 seconds out of fourth.
“To be on the podium would have been a dream come true, but to be in the fight was more what I was really looking for,” Bryan said after his career-best World Championships individual result.
“I really just want to ski a good race, a good race to the best of my ability and the best of my performance,” he added. “I was happy that I was able to do that today.”
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