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Well-rested from a month off of competition, nordic-combined athletes returned to the World Cup race scene this past weekend in Chaux-Neuve, France.

Saturday saw Germany’s Eric Frenzel take the overall individual hill/10-kilometer race win in a time of 21:26.0. Austrian skier Bernhard Gruber finished in second, (+4.7) and Japan’s Akito Watabe placed third (+6.5).

“It was a very hard race,” said Frenzel in an interview with German broadcaster ARD, “I had to attack early, I guess that wore out my opponents.”

Americans Bryan Fletcher and Taylor Fletcher finished the first day of racing in 19th and 20th, respectively, though Taylor posted the fastest time for the 10-kilometer cross country event, while Bryan’s time was third fastest.

The two U.S. Ski Team members started the cross-country race within 12 seconds of each other. Bryan Fletcher, who jumped to 29th in the morning, cruised out of the 10 k start gate 1:46 after the jump leader Watabe. About a quarter of a minute later, Taylor Fletcher, who jumped to 30th earlier that morning, got on course 1:58 after Watabe. 

Halfway through the five-lap 2 k loop, Taylor caught up to his American teammate and the two raced together to the finish, with Bryan leading most of the way.

“I felt strong and skied a smart race especially considering I was in the front quite a lot during the race pulling a strong group,” said Bryan Fletcher in a USSA press release.

Day 2 of racing on Sunday brought another German to the top of the podium. This time, however, it was Fabian Rießle for the overall win by 2.3 seconds, clocking in at 21:20.5 ahead of teammate Frenzel.

“Before the race I thought about what I would do if the situation arrived [to be in a lead group],” said Rießle in an interview with ARD, “I planned for two different variants. Because I felt very good at the end, I decided on trying a long [escape], because I did not want to get into a finish sprint. Nice that it worked out,” he added.

Frenzel finished Sunday in second overall, while Watabe placed third, 4.1 seconds behind Rießle’s winning mark.

For the Americans, Taylor raced to 21st overall on Sunday, 1:12.2 seconds behind Rießle, while teammate Bryan finished the day in 25th (+1:29.6).

Sunday morning, Taylor jumped to 32nd, putting him on course 1:54 seconds after the jump leader, Magnus Jari-Riiber of Norway. The time deficit didn’t slow the 23-year-old down and once again Taylor proved he was one of the speediest skiers on course, recording the second-fastest time of the day.

Starting just six seconds behind Taylor in the 10 k event was Bryan, who jumped to 38th in the morning, which put him on course 2:01 seconds after Jari-Riiber. Bryan also managed to make up time in the cross-country race, recording the fourth-fastest 10 k time of the day.

Results: Day 1 | Day 2

— Gabby Naranja / Harald Zimmer contributed

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The first period of nordic combined World Cups wrapped up in Ramsau am Dachstein, Austria, this weekend, with jumping on the HS 98 hill.

In Saturday’s normal hill 10 k, Norway’s Magnus Moan took the win in a photo finish with teammate Magnus Krog. Jarl Magnus Riiber, also of Norway, won the jumping round to start with a lead of 37 seconds over Akito Watabe of Japan, and was able to parlay that into third place and his first World Cup podium in a 10 k.

Bryan Fletcher and Taylor Fletcher of the United States skied up to 26th (+52.7) and 32nd (+1:09.7) after the jumping round, and Adam Loomis placed 30th (+2:02.3).

On Sunday, the field negotiated the same format over again but with very different results: it was Eric Frenzel who took this win, 10.2 seconds ahead of Riiber who had again had the best jumping round of the day. Manuel Faisst of Germany rounded out the podium, just a tenth of a second behind Riiber.

“I am proud this weekend and am looking forward to the rest of the season,” Riiber, an 18-year-old who seems to have just had his big breakthrough, told Norwegian daily Aftenposten.

Taylor Fletcher placed 20th (+49.2) and Bryan Fletcher 26th (+59.1), with Loomis again in 40th (+2:00.5).

“When it rains, it pours!” Bryan Fletcher tweeted after the race. “Fell in the race in Lillehammer, fell in Ramsau, broken pole today. What gives? Be gone 2015. Hello 2016!”

Taylor and Bryan now sit 23rd and 24th in the World Cup standings, even after Taylor Fletcher flew back to the U.S. to compete in the Continental Cup competitions in Utah last weekend before returning to Europe for the World Cup. His effort netted the U.S. team an additional World Cup quota spot.

The World Cup is still looking good for Norway. On top of Riiber’s breakthrough, Krog now leads the World Cup standings by eight points over Fabian Riessle of Germany. Watabe is in third and Frenzel in fourth.

But there’s bad news for every team: the next competitions, slated to be held in Klingenthal, Germany, on January second and third, have been canceled due to lack of snow in central Europe. It’s unlikely that another venue can step up to fill the gap in time, meaning that the next World Cups will be the following weekend in Schonach, Germany.

After competitions in the opening weekend in Ruka, Finland, were canceled due to dangerous wind conditions, this year’s competition season will be short.

Saturday Results

Sunday Results

World Cup Standings

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Even with the unsettled winds in Lillehammer, Norway, on Sunday, the Nordic Combined World Cup sent skiers off the normal hill for its second event of the season.

Norway’s Magnus Krog won the individual normal-hill/10 k competition in 25:51.8. Krog jumped to 15th and skied the sixth-fastest time of the day for his second career World Cup win. Saturday’s winner, Austrian Fabian Rießle, took second (+1.0), while Austrian Lukas Klapfer placed third (+ 1.9) .

For the U.S. Nordic Combined Team, there were some high and low points. All four U.S. athletes struggled on the jumping hill. Taylor Fletcher posted a team best 42nd and ended up 13th, Bryan Fletcher jumped to 45th and placed 30th, Adam Loomis jumped to 55th and finished 43rd, Jasper Good jumped to 48th and placed 49th.

“It was tricky jumping this morning for sure,” U.S. head coach Dave Jarrett said in a USSA press release. “Bryan was unlucky as the conditions when he was set to go were too good and they took him off the bar twice. When he finally got the green the conditions were significantly worse. He had a pretty good jump nonetheless, but the speed was set for headwind … Taylor on the other hand, should have done more with his jump. He had a great race though and was close to the front but ran out of real estate.”

Yet, the team leaves Lillehammer with a bit of skiing confidence. Although Taylor Fletcher didn’t maximize his jumping opportunity, he skied the fastest 10 k and placed 13th overall.

“I was a lot closer timewise to the front compared to [Saturday], but also I skied a much more paced race!” Fletcher said in the press release. “I was really happy to have the fastest time by a fair amount but I am hungry for way more! I know my good jumps are good enough to put me in the fight for the win!”

Brian Fletcher also skied a top fifteen time, setting the 13th fastest ski time on the day, 33 seconds behind Krog.

Behind Fletcher (+33.0), Bryan finished 1:38.5 back in 30th, Loomis was 3:04.4 off the pace, followed Good (+3:43.8).

The Nordic Combined World Cup tour now takes a two week break with the next competition beginning Dec. 19th, in Ramsau, Austria.

Results

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Today’s large-hill Gundersen 10-kilometer competition in Lillehammer, Norway, was the first Nordic Combined World Cup event of the season. Last weekend’s World Cup in Kuusamo, Finland — what would have been the season-opening competitions — were canceled due to high winds.

Saturday’s scheduled competition was also affected by wind: the morning’s team event was scratched due to high winds and replaced with an individual competition.

Unable to jump on Saturday, race officials made a quick decision to move forward with the competition. They decided to use results from Friday’s provisional jump to determine Saturday’s start order for the 10 k cross-country race.

Winning his first ever Nordic Combined World Cup race was Germany’s Fabian Rießle, a 2014 Olympic individual bronze medalist, who won Saturday’s competition in 25:22.4. The podium was rounded out by second-place finisher, Japan’s Akito Watabe (+12.5), followed by Ilkka Herola of Finland in third (+15.2).

In the post-race press conference, Rießle was asked how he felt after his first victory. “It feels totally, I don’t know, so cool,” he said.

The top American, Bryan Fletcher placed 11th (+1:11.2 ) after jumping to 15th in the provisional round and starting in that position. He started 47 seconds back from Poland’s Szczepan Kupczak, the top jumper from the practice round.

“When today’s jump was cancelled, I was excited,” Fletcher wrote in an email. “I knew I was in a good position and had an opportunity for a strong result. Honestly I was thinking I could do a little better than 11th, but tough snow conditions and strong skiers around me, made it difficult to move up any further.”

Typically strong on the hill, Fletcher focused on further improving his jumping this summer in order to position himself near the front of the cross-country race.

“I am happy to see some improvement in my jumping thus far,” he wrote. “… I hope to continue this progress over the season. So needless to say I won’t be hanging my hat on that performance alone.”

In a USSA press release, U.S. head coach Dave Jarrett called it a “pretty good start” for the team.

“We always have high hopes for the cross country race. It was a good race, but today the front was so fast that it was hard for Bryan’s group to close,” he said. “We didn’t have the fastest cross country times today but we know we can ski with anyone. Both Bryan and Taylor have been jumping pretty well and we are psyched for another chance tomorrow.”

Also for the U.S., Taylor Fletcher placed 26th (+2:11.5) and skied the 12th fastest cross-country time, Adam Loomis placed 37th (+3:15.6), and Jasper Good was 51st (+6:50) in his World Cup debut.

Another individual event will be held Sunday, with jumping on the normal hill due to predicted high winds, followed by a 10 k race.

“Tomorrow will be another opportunity,” Fletcher wrote. “I am excited to have another chance to improve upon today, so we will see how it goes.”

— Jason Albert and Alex Kochon contributed reporting

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For the first time in the history of the Nordic Combined World Cup in Kuusamo, Finland, the season-opening competitions had to be canceled because of wind both Saturday and Sunday.

“The wind conditions this weekend have been too strong and in the line of safety for our athletes, we have had no chance to complete any jumps since Friday,” FIS race director Lasse Ottesen said in a press release. “So the World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway, next weekend will be our opening event of the winter 2015/16 and we are very much looking forward to finally get underway.”

What did coaches and athletes do with all that downtime? FIS compiled an assortment of social-media posts.

On Sunday, several Americans, Norwegians, Slovenians and Swiss nordic-combined skiers held a friendly race on the Ruka track. Norway’s Mikko Kokslien “won”, Magnus Krog of Norway was second and American Bryan Fletcher third.

To see the video, click here.

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Americans Taylor and Bryan Fletcher teamed up for an 11th-place showing in the two-man team sprint on Saturday, before taking individual top-20’s in the 10 k competition at the summer Grand Prix in Oberwiesenthal, Germany.

“For the race I have to be happy,” Taylor Fletcher said of Saturday’s team sprint, in a U.S. Ski Team press release. “It was our first race of the year and it’s always hard to know where you stand against the European teams as we have no contact at all until these comps.”

Austria’s Harald Lemmerer and Bernhard Gruber won the team competition by 13.2 seconds over countrymen David Pommer and Mario Seidl.

The Fletchers had been ranked 13th after jumping, but moved up in the rollerski portion through the Oberwiesenthal streets. The second U.S. team of Ben Berend and Jasper Good finished 22nd.

On Sunday, Gruber was disqualified for an early start in the rollerski pursuit, and instead of the Austrians it was Germans who dominated. Eric Frenzel had the best jump and coasted to an 11.3-second win over Johannes Rydzek, with Fabian Riessle completing a podium sweep for the home team.

Taylor Fletcher skied from 29th up to 12th after the jump, thanks to the second-fastest ski time, and Bryan Fletcher moved from 27th to 19th.

“The race was in the heart of the city, which is always very fun with a good amount of people that come to watch,” Taylor Fletcher said in the press release. “I started pretty close to how I wanted and not like I always do too which is too hard at the beginning. I think my middle lap may have been pretty hard which killed me for the last lap but I went hard till 150 meters when all I could think about was a cold shower and getting out of the 33C [91 F] heat.”

Adam Loomis placed 28th and Michael Ward 29th to round out the U.S. scoring. Ward had the fourth-fastest ski time of the day, moving up from 46th after the jump.

Extremely happy with my performance today at my first Summer Grand Prix,” he wrote on Instagram. “It was a personal best and I hope there is more to come!”

Results: Saturday / Sunday

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Bryan Fletcher tucks around a high-speed corner at Soldier Hollow en route to a repeat national title at the U.S. Nordic Combined Championships in Midway, Utah. (USSA/Tom Kelly)

Bryan Fletcher tucks around a high-speed corner at Soldier Hollow en route to a repeat national title at the U.S. Nordic Combined Championships in Midway, Utah. (Photo: USSA/Tom Kelly)

Bryan Fletcher notched his second-straight national title on Saturday at the U.S. Nordic Combined Championships at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah.

After posting the farthest jump on the 134-meter large hill at Utah Olympic Park, Fletcher, 29, started first (with a 26-second head start) in the cross-country rollerski race and held off U.S. Nordic Combined teammate Adam Loomis, 23, for the win. As he crossed the finish line five seconds ahead of Loomis, Fletcher made a point for a mini celebration.

The podium at the 2015 U.S. Nordic Combined Championships, which were held in Park City and Midway, Utah: with winner Bryan Fletcher (c), second-place finisher Adam Loomis (l) and Taylor Fletcher in third. (Photo: Dave Jarrett/Twitter)

The podium at the 2015 U.S. Nordic Combined Championships, which were held in Park City and Midway, Utah: with winner Bryan Fletcher (c), second-place finisher Adam Loomis (l) and Taylor Fletcher in third. (Photo: Dave Jarrett/Twitter)

“It was a little close there at the end,” Fletcher told Steamboat Today. “Coming up to the stadium it was a little bit of a sprint to make sure I had a comfortable distance, but then it was getting in a good celebration and pump for the crowd and for me to excitedly celebrate winning the race.”

Fletcher remains the only active U.S. team member to hold a national title. He won last year’s championships in Lake Placid, N.Y.  His younger brother, Taylor, placed third on Saturday, finishing 47 seconds after Bryan after starting 1 minute and 4 seconds behind.

“Going into the race I knew I could come home with the victory if I paced it right,” Fletcher said. “I was able to hold off Adam and Taylor who were charging and coming up behind me fast. I knew it was coming in hot. Going into the stadium on the last lap, I knew once I made it over the top of the hill that I had it in the bag.”

U.S. Nordic Combined members Michael Ward, Jasper Good and Ben Berend placed fourth through sixth, respectively. Fifteen men completed the race.

 

Complete results

 

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Japan’s Akito Watabe took first in the final World Cup of the season, a 15-kilometer race in Oslo, Norway. With this finish he secured second-place in the overall World Cup standings, behind overall winner Eric Frenzel of Germany, who finished 4th on Saturday (+22.6).

Germany’s Johannes Rydzek took second on Saturday, finishing nine seconds behind Watabe to finish third in the overall standings. Alessandro Pittin, of Italy, took the final spot on the podium (+18.6) after a ferocious ski, making up three minutes over the two 7.5 k laps and posting the fastest time of the day. Pittin finished 11th overall for the season.

Taylor Fletcher was the top American, finishing 21st on Saturday. Fletcher’s strong ski performance, the fourth-fastest of the day, could not make up for a 4:02 start gap after a 27th-ranked jump, and he finished 2:35 behind Watabe. Fletcher finished 27th in the overall standings, the second-ranked American, behind his brother Bryan Fletcher. Bryan Fletcher was the only other American to compete on Saturday, finishing 29th (+5:23.7). His day was sweetened, however, by an overall season finish of 15th, the top result for the U.S.

Results

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Norway’s Magnus Moan overcame a 30-second starting deficit to take the lead two kilometers into Thursday’s 10-kilometer individual race and win his 24th career World Cup in Trondheim, Norway.

Moan jumped to 10th on the large hill and posted the fourth-fastest ski time en route to the win in 24:22.9. He bested Germany’s Fabian Riessle, who started eighth and finished second, by 13.3 seconds and Italy’s Alessandro Pittin, who jumped to 21st and skied the third-fastest 10 k for third, by 18.2 seconds.

With the Overall World Cup title under wraps, Eric Frenzel of Germany led after the jump and ended up 10th (+42.9).

Taylor Fletcher of the U.S. skied up from 44th and 2:04 back to 14th (+1:14.5) with the fastest ski time.

“I was so close to having excellent day,” Fletcher tweeted on Thursday. “I was a little to [sic] aggressive after the takeoff that killed the jump, but I had a hell of a xc race!”

His brother Bryan Fletcher jumped to 41st and placed 25th (+1:37.9) with the seventh-fastest ski time. The third American, Adam Loomis finished 31st (+2:04) after ranking 45th in the jump and 12th in the 10 k.

The Nordic Combined World Cup concludes Saturday with a final individual competition in Oslo, Norway.

Results

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U.S. Nordic Combined has two more World Cup competitions on the docket, and Fast Big Dog caught up with the team on Tuesday during a training day in Trondheim, Norway.

The two remaining individual competitions start Thursday with the large hill/10 k in Trondheim, followed by Saturday’s large hill/15 k in Oslo, Norway.

Schedule

Trouble viewing video above? Click here.

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