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Bryan Fletcher racing to 36th at last weekend's Nordic Combined World Cup in Lahti, Finland. On Tuesday, he finished 12th in Kuopio, Finland. (Photo: JoJo Baldus)

Bryan Fletcher racing to 36th at last weekend’s Nordic Combined World Cup in Lahti, Finland. On Tuesday, he finished 12th in Kuopio, Finland. (Photo: JoJo Baldus)

On Tuesday, Nordic Combined filled what had been a 15-year void in Kuopio, Finland — it’s been that long since the venue hosted a World Cup event. The large hill/10 k Gundersen was a one-day affair slotted in between last weekend’s racing in Lahti, Finland, and this upcoming weekend’s three-day series in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Off the 127-meter jump, Japan’s Akito Watabe took the top jumping position, scoring 127.7 points. Håvard Klemetsen from Norway followed in second with 125.7 points, and German Manuel Faisst jumped to third with 121.2 points.

Improving on his jumping, U.S. Nordic Combined’s Bryan Fletcher scored 102 points, for 18th. Teammate Ben Berend jumped to 29th (93.5 points), and Taylor Fletcher 34th (86.2 points).

From the start, the ski race featured Watabe getting reeled in by former World Champion, German Johannes Rydzek. Having settled for fifth in the jump, and starting 34 seconds behind Watabe, Rydzek systematically closed the time gap around halfway through the ski. It was a Watabe-Rydzek sprint for the win, with Ryzdek taking the victory in 23:59.6.

Watabe placed second (+6.2), and Austria’s Wilhelm Denifl placed third (+35.4). World Cup overall leader, Eric Frenzel of Germany, placed seventh (+40.9).

Bryan Fletcher skied the second fastest time of the day, moving up six spots after the jump to finish 12th overall (+43.8). Taylor, with the fourth-fastest ski time, placed 25th (+156.5) while Berend finished 36th.

In an USSA press release, Bryan Fletcher said he was satisfied with his jump, which positioned him toward the front of the pack.

“Kuopio was a close one,” Bryan Fletcher said. “I jumped a lot better than last weekend and I was able to put myself in the race. The course was narrow and the pack was big, which made it a very tactical race. Coming into the final kilometers I had the legs to go but not the room to go. Ultimately it came down to a tough sprint for the line. After last weekend I am happy to be 12th, but I was hoping for a little more.”

Racing continues Friday in Val di Fiemme, Italy, before the final World Cup in Schonach, Germany, March 4-6.

Jumping results | Final results

— Jason Albert

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(Note: This post has been updated to include quotes from Bryan Fletcher.)

On Wednesday’s Nordic Combined World Cup round in Trondheim, Norway, Overall World Cup leader, Germany’s Eric Frenzel, jumped and skied himself into the record books. The day’s large hill/10 k Gundersen start, was the second of two consecutive days of races in Trondheim. On day one, Frenzel placed third overall.

With his 29th World Cup victory on Wednesday, Frenzel becomes the second-winningest Nordic Combined World Cup skier. He now has one more win than his jumping coach, compatriot Ronny Ackerman. Finnish skier Hannu Manninen sits in first for most overall wins, with 48 victories.

Skiers began the day flying off Trondheim’s 140-meter large hill. Japan’s Akito Watabe, second overall on the Nordic Combined World Cup, maintained his jumping prowess by placing first off the hill. He scored 137.2 points, while in second place, Frenzel scored 130.5. Norway’s Håvard Klemetsen jumped to third, with 127.4 points.

The U.S. Nordic Combined Team had two athletes in the competition. Bryan Fletcher jumped to 30th, brother Taylor Fletcher, was tied for 40th.

Watabe began the 10 k ski with a 27-second advantage on Frenzel. That margin proved futile for the Japanese star. Around 6 k, Frenzel had reeled Watabe in. Frenzel crossed the finish line in 24:28.5. Watabe, skiing to second, finished 15.9 seconds back. Norway’s Jørgen Graabak skied to third overall (+57.8), after flying to 11th on his jump.

Bryan Fletcher, starting in 30th place, 2:55 behind Watabe, skied the eighth-fastest ski time, moving up to 17th overall (+2:03.1). Taylor, starting in bib 40, moved up thirteen spots, to 27th overall (+2:35.5). He skied the seventh-fastest ski time.

In an email, Bryan Fletcher wrote he hopes for a strong surge towards the end of the season. “I do believe I am not far away from being in the top 10 consistently.”

Bryan remains a force on the ski side of the NoCo equation. “Usually I am one of the fastest guys on the circuit.  Today I was 8th fastest, yesterday I was 5th fastest. Oslo I was 9th and in Seefeld, I was top 3 all three days with a fastest time on the 3rd day,” he wrote.

As a team, although they have had breakthrough moments, they have not experienced the type of success off the jumping hill  as they have on the skate skis. Bryan explained he’s looking to get a bit more distance from his jumps to compliment his already world class skiing speed.

“Jumping is a tough sport and no matter how good you are there is always something to fine tune,” Bryan wrote.  “Commonly we speak a lot about getting the hips moving upwards while keeping the chest low in order to keep speed over the knoll. But that is only a small part of jumping.  Honestly you could spend an entire year speaking to coaches, standing on the coaches stand, and talking to the athletes and you would only just start to understand what makes a good jump versus a bad one.  Obviously there is more than one style of good jumping and when it works, it works, and when it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

“The last 3 years we have focused more and more on jumping but the one thing we do have dialed is the XC racing.”

Nordic Combined racing continues next week on Feb. 19 in Lahti, Finland.

Jumping Results | Overall results

 

— Jason Albert

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This past weekend on Saturday, Feb. 6, during the same foggy conditions in which the men’s Holmenkollen cross-country 50 k classic was run, the Nordic Combined World Cup sent skiers off of Holmenkollen’s 134-meter large hill for the jumping portion of an individual gundersen 10 k.

Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber won the event. Japan’s Akito Watabe placed second, and overall Nordic Combined World Cup leader, Germany’s Eric Frenzel, raced to third.

The U.S. had two athletes in the points: Bryan Fletcher skied to 20th, while his brother, Taylor Fletcher, placed 30th. Teammate Adam Loomis finished 43rd.

In a video on FIS, jumpers flying off the large hill are seen first as gray-tone silhouettes, then at the last second, as spandex-clad jumpers as they near the landing zone in Holmenkollen’s pea-soup visibility.

The jumping proved decisive. With the jump heading off the large hill, the time differences at the start of the skiing portion were expected to be possibly insurmountable.

In an email, Bryan Fletcher explained that the large hill gives a slight advantage to those best at jumping. With longer flight potential, there’s also the potential for greater differences in the distances jumped, and therefore, points earned. “The new large hill points are making the competitions very spread out and weighted a little more on the jumping,” he wrote.

In another post-race email, Taylor Fletcher shared those sentiments. “The jumping is now much harder on the larger hill as it tips the cap to the strong jumpers much more than before.”

As was expected, big gaps were earned from those performing best on the large hill.

Riiber won the jump, earning 135.1 points, and a whopping 1:10 advantage at the start of the 10 k ski over Watabe and Frenzel, who scored 117.7 and 117.5 points, respectively. Bryan jumped to 20th, starting the ski 2:31 back, Loomis was 38th off the hill, 3:56 back, and Taylor 45th after the jump, and starting 4:25 after jump winner Riiber.

During the ski portion, no one was able to close the gap on Riiber. He crossed the line first in 24:36. Watabe did reel Riiber in a bit closer, but Riiber’s 1:10 head start proved too big. Watabe, who skied to second overall, was 16.6 seconds back at the finish. Frenzel, who started with Watabe, couldn’t match the Japanese skier’s pace. He placed third (+28.2).

Bryan skied the ninth fastest ski time on the day and skied up five spots  — starting in 20th and finishing 15th. He leaves Holmenkollen’s storied venue knowing he is trending towards the positive when it comes to his jumping.

“Oslo was an awesome event. I know it may have seemed a little boring on the tv with all the fog but it was a nice comp with good winds in tough conditions.  Personally I was happy with my jumping in the comp. Another step in the right direction for me and I am continuing to work with these positive steps.  The XC was tough, my legs were still a bit heavy from the last weekends races and I felt it in the race.”

In fact, Bryan has stood atop the podium here before. In 2012, he won the World Cup final there, which included a large hill/10 k competition.

“Competing in Oslo is always special. Having the memories of winning there will always stay with me for the rest of my life.  Coming back each year I get a boost of energy thinking about the good memories I have had there,” Bryan wrote. “This week we have Trondheim comps and hopefully I can carry the recent momentum into tomorrows and the next day’s events. This is another hard course and a large hill so I expect jumping to be very important to getting results.”

Of the two brothers, Taylor posted the faster ski leg with the third fastest-time of the day, finishing in 30th (+2:55.9). Post-ski, he had climbed a full 15 spots on the leaderboard, after starting the ski race in 45th.

Taylor wrote that the Oslo competitions are always something to look forward to.

“Holmenkollen is something special for sure. I have been there a couple times now, and each time I go, I can’t wait to go back. The venue provides a special setting for competition. I know there is no other venue that will gather as many people that are as passionate about nordic sports as in Oslo. Over the years, our team has had some success there, which makes it memorable. This year was much harder for me as I was struggling with the jumping portion of  nordic combined. That being said, Even when I am not in a position to be on the podium, I still race as hard as possible as the fans make you feel like you’re possibly winning the race.”

Nordic Combined World Cup racing continued Tuesday with a large hill/10 k competition in Trondheim, Norway.

There, Bryan improved from 26th in the jump to 14th overall, 1:14 behind Norwegian winner Jørgen Graabak. Taylor placed 28th (+2:46.1) after jumping to 49th on the 140-meter large hill in Trondheim, once again posting the third-fastest 10 k time. Loomis was 47th in the jump and finished in the same spot, 47th (+4:22.9).

“14th place today 26th after jumping & raced 5th fastest time,” Bryan tweeted after Tuesday’s competition. “Take two in Trondheim tomorrow!”

Graabak won the first day of competition in Trondheim after jumping to eighth and crossing the line first in 24:26.2. Frenzel finished just 5.1 seconds back in second place after jumping to seventh, and starting 7 seconds ahead of Graabak. The jump leader with a 16-second head start, Riiber held onto podium in third (+19.7).

Holmenkollen: Jumping results | Overall results

Trondheim: Tuesday’s jump | Overall results

— Jason Albert

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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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