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Archive for February, 2016

Rydzek Wins; Bryan Fletcher 12th with Second-Fastest Time in Kuopio

Thursday, February 25th, 2016
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

Frenzel Tops His Coach with 29 Wins; Bryan Fletcher 17th in Trondheim (Updated)

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

(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

Riiber Wins at Holmenkollen; Bryan Fletcher 20th There and 14th in Trondheim

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016
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