(Last updated January 26, 2014)
After the 2010 Olympic season, the big three: Todd, Billy and Johnny, committed to Nordic Combined competition through the 2014 Games. However, in the summer of 2013, Johnny Spillane made the hard decision to retire from competition.
Later in the month Billy and the Fletcher brothers flew to Europe where they competed in Summer Grand Prix events in Oberstdorf GER and in Villach AUT. The A-Team was joined in Villach by several younger Development Team competitors who stayed on for an extra week to ski in Oberwiesenthal GER.
In early October, Jumpers and NC competitors gathered again in Lake Placid for the National Championships for Normal Hill Special Jumping and for Nordic Combined skiing, both part of the annual Flaming Leaves Ski Jumping Festival. Billy had made these Championships a special personal goal. It would probably be his last championships and his last event on home turf in Lake Placid, and he achieved his goal. He started third in the roller ski race with 16 seconds to make up on team-mate and 12 time champion Todd Lodwick. The win was Bill's sixth National Nordic Combined crown and pleased the winner and his many fans who came out to cheer him on in his last race on American soil.
Sunday in Kuusamo saw the 13 best Nordic Combined teams in the world line up for a Large Hill, 4x5 km team relay. Team Norway was the clear favorite, having taken places 2,3,4,6 in Saturday's individual competition on the same jump, and the Norsemen came through, winning the jumping and holding first place through all four legs of the cross country race. Team USA didn't jump as well as we know they can and so started the XC 12th of 13 teams. But the U.S. boys can ski XC and they moved steadily up through the field. Bryan Fletcher passed two rivals, then Demong passed one, and anchor man, rocket ship Taylor Fletcher, laid down the fastest fourth leg, passing strong skiers from Finland and Russia to move USA up to finish seventh. As a team, the U.S. boys had the second fastest overall race time behind Team Germany but ahead of the winning team from Norway.
Jumpers, XC and NC skiers all assembled again in Lillehammer for competitions Dec 6-8. In Saturday's Normal Hill Gundersen Sprint event, Bryan Fletcher moved up from 36th place in the jumping to finish 16th, his best ever improvement in a World Cup race. Bill Demong followed, moving up from 45th to 19th, while Taylor Fletcher improved by 31 places from 53rd to 22nd with the seventh fastest time of the day. Todd Lodwick moved from 37th to 34th. Jason Lamy-Chappuis of France won the event and moved into the World Cup points lead after just two events.
The action moved to Ramsau, Austria, where on Saturday, Dec. 14, Bryan Fletcher & Todd Lodwick teamed up to place a close fourth and record the fastest XC race in a Normal Hill, 2x7.5 km team sprint. USA Team-II of Brett Denney & Taylor Fletcher placed 15th. Todd & Bryan jumped to 14th position, starting only 44 seconds behind jumping leaders, Team Estonia-I. USA-I had some strong teams nearby who all worked to pull the race together and soon we saw a huge group of 12 racers at the front. This group stayed together for much of the middle of the race until a few racers began drifting off the back. Nearing the finish, Norway-I pulled away for a lead of about 10 seconds, leaving five teams to contest a final frantic sprint. Norway-II won the sprint, followed by Team Italy and USA-I.
Bryan Fletcher placed 7th in Sunday's Gundersen event. The jumping left the field packed at the start of the cross country, with Fletcher starting 30th but only 69 seconds back. Bill Demong started 16th, only 49 seconds back. The field immediately clustered into several fast working groups that closed in on the leaders. By the 2.5 km time check, Fletcher had made up half a minute of his starting deficit. At the half way point, Fletcher's group had caught the Demong group and they were all only 20 seconds behind the leaders. With a km to go, the huge 11 man chase group had the seven leaders in range and soon they caught up, setting up a massive finishing sprint. At the end of the 10 km race, 12 racers had a genuine shot at the podium. In the final sprint, Fletcher finished 7th, just 9.9 seconds behind the winner, Eric Frenzel of Germany, who stretched his World Cup points lead. Demong finished the mass sprint in 9th place, just 5 seconds off the podium. Todd Lodwick finished 33rd. Find links to FIS and USSA reports on the schedule below.
Billy takes a detour -- While his NC team-mates went to Schonach, Germany for the next World Cup event, Bill Demong returned to his home in Park City UT to compete in three mid-week Continental Cup events. And why, you may ask, would Billy leave the World Cup tour to ski in three minor league events (other than to see his family and enjoy home cooking)? It's all about scoring FIS points and possibly gaining the U.S. one more NC World Cup quota spot. Read a bit more on the USSA web site.
Success on Day One -- Head NC coach Greg Poirier said "Bill has a job to do" and on Tuesday, Billy did the job. He won the event having jumped into third place and starting the XC race just 14 seconds behind the two leaders. Another six seconds back was Lucas Runggaldier of Italy. Demong and Runggaldier moved to the front, building a lead of almost half a minute, and in the finish arena, Billy won a hotly contested sprint by just two tenths of a second. See results on the FIS web site, or the USSA article.
Day Two -- Second Place -- On Wednesday Billy jumped to 7th place and started the race 36 second back. He passed several racers but couldn't catch the winner Tomaz Druml of Austria so Bill had to settle for second place. A good group of seven younger U.S. competitors was led by Nick Hendrickson who finished 10th on Tuesday and improved to 9th Wednesday. See results on the FIS web site, or the USSA article.
Day Three -- Mission Accomplished! On Thursday, Olympic Gold Medalist Demong won the jump, started the race 40 second lead, and led wire to wire. According to the USSA web site, Bill's three-day performance did earn the U.S. team a fifth starting spot in World Cup NC events for the remainder of the season. Mission accomplished -- good job Billy! Adam Loomis led the seven younger B-Team competitors. See results on the FIS web site, or the USSA article. The boys had a tough time in Schonach, Germany, where only Bryan qualified. He jumped to 31st place, than raced up through the field to finish 18th. Todd, Taylor and Brett failed to qualify in the top 50.
Things went better on Sunday with all four qualifying and Bryan scoring a 9th place finish. Brother Taylor started 61st and posted the seventh fastest XC time as he moved up to 31st. Lodwick moved up 7 places to finish 44th, while Brett Denney finished 51st.
Bryan started in a tight group of fast skiers and moved up 20 seconds in the first 1.3 km. By 7.5 km, he was in touch with the front group but faded just a bit as the pace picked up toward the finish. He finished nineth, posting the third fastest XC time.
Jason Lamy-Chappuis won the event and moved into third place in season standings.
After Christmas, the top U.S. Nordic Combined skiers joined the jumpers in Park City for the Olympic Trials. One spot on each of three teams, Nordic Combined, Women's Jumping, and Men's Jumping, would be determined by the weekend's results.
The U.S. Team followed suit, sending Brett Denney, Adam Loomis, Nick Hendrickson and Michael Ward, along with World Cup veteran Taylor Fletcher. Only Denney and Fletcher qualified in the top 50 and they placed 48 & 49 in the NH jumping phase and started the XC 3:03 and 3:05 back. The two worked together for a couple of kilometers, but then Taylor joined a faster group and moved away from his team-mate. Denney continued to work his way up through the field while Fletcher disappeared over the horizon. At the halfway point in the race, Taylor was only 1:11 behind the race leader. He slowed just a bit in the last couple of kilometers but passed one more competitor at the end to finish an amazing sixth place. His time wasn't just the fastest of the day, it was 38 seconds faster than the next-best racer's time. Denney pulled to within two minutes of the leaders, then continued to pass his competitors even as the leaders pulled away -- he finished in 32nd place.
Sunday on the Large Hill the boys improved their jumping enough for all five to qualify and for Fletcher to start 2:15 back rather than Saturday's 3:05. Taylor again blasted up through the field, making up 10-15 seconds per km in the first half of the race, then 3-6 sec. per km in the second half. At the end, Fletcher and Lukas Klapfer (AUT) both passed Thomas Kjelbotn (NOR) but Klapfer won the sprint for fifth place by half a second. Fletcher settled for a repeat sixth place and again posted the fastest race time, 26 seconds faster than his fastest competitor. Wilhelm Denifl (AUT) won the jumping, started the race with a 30 second advantage, and led wire to wire. Saturday's winner Tim Hug made a noble effort to catch the leader, cutting the gap to 17.4 sec. but he tired at mid-race and drifted back to finish fourth. Youngsters Brett Denney, Adam Loomis, Nick Hendrickson and Michael Ward matched the pace of the leader for half of the 10 km race but then Loomis picked up the pace while Hendrickson and Ward tired and slowed. (Links to results are below.)
Bad news from Chaux-Neuve: Todd Lodwick crashed on his provisional jump for Saturday's World Cup Nordic Combined event, injuring his shoulder. We don't need shoulders to jump but we certainly need two good shoulders to ski cross-country. All we can do now is cross our fingers and wish for the best.
Sunday's event was a two-man sprint (HS 117, two 7.5 XC legs). USA entered two teams: Bryan Fletcher & Bill Demong, Brett Denney & Taylor Fletcher. Bryan & Billy jumped well enough to start just 31 seconds back in a cluster of teams starting 2nd through 8th from 26 to 37 second behind the lone leader, Austria-I. This group of seven worked together and soon made up the gap, joining the leader before the 5 km mark, while FRA-II and JAP-I drifted off the big group. The group of six raced to the tag-point at 7.5 km where fresh legs mixed things up a bit. ITA-I and NOR-II moved up an joined the front bunch, making a group of eight. This group survived to the finale where the pace picked up and USA, ITA & AUT drifted a few seconds off the back. In the end it was GER-II, NOR-II and GER-I on the podium with USA-I finishing 7th. USA-II jumped to 20th and finished 16th out of 21 teams. See results.
Double World Cup points and an increased cash purse will be on offer. Read more on FIS web site.
Friday: In the jumping, Bryan Fletcher placed 11th and Bill Demong 17th and started 49 and 54 seconds back, respectively. Billy was one of nine skiers to fly 99.5 meters so he had plenty of racers to work with as he moved up in the field. Bryan finished 6th and Billy 8th. Taylor Fletcher started 64th, 2:27 back and moved up to 56th, not making the top 50 for Saturday's second leg of the Triple. Brett Denney started 62nd, 2:21 back, and finished 63rd so his weekend is also over. Eric Frenzel won decisively over Magnus Moan and Tino Edelmann. See results.
Saturday: In the jumping, Bryan Fletcher placed 9th and Bill Demong 20th but the point spreads were wider than on Friday so Bryan started 1:22 back with Billy at 2:07. Both skiers moved up quickly and joined good working groups that moved up some more. At km 4 the race stabilized with Eric Frenzel leading, then a group of three followed by the Fletcher group of eight about a minute back, then the Demong group of nine at a minute and a half. These gaps prevailed without much change to the finish. Frenzel won wire to wire over Rydzek who won a sprint with Magnus Moan. Jason Lamy-Chappuis won a sprint over Bryan Fletcher who finished 6th, and Mikko Kokslien outsprinted Demong who finished 12th. See results.
Sunday: Bryan Fletcher entered the third stage of the Triple in sixth place and kept up his excellent skiing. The result sheet for the two-round jumping didn't give the skier' finish place in the jumping. Rather it ranked the skiers by the combination of points in the first two events plus points in the third day's jumping. A quick scan suggests that Bryan placed about 13th in the jumping in a closely packed field, but combining with his previous points, he started the XC race in seventh place, two minutes behind the leader Klemetsen of Norway.
When the race started, World Cup leader Eric Frenzel soon joined up with Klemetsen and the two worked together while back in 7th and 8th place, Chappuis joined Fletcher and the two caught Watabe as they moved up. Frenzel left Klemetsen before the midpoint of the race to go on alone while the Fletcher group maintained a steady gap to the ones in front. Farther back, Bill Demong, who started at 3:42, found a group to work with and worked up to 2:46 by the 7.5 km mark. Eventually Fletcher left his group in a brave attempt to bridge up to the 3, 4, 5 group, while the Demong group kept moving forward but couldn't make contact with the next group. In the end, Frenzel slowed down to savor his victory and Klemetsen held his second position ahead of Moan and Rydzek, but Fletcher passed Edelmann to finish fifth, while Demong finished 11th. Fletcher jumped up to nineth place in World Cup standings. See results.
On Sunday Berend qualified for HS137/10km Gundersen event and his 101.5m jump placed him in a tie for 46th place, to start 3:31 back, but he did not start the cross country race. Christoph Bieler won the jumping phase and started with an 11 second gap, which evaporated in the first couple of kilometers as Eric Frenzel joined the leader. By the half-way point, the lead group had grown to five and managed to hold off an even larger group of pursuers. Frenzel won the final sprint over Han Schmid (NOR) to stretch his World Cup lead. Watabe finished third, followed by Bieler. See results.
Tue, Feb. 18, the Large Hill Gundersen sprint was won by Jørgen Gråbek (NOR) with team-mate Magnus Moan taking silver and Fabian Riessle (GER) bronze. World Cup leader Eric Frenzel (GER), winner of the NH Sprint event, won the jump with a flight of 139.5 meters and started the race 8 seconds ahead of Håvard Klemetson (NOR), but Frenzel had been sick for three days and faded late in the race to finish 10th. Third starter in the race, Bernhard Gruber (AUT) led a group of 10 skiers starting in a 43 second interval. During the first 2.5 km lap, a group of 7 formed in the lead, including such strong skiers as Frenzel, Moan and Chappuis, working together by swapping the lead while others rested by tucking into the draft behind the leaders. Behind the seven were three Germans, Kirkeisen, Rydzek and Riessle, rapidly closing the gap to inflate the lead group from 7 to 10. This big group, now including four Germans and three Norwegians, worked together until, with 2-3 km to go, Frenzel, Klemetsen and Watabe (JAP) faded off the back. On the final climb with one km to go, Kirkeisen made a big move for the win -- his acceleration split the pack. In the finish stadium with three Germans side by side in a tight turn, team-mates Riessle and Rydzek tangled and Rydzek went down. The race ended with a four-up sprint won by Gråbek -- Bjorn Kirkeisen, who had played his cards in the last km, finished fourth. Top U.S. skier was Taylor Fletcher who jumped 115.5 meters and started 35th, 2:13 back but made up almost a minute, finishing 20th with the sixth fasted Cross Country time. Older brother Bryan Fletcher jumped 121.5 meters and started 1:59 back. The brothers worked with others and Bryan made up 35 seconds to finish two spots behing Taylor in 22nd. Bill Demong, gold medalist in Vancouver 2010, jumped 116.5 meters, started the race 38th and finished 31st. See results.
Thu, Feb 20: Norway Gold; Germany Silver; Austria Bronze; USA Sixth.
The final Nordic Combined event in Sochi was a 4-man team relay, one jump on the Large Hill (HS-140) followed by a 4x5 km cross country relay. The U.S. boys sat in 8th place after the jumping with Todd jumping 116.5, Taylor 112.5, Billy 121.5 and Bryan 115.0 meters. These seem like nice distances until you compare to Germany with 126.5, 131, 130, 129 or Austria jumping 126, 133, 132.5, 122 meters. Starting the cross-country race 1 min. 52 sec. back, Bryan led off, made up some time on the leaders and soon passed the Russians who were having a bad race, giving away about a minute in each leg of the race. Bryan faded toward the end of his 5 km leg and tagged Todd 1.57 behind the leader Magnus Moan who had just completed the fastest leg of the entire race. Lodwick, still nursing an injured shoulder, just couldn't keep up the pace and gave away almost a minute to the leaders and was passed by Italian skier Armin Bauer. Todd tagged off to Rocket-man Taylor Fletcher 2:48 behind the leaders. Taylor recorded the fastest third leg but made up only four seconds on the leaders, who were also skiing very fast, but he caught back up with Italy. Taylor tagged Billy 2:44 behind the leader and Billy posted the second-fastest anchor leg. Billy worked with Italian anchor man Alessandro Pittin, usually the fastest man in the NC field, and the two caught the Czech skier who had started the final leg 34 seconds ahead of them. These three skied together until Pittin faded and Billy won the finish sprint to put Team USA in sixth place. Meanwhile, at the front of the race, Germany started first, just 7 seconds ahead of Austria. Norway, with fast skiers, started 25 seconds back and France 35 sec. Norway's lead-off man, Magnus Moan, who recorded the fastest leg of the entire race, caught Germany's first skier, World Cup leader Eric Frenzel in about 2 km and these two worked together with Lukas Klapfer of Austria for the rest of their 5 km leg. These three teams worked together through the second leg and put a few more seconds into the gap to fourth place France. The third leg went the same way, with the top three working together and stretching their lead over France to 1:17. In fourth leg, the top three stayed together until the finish where Jørgen Gråbek (NOR) won the sprint over Fabian Riessle (GER) with Mario Stecher (AUT) not able to match the pace and finishing 3.4 seconds back. See results. The Sochi jumps are now retired for the last three days of the games but we hope that they and the other multi-billion dollar facilities get plenty of action over the next several decades.
Back to World Cup after the Sochi Games
Sat, Mar 1: Bryan Fletcher was joined by younger brother Taylor on U.S. Team-I and finished 14th, while US-II with youngsters Adam Loomis and Nick Hendrickson came in 19th. NOR-I won with Klemetsen & Gråbak followed by GER-I with Frenzel & Rydzek and FRA-I with Braud & LaCroix. See results.
Thu, Mar 6: Young Nick Hendrickson joined Bill Demong and the Fletcher brothers in Trondheim NOR for a single Gundersen event (HS-140/10 km). Nick failed to make the top 50 in qualifying on Wednesday and so did not ski in the World Cup event. Demong jumped 124 meters to place 20th in the jumping and started the XC race 1 min. 21 sec. behind the jumping leader Tomas Portyk (CZE). Bryan Fletcher jumped 121.5 to start 32nd, 1:45 back while younger brother Taylor flew 109.5 m. to start 2:28 back. Bryan did not start the race, but both Bill and Taylor had good groups to work with, to swap the lead and share the draft. By the second interval timing point at 2 km. Billy had made up 27 seconds on the leader, while Tayor had made up 41 sec. At the half way check (5.2 km actually) Billy was only 31.3 sec. behind the leaders who had also formed a good working group, while Taylor was up to 1:18.6. Bill put on the pressure and by the 8 km point he had joined a huge lead group of 15 racers. In the end, Rydzek and Gråbak stormed away from the lead group to take gold and silver. Moan was 10.2 sec. back in third. Billy finished just 19.1 sec. back, having moved from 20th start postion to 10th at the end. Demong started with Björn Kircheisen and these two fast men worked together, and with others, through the entire race. In the end Kirkeisen finished just ahead of Billy and posted the 3rd fastest XC time while Billy turned in the 4th fastest time. Taylor Fletcher posted the fastest time of the day as he moved from 47th (2.28) up to 23rd (1:19.4). He also found a fast group, finishing with racers who posted 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th fastest XC times. See results.
Sat, Mar 1:
It's the day when the King's Cup is awarded to the winner of the Nordic Combined competition at Holmenkollen. The top U.S. jumper on the day was Taylor Fletcher who is capable of turning in the fastest cross country time of the entire field, and Taylor has some work to do as he starts 1:17 back, but he will have several fast men to work with as he starts the race in a nine second interval with fast men Bjorn Kircheisen, Akito Watabe, and Magnus Krog. Fast skier Johannes Rydzek jumped into second place but the only other fast racer at the top of the start list is Magnus Moan who starts 12th, 36 seconds back.
See jumping results.
Table columns give the venue location and the date of the event, and in the right-hand columns, we will post Bill Demong's finish place, the World Cup points earned for that placing, link "US" to the USST news story and link "FIS" to the official FIS results page. That results page includes, in the upper-right corner, a list of available files including: jump results, World Cup standings, Nations Cup standings, money standings, start lists, etc. The USST article usually describes the weather conditions and how the race went for Bill and the rest of the U.S. World Cup competitors.
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