845 Howelsen Parkway, Steamboat Springs
Whistler, British Columbia Bill Demong came from behind to take third Saturday in a DKB FIS Nordic Combined World Cup at the Whistler Olympic Park in Whistler, B.C. A day earlier, the U.S. Ski Team veteran was the winner in the first of two Olympic test events at the 2010 venue. Norway's Magnus Moan was the winner Saturday in a three-skier sprint to the finish.
"Today was one of those days where it's right to the very end, and you don't know what's going to happen," Demong said. "You've got the fastest skiers all together working together and Anssi [Koivuranta] skiing well, holding on to everything he's worth in the stadium on the last lap."
Demong, second in the jump in Friday's opener, found himself in eighth despite a strong 130-meter jump Saturday. He started the cross-country race 1:12 behind World Cup leader Koivuranta of Finland and two seconds behind Moan.
"Today, the strategy was completely different going into the race," he said. "I didn't have quite as good a jump because I felt a little more pressure having won yesterday. I have to learn to deal with that. Going into the cross country 1:12 back, you have to put the hunt face on right from the start 'cause there's no messing around."
Demong began closing the gap to Koivuranta immediately, but so did Moan and German Bjoern Kircheisen. At one point, there was a pack of a half-dozen racers - some moving up, some dropping back - all chasing down the Finn, peloton-style.
"Magnus, Bjoern and I were like, 'Let's do this - nobody be selfish, let's all work together,'" Demong said. "We helped each other and left it down to the sprint. I think I did a little too much work at the end but, then again, we needed everything we could to catch Anssi. It's an exciting day for me."
The pack had closed the gap to the World Cup leader to just six seconds with 800 meters to go, before the Finn faded setting up an epic sprint between Moan, Kircheisen and Demong. In the end, the Norwegian got his toe across first, with Kircheisen getting the officials' call on a photo finish for second.
"I was kind of hoping for first or second right down to the last 10 meters," Demong said. "We knew we were going to fight for the podium, but we didn't know we were going to catch him till the last lap."
The win vaulted Moan past Demong into second in the World Cup standings with the American third.
It was a strong day for the Americans, with Johnny Spillane skiing the third fastest cross-country leg to finish 11th and Todd Lodwick another second back in 12th. Brett Camerota had a career-best 24th.
Demong was extremely pleased with the two days of test events at the Whistler Olympic Park, which proved to be a spectacular venue.
"This was a great weekend," he said. "Yesterday was awesome. Today, I felt like I didn't have a great jump, and I was still able to play ball, so that's important to me because the average level of jumping into the top 10 like that is what leads to the podium.
"As far as skiing in the race and watching that race from a spectator's standpoint, it was one of the most exciting Nordic combined competitions of the year."
The World Cup will take a break before resuming Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 in Chaux-Neuve, France, kicking off a three-weekend string before the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic.