Steamboat Springs A Wednesday race in Park City, Utah, closed out a rousingly successful week of competition for United States skiers in Continental Cup Nordic combined competition, and it often was Steamboat Springs’ Taylor Fletcher leading the way.
Fletcher, a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s B Team, already has competed on the World Cup circuit this season, and his experience showed as he toed the line in a series of Utah Continental Cup events. He amassed one victory at Sunday’s event, second-place finishes Friday and Wednesday and a third-place showing alongside Nick Hendrickson as part of a team sprint competition.
“It was really good,” Fletcher said. “I was coming off my best World Cup finishes the week before, and I came in with the right attitude that I could definitely do well.”
Fletcher’s standout performances were only part of a strong showing by local skiers.
Hendrickson was seventh and Brett Denney 10th on Friday, Erik Lynch was seventh and Hendrickson eighth Sunday and Adam Loomis was sixth and Hendrickson eighth Tuesday, accounting for the nation’s nine individual top-10 finishes.
Michael Ward and Lynch, meanwhile, teamed up for a sixth-place finish in the team sprint. Denney and Loomis were seventh.
Fletcher dominated the week with his blazing skills on the snow more so than his jumping talents. He had only the 28th-best jump Sunday when he surged to win the race. He had the fastest time on the 10-kilometer course by a whopping 33 seconds, and even though he passed more than half the field, he won by a comfortable 16 seconds.
Denney was equally quick on the day and actually passed even more skiers, recording the second-fastest time to rise from 48th to 18th place.
Fletcher was 26th after the jump Friday when he climbed to second place, finishing 9.7 seconds out of first. He was 23rd on Tuesday, when he again flew by the field to finish second, losing by the narrowest of margins, 0.9 seconds.
Denney had the third-fastest time in that race after having notched the fastest time in Friday’s event.
“I was pretty close with the leaders and felt really, really good and got going for it,” Fletcher said about his victory. “No one was able to hang with me. I just skied away on my own and to my first international victory.”
Fletcher’s jumping shortcomings finally caught up with him Wednesday, but he still salvaged a seventh-place finish after starting in 36th place.
He ended up second overall with the races averaged together. That finish came with enough points to qualify him for future World Cup races, so on Jan. 3, he’ll be headed back to Europe for top-tier competitions in Germany and France.
Loomis led the squad Wednesday, finishing fifth. Denney was eighth, and Hendrickson closed out a strong week with another top-10 finish, crossing in 10th.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com