The enduring message from the first weekend of World Cup Nordic combined competition is that for the United States team, there’s work to be done.
The squad’s highlight from the circuit opener Saturday and Sunday in Kuusamo, Finland, came in Sunday’s team relay event, where the American team of Todd Lodwick, Bryan Fletcher, Bill Demong and Taylor Fletcher were seventh.
On the other end of the spectrum was Saturday’s individual event, when no one from the team jumped well enough to qualify in the top 50 and get a start in the day’s cross-country ski race.
Demong was disqualified for an issue with his jump suit. Taylor Fletcher was the first competitor out of the skiing portion, in 51st place. Lodwick was 53rd, and Bryan Fletcher was 73rd.
On Sunday, jumping again held the team back as it began the 20-kilometer ski race in 12th place out of 13 teams, beginning the race 4 minutes, 22 seconds after the leader, Norway. One thing hasn’t changed from last year, however: The Unites States team can ski fast.
Lodwick led off and had the sixth fastest time of his leg. Bryan Fletcher was next with the fifth best time of the second leg and Demong had the first best time on his leg. Taylor Fletcher, then, picked up just where he left off in the spring, laying down a scorching time. He had the fastest time among the anchor-leg racers by a whopping 24 seconds and had the second fastest time of any racer on the 5K loop.
All that skiing pulled the squad past five other teams. It finished 4:12.7 back of the champion Norwegians.
The World Cup now shifts to Lillehammer, Norway, for a pair of individual competitions Saturday and Sunday. Steamboat Springs skier Brett Denney is expected to get his first World Cup start of the season at that event.