Updated March 15, 2013 at 4:51 p.m.
Steamboat Springs Another day, another huge skiing performance from Taylor Fletcher at a Nordic combined World Cup event.
Competing in Norway in the final weekend of competition, Fletcher laid down the fastest cross-country ski time, as has become his habit this season, lifting him from 23rd to fifth. He came in 25 seconds behind winner Eric Frenzel, of Germany, but passed a stunning number of skiers along the way.
"Today was a very solid day," Fletcher said in a U.S. Ski Team news release. "I was thinking after jumping that I had a good shot at another podium. I went out hard from the stadium but pretty much controlled on the hills the first lap, then sped up a little on each lap."
Fletcher's time on the 10-kilometer course was the day’s best, and it wasn’t even close. He finished the course in 25 minutes, 5.5 seconds — 17.1 seconds faster than anyone else.
He had hopes of making the podium all the way until the final lap. He was racing in a pack with France’s Jason Lamy-Chappuis and German Johannes Rydzek, trying at first to team with the pair for another charge. That didn't fly for Rydzek, who didn't want to help Fletcher track down his teammate, Frenzel, but Lamy-Chappuis and Fletcher broke away. Fletcher couldn't drop the Frenchman, however.
Fletcher ended up less than three seconds from the podium. Akito Watabe, of Japan, finished second, 5 seconds behind Frenzel, and countryman Yoshito Watabe was third, 22.2 seconds back of the winner. Lamy-Chappuis was fourth, 23.7 seconds back.
"I was close to third, and Jason is so good at finishing, I got smoked," Fletcher said. "I was happy with the result and look forward to my last race of the year. I feel strong, so I will make a strong change on the brutal course and try to get my second podium and first win."
Bryan Fletcher also had a good day and gained ground in the ski portion, climbing from 17th to an 11th-place finish. Billy Demong was 15th, advancing from 13th after jumping, and Todd Lodwick finished 37th.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com