Demong takes U.S. Nordic Combined title

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— It wasn’t exactly a World Cup, but it isn’t summer training any more, either.

The U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team kicked off its march to the 2014 Winter Olympics on Sunday with the U.S. Nordic Combined National Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong emerged as the national champion.

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U.S. Ski Team

Bill Demong

The event showed the entire team what it needed to focus on in the last stretch of workouts before the World Cup season begins in earnest.

“We had some good results,” U.S. team coach Dave Jarrett said Sunday. “It was difficult conditions today, and this hill is hard. We didn’t do very well jumping, but we have jumped well here, so this was just one of those days.”

Taylor Fletcher finished second, and his brother Bryan Fletcher rounded out the podium in third place.

Steamboat’s Todd Lodwick, a 20-time national champion, led the way after the jumping, beginning the cross-country roller-ski race 4 seconds ahead of Aleck Gantick and 15 in front of Billy Demong. The Fletchers, meanwhile, were far back, in eighth and ninth place both being forced to wait nearly a minute after Lodwick’s start.

Lodwick was best jumping but couldn’t hold off his teammates. Demong and the Fletchers surged to the front and the race tightened up. Bryan and Taylor came within 9 seconds of Demong at one point but got no closer. He held on to win by 11 seconds.

Taylor finally pulled ahead of Bryan and ended up in second by 0.4 seconds.

“It was a pretty frustrating day,” Taylor said. “I definitely didn’t jump well. No one really jumped the way they were hoping, and I know I’ve been jumping much better.”

Brett Denney capped a strong day with a fourth-place finish. Lodwick, slowed by asthma in the race, finished fifth. Other Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skiers finished well, too. Colin Delaney was eighth, Tyler Smith was 10th, Ben Berend was 12th, Aleck Gantick was 14th, Jasper Good was 15th and Spencer Knickerbocker was 16th.

Now, it’s back to Europe as the team endures another training camp. The World Cup season then starts Nov. 30 in Finland.

“The season is just right around the corner,” Fletcher said.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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