December 19, 2010 (Ramsau, Austria) – Christmas came a week early for Bryan Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, CO) who set himself up with a strong jump then carried his own with the big boys to finish a career best eighth in the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup in Ramsau. It was his fourth point scoring finish of the year. Austrian Mario Stecher led the jump and hung on for an 8.6 second win over a hard charging Tino Edelmann of Germany. Fellow German Eric Frenzel was third.
In the jump, Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO) was 11th and Fletcher 13th, staring 24 and 29 seconds respectively. Lodwick held his position in the opening laps. Fletcher started moving up after the first kilometer and by 2.5k was on the heels of Lodwick and World Cup leader Jason Lamy Chappuis of France. From the back, German Tino Edelmann began moving up and the pace quickened as the field came through the stadium after the first of four 2.5k laps, featuring two huge hills and a wide track for passing.
But then the race took a dramatic turn. At the start of the second lap, a ski tip or tail from another racer in the pack clipped one of Lodwick’s bindings. As he took a skate step, his ski released. He was forced to wait out the pack, scramble back, clean his boot and re-attach the ski. By that time, he had been dropped.
“It happens sometimes,” said Lodwick. “I had good technique on the jump for this early [in the season]. While I was able to catch up to the back of the pack I was skiing with the guys who were getting dropped. It was panic mode to keep going.”
By midway through the second lap there was a chase group of five battling for second with another pack of seven a few seconds back. Midway through the race, with Lodwick dropping back, Fletcher settled in with a growing chase group that was hot on the heels of leader Stecher.
Moving into the second half of the race, Fletcher found himself in an unusual position – leading an aggressive pack of veterans. He held his own, pacing the group into the final two kilometers before Edelmann sprinted ahead to breakup the group in a field sprint to the finish for second. No one could catch Stecher.
“It was pretty crazy,” said an excited Fletcher. “I kept thinking to myself, ‘Holy Cow! I’m in second.’ At the same time I was still thinking race strategy. Our train was messing around a little bit with what to do. Dave [Nordic Combined Head Coach Dave Jarrett] said it was time to hammer and get moving. I felt good and said ‘why not try to bridge the gap.’ I got into the front, started pulling and was surprised I was feeling so good.”
“Bryan jumped well and he’s really stepped up since summer,” said Jarrett. “Summer Grand Prix was a big step for him. In Kuusamo, he stepped right in there. Yesterday and today he was really solid.”
“Now I know what’s possible for me to do every weekend,” said Fletcher. “I don’t feel like what I did today was anything really special. I still don’t think I’ve shown my best jumps. And the cross-country race was where I was expecting myself to be. Knowing I was able to do it today gives me confidence.”
Fletcher opened the season in Kuusamo, Finland three weeks ago with a then career best 18th. That started a string of four points finishes leading up to his top 10 in Ramsau.
He also credits a more disciplined approach to fitness and greater focus on nutrition. “I’m eating better and have lost close to 20 pounds,” he said. “That puts my actual weight closer to my BMI (body mass index) which is a big help on the jump hill and I feel better in cross country.”
Lodwick, who just missed the podium in fourth Saturday, ending up 18th. Bryan Fletcher’s brother, Taylor, had an impressive cross country segment – sixth fastest to move up from 58th in jumping to take 37th. Young Nick Hendrickson (Park City, UT) was 22nd in cross country to finish 45th overall.
“Taylor had a great race today – more like what we have had for expectations,” said Jarrett. Taylor Fletcher finished third a week ago in a Continental Cup in Utah.
Lamy Chappuis was fourth and continued to lead the World Cup at the midway point in the season.
The Team will now head back to the USA for the holidays before the World Cup resumes in Schonach, Germany Jan. 8-9. The main focus for the U.S. athletes will be the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Oslo, Norway with the opening nordic combined event on Feb. 26.
Lodwick plans to sit out the Schonach weekend, but come back for Seefeld, Austria and Chaux-Neuve, France later in January. Olympic champion Billy Demong is also expected to be on a very selective schedule leading to Worlds, anticipating the birth of his first child. Three-time Olympic silver medalist Johnny Spillane is still recovering from a summer knee injury but is back training and hopeful to be back in action soon.
Full results HERE.
Individual Normal Hill/10k Gundersen
1. Mario Stecher, Austria (1/20) 24:22.3
2. Tino Edelmann, Germany (20/8) +8.6 seconds
3. Eric Frenzel, Germany (7/14) +10.2
4. Jason Lamy Chappuis, France (8/16) +12.4
5. Johannes Rydzek, Germany (5/21) +17.3
8. Bryan Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, CO (13/15) +19.0
18. Todd Lodwick, Steamboat Springs, CO (10/33) +46.0
37. Taylor Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, CO (58/6) +1:47.5 minutes
45. Nick Hendrickson, Park City, UT (59/22) +2:32.8
59. Eric Camerota, Park City, UT (44/59) +5:17.0