Taylor Fletcher earns top-10 finish
September 2, 2016
Taylor Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, Colorado) put down the gauntlet in the opening FIS Nordic Combined Summer Grand Prix, winning the roller ski segment and finishing seventh overall in Oberwiesenthal, Germany. Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber took a 2.8-second win over Austrian Mario Seidel. Bjoern Kircheisen of Germany was third.
Fletcher jumped to 26th and was saddled with a 2 minute, 25 second handicap going into the afternoon roller ski. Despite that, he moved up quickly through the pack, attacking on the city streets and coming within 10.2 seconds of the win, taking more than a 12-second margin over the second-fastest roller skier.
“Today was a good step forward,” said Fletcher. “I am pleased, for sure, but know I still have my work to do. I have had some really good jumps lately but haven’t had them in the competition yet. Today I put in a great jump after my miss yesterday (in team spring) so that was a great feeling. I think this will help me relax knowing that with a jump like this I am in the hunt with my skiing, but of course the goal is to make it easier on the cross-country side. The conditions were all over the place today so it was luck of the draw and up to you to have your best effort. This makes the result satisfying knowing that!”
On Sunday, Fletcher flew 93.0 meters — eight meters longer than in Saturday’s team sprint, where he and Ben Berend (Steamboat Springs, Colorado) were 14th.
"The individual event was positive on the jumping side with Taylor performing well in comp as did Stephen Schumann, Ben Loomis and Adam Loomis (who was disqualified on a suit violation)," said Head Coach Dave Jarrett. "Our two young guys did a good job and will continue to improve as they get more World Cup experience. Taylor had a great race and was in the hunt for the podium, if not the win, but didn’t have it in the last 200 meters."
The 18-year-old Riiber had a sensational day, flying 101.0 meters to take a commanding lead. He paced himself in the nearly 90-degree heat to take the win.
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“This was an amazing weekend for me in Oberwiesenthal with great weather and conditions,” he said. “It was perfect.”
Sunday’s individual event was a realistic test with a strong lineup of the best Nordic combined skiers. The USA had most of its top athletes, with the exception of Taylor’s brother Bryan, who is home in Park City after the birth of his first child.
“The field here is no different than normal with a few absences,” said Taylor Fletcher. “A couple Norwegians are staying home to train but their best jumpers are here and that makes it tough. The roller skiing is always a little bit different, as some skiers are much faster on roller skis than snow and some are much better on snow. I feel my form carries over well on both sides and I can use that to my advantage. The summer events are brutal because of the heat for sure. Once you go through equipment at the top you can’t touch your suit, making it feel like you're in a sauna till you jump. The roller skiing is hot as well as the pavement is warm and your feet really warm up in these winter cross-country boots, but that's part of the game and everyone had to deal with it.”
Stephen Schumann (Park City) was 42nd in his Grand Prix debut. Ben Loomis (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) was 45th.
The tour now heads to Oberstdorf, Germany, next weekend.