Fletchers lead U.S. at Grand Prix
September 1, 2015
Olympian Taylor Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, Colorado) set a torrid pace with the second fastest roller ski time to finish 12th in a FIS Nordic Combined Summer Grand Prix Sunday in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, along the Czech border. Eric Frenzel led a German sweep of the podium.
In the morning jump on the HS106 meter hill, Bryan Fletcher (Steamboat Springs) led the USA with a 92.0-meter ride for 27th. Frenzel set the pace with a huge 105.0-meter jump. Bryan Fletcher started 1 minute, 57 seconds back from Frenzel, with brother Taylor one second behind.
The brothers Fletcher slowly overtook skier after skier to move towards the front. In the intense afternoon heat, Bryan Fletcher eventually dropped back to finish 19th while Taylor moved up to 12th.
Michael Ward (Aspen, Colorado) had an impressive day, logging the fourth-fastest roller-ski time to finish 29th. Adam Loomis (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) was one spot ahead in 28th, skiing the 11th fastest roller ski time. Four U.S. athletes cracked the top 30.
In the team sprint event on Saturday, the brothers Fletcher combined to finish 11th, with Ben Berend and Jasper Good (both Steamboat Springs) 22nd.
"For the race, I have to be happy," said Taylor Fletcher. "It was our first race of the year and it’s always hard to know where you stand against the European teams as we have no contact at all until these comps."
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The competition was more challenging as ski bags had not yet arrived, so Taylor was jumping in new skis. In addition, new equipment measuring systems were nerve-racking for athletes, with a host of disqualifications amid new procedures.
"My jump was pretty much consistently my average over these last couple weeks," said Taylor. "The race was in the heart of the city, which is always very fun with a good amount of people that come to watch. I started pretty close to how I wanted and not like I always do too, which is too hard at the beginning. I think my middle lap may have been pretty hard which killed me for the last lap but I went hard till 150 meters when all I could think about was a cold shower and getting out of the 33C heat."
"In the race the temperatures were up there," said Bryan Fletcher. "At 2 p.m. in the day it was hot and humid! I have to again commend the organizing committee as they had the fire department there to mist water on the skiers each lap.
"Performance-wise, our team skied well," he added. "We don’t put a ton of importance on racing well in these events. Our goals are set in the winter, and that’s when we want to perform. Obviously we are giving it all we have out there but our shape is still coming."
The Summer Grand Prix is part of a vital training period for the U.S. team, providing an opportunity to visit different jumping venues and get a sense of speed compared to the top teams in the sport.
"Summer Grand Prix is mainly a way to see how our summer training, especially jumping, has been," said Head Coach Dave Jarrett. "Both Bryan and Taylor have had good summers on the jumping hill. Taylor has also been extremely fast in many of our test races. I am excited to see how everyone stacks up."
The FIS Summer Grand Prix continues this week in Tschagguns, Austria, before winding up next weekend with a pair of events in Oberstdorf, Germany. Fields in the Grand Prix include most of the top athletes in the sport.
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