Nordic-combined World Cup 2017/18
Ruka, Finland – Nov. 24-26, 2017
Ruka, Finland’s inaugural tour for the Nordic Combined World Cup got underway on Nov. 24-26 with Espen Andersen taking the opening 5km Gundersen Round ahead of fellow Norwegian Jan Schmid and Japan’s Akito Watabe.
For the U.S.A., Bryan Fletcher finished 17th in the opening event and showed excellent form the following day, skiing the four-fastest time en route to 18th in the 10km Gundersen. Watabe took a decisive win and the overall series’ lead that he carried to the next World Cup in Norway.
Lillehammer, Norway – Dec. 1-3, 2017
Bryan Fletcher was joined by teammates Jasper Good, Ben Berend and Taylor Fletcher for the first Team competition of the year. Together, the American squad placed ninth, just missing out on Nations Cup points. Bryan and Taylor both were skiing well, posting the second-fastest and fastest times for their respective legs. After trading leads early in the race, Norway just edged Germany for the win, as France outsprinted Finland to finish third.
To the delight of the home crowd, Andersen led Norway to a podium sweep with Schmid and Joergen Graabak in the 10km Individual Gundersen. The win also moved Andersen ahead of Watabe in the overall World Cup as Schmid moved up to third, just one behind the Japanese skier.
Ramsau, Austria – Dec. 16-17, 2017
Bryan Fletcher had a top early-season performance, taking seventh in Ramsau, Austria with the second-fastest ski time over the 10km course. “Bryan skied a smart race today,” said Martin Bayer, head coach. “He had good skiers around him and had a good plan going into the race. We had good strategy and good skis; the whole team came together today.” The race was won by Germany’s Eric Frenzel ahead of teammate Fabian Riessele and Norwegian Schmid, who took third.
Bryan Fletcher had another solid day in Ramsau, skiing up to 14th from 45th with the third-fastest time of the day. After facing some difficulties in jumping, younger brother Taylor skied the second-fastest time of the day, and turned an unlucky day into a strong performance, finishing 34th.
The World Cup lead shifted once again, as Schmid’s consistent performances moved him ahead of Andersen, while Watabe still held on to the overall podium in third, and Bryan Fletcher sat 19th.
Otepaa, Estonia – Jan. 6-7, 2018
The fourth weekend of World Cup action was cancelled due to poor and worsening conditions in Otepaa, Estonia. According to project leader Ago Markvardt, the call was made with a heavy heart, but the organizers were left with no other choice. “As the primary concern was the trail, where rain has done a lot of damage over the past week, we discussed various alternatives, but unfortunately getting even a shorter trail ready in time for the race is in all likelihood mission impossible,” he said.
Val di Fiemme, Italy – Jan. 12-14, 2018
Norway’s Graabak found his way to the top of the 10km Gundersen podium in Val di Fiemme, Italy after an extended holiday break. Graabak was consistent in his jumping and skiing, holding off Johannes Rydzek of Germany and Austria’s Lukas Klapfer, who completed the podium in a tight race with Schmid. Bryan Fletcher was the top American on the day, placing 32nd.
Bryan and Taylor Fletcher tagged off in the 2 x 7.5km team sprint, earning a ninth-place finish, with the sixth-fastest Combined skiing time of the day. The result also boosted the U.S.A. to eighth in the Nations Cup standings, led by Norway and narrowly ahead of Germany.
Schmid closed out the weekend with another win, extending his overall World Cup lead over Rydzek, who now sat second. Bryan Fletcher made up impressive ground, skiing almost on par for the fastest time of the day, leaping from 34th to 19th. Meanwhile, youngster Ben Loomis had a strong day, advancing from qualifications and finishing 38th overall.
Chaux-neuve, France – Jan. 19-21, 2018
The U.S.A. was represented by Berend, Good, Ben Loomis and Stephen Schumann in Chaux-neuve, France, with Loomis finishing, leading the team to 11th in the 4 x 5km relay after posting a 37th-place finish in the 10km Individual competition.
Schmid and Norway continued to extend their leads with wins in the Individual and Nations World Cup. The weekend also saw ear- ly-season leader Watabe return to the podium after a dominant jumping performance, finishing just 1.7 seconds behind Schmid and 20 seconds ahead of Finland’s Ilkka Herola in third. The relay podium was completed by Germany and Finland.
Seefeld, Austria – Jan. 26-28, 2018
Watabe took a stunning hat trick of wins in Seefeld, Austria. Spearheaded by big jumps, the Japanese skier’s cross-country speed steadily improved over the weekend. After narrowly beating Norwegian Jarl Magnus Riiber in the opening 5km, Watabe went on to win both of the following 10 and 15km events by more than a minute, boosting him back up into the lead for the overall World Cup.
Taylor Fletcher led the U.S.A. all weekend, finishing 28th in the 5km and then topping the field with the fastest ski time the following day as he flew 10 places up in the overall standings for a 31st-place finish.
Habuka, Japan – Feb. 3-4, 2018
Home snow saw Watabe continue to dominate on the opening day of competitions in Habuka, Japan, beating the field and overall World Cup rival Schmid by 1:12 over 10 kilometres with the best jump and third-fastest ski time. Schmid fought back to win the following day, as Watabe seemed to struggle with his jumping, but held on for the podium behind the Norwegian and Estonia’s Kristjan Ilves, who capitalized on a strong jump to finish second.
The U.S.A.’S Berend achieved his top World Cup result of the season in Japan, finishing 23rd with the 16th-best jump in the Saturday event. On the Sunday, Adam Loomis also posted an impressive eighth-fastest skiing time to finish 24th overall.
Taylor Fletcher led the U.S.A. in Seefeld.
The U.S.A.'S Bryan Fletcher had a top early-season performance, taking seventh in Ramsau, Austria.
Jasper Good contributed to the American squad's ninth-place team relay finish in Lillehammer, Norway.
Rising star Stephen Schumann joined the team in Chaux-neuve, France.
The U.S.A.'S Ben Berend scored his top World Cup result of the season in Habuka, Japan, with the 16thbest jump to finish 23rd.