Nordic-com­bined World Cup 2017/18

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Jenn Jack­son

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.

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