PARK CITY, Utah (Dec. 20, 2018) – The North American swing of the FIS Nordic Combined Continental Cup presented by USANA wrapped up Thursday in Park City with USA Nordic’s Taylor Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) and Norwegian Gyda Westvold Hansen taking the wins.
The finale wrapped up the four-race series between Steamboat Springs, Colo. last week and Park City, with jumping on the HS100 meter hill at the Utah Olympic Park and cross country at nearby Jeremy Ranch Nordic Center.
Japan’s Ryota Yamamoto continued his dominance on the jumps, taking a huge margin in Thursday morning competition round soaring 102.0 meters to lead Germany’s David March be one minute, six seconds in the cross country. While the entire field was over a minute back, they were tightly packed with Fletcher 12th 1:35 out at the start. What was expected to be a full-on assault by the pack, turned into a lead-out break by Fletcher that he held to the finish.
Yamamoto skied a strong cross country race, keeping the pack well behind him on the first of four 2.5k laps. At the start of the second lap, Fletcher decided to break out alone and left the pack behind. He caught Yamamoto around the 4k mark to take the lead. The Japanese skier stayed on his heels, before getting swallowed into the chase group. But he stayed strong in the group to the finish.
Fletcher set a strong pace and never faltered, coming across the line for a 30-second win over Julian Schmid of Germany with Yamamoto third. It was a personal best for both Schmid and Yamamoto and a second straight podium day for the German.
“Today was a much different race than yesterday,” said Fletcher. “I just wanted to go out there and have my race. I knew my pace was fast enough from my splits.” Fletcher got the gap up to 25-30 seconds and maintained it through to the finish.
“I’ve had great training and competition here to set me up for the rest of the season,” said Fletcher. “It’s helped me build confidence.”
USA Nordic’s Jared Shumate (Park City, Utah) was 17th, scoring points in all four events this season.
The women’s field was handed an opportunity when the USA’s Tara Geraghty-Moats (W. Fairlee, Vt.), opted to sit out the competition suffering from a cold. “I just haven’t been feeling well and thought it best to sit out the competition,” said Geraghty-Moats, who watched from the sidelines.
Canada’s Taylor Henrich led after the jump, but took only a three-second lead to the start of the 5k cross country leg over Westvold Hansen of Norway. The Norwegian flew out of the start to immediately overtake the Canadian. The two of them swapped leads until midway through the second lap when Henrich made her move. Then disaster struck.
“On the second lap I wanted to trail behind Gyda a bit, let her lead the way and draft off her,” said Henrich. “When I felt I had enough energy, I went for it and passed her. Unfortunately, I caught an edge and crashed.”
Henrich had built a sizeable lead and was still able to get herself up and moving quickly. But the hard impact with the snow stripped her of momentum and Westvold Hansen made the pass. Soon, Germany’s Jenny Nowak followed suit to take second.
“I saw her fall and I had the momentum to pass her,” said Westvold Hansen.
It was another strong showing for a small but diverse women’s nordic combined field.
“I love nordic combined,” said Henrich. “You have the mental of ski jumping and the grit of racing. I want to be a part of it.”
“It is very important for women to show that we can both jump and ski,” said Westvold Hansen. “It has been a great time here in Utah.”
The FIS Continental Cup tour will take a holiday break before resuming January 4-6 in Klingenthal, Germany.
FIS NORDIC COMBINED CONTINENTAL CUP presented by USANA
Park City, Utah USA
Thursday, December 20, 2018