Taylor Fletcher charges up a grueling hill at Gorgoza Park en route to an eighth place finish in the FIS Nordic Combined Continental Cup at Park City.
PARK CITY, Utah (Dec. 12, 2014) - It was a grueling day at the Gorgoza Park tubing hill with tough and icy 10k cross country course. Defending FIS Nordic Combined Continental Cup champion Tomaz Druml came from behind to lead an Austrian podium sweep in the season-opener in Park City Friday. Druml came from a 40-second deficit to teammate Lukas Greiderer after Thursday's jumping round to take the win by over 16 seconds. Marco Pichlmayer was third. Olympian Taylor Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, CO) led the USA, moving up from 26th after the jump to eighth. Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) was 13th.
Crews from the Olympic venue of Soldier Hollow moved the event to the Gorgoza Park location between Park City and Parley's Summit, crafting a 1.5k loop that took athletes up the tubing hill three times on each of six laps. The course featured punshing uphills followed by screaming-fast downhills, making it a test of skill and fitness.
Greiderer held a very narrow lead after the jump over Germany's Tobias Simon and Phillipp Blaurock. A fast-charging Druml had broken into the lead group by the second lap, with Simon and Blaurock slowly dropping back. Picklmayer, meanwhile, hooked up with Olympic champion Demong, who started just two seconds before him, and used Demong to pace through the midway mark of the race before pushing up to take third as Druml slow ran away with the lead.
Fletcher, meanwhile, posted the third fastest cross country leg of the day but his over two-minute gap was just too much to close. Fletcher and Demong had been hoping for a podium spot to seal a World Cup quota spot for the U.S. Ski Team.
Action continues with an afternoon jump Friday at the Utah Olympic Park, followed by a final cross country leg Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m.
The win was Tomaz Druml's fourth in the USA, including two in Park City and two in Lake Placid, NY
Taylor Fletcher (28:48.4) posted the third fastest cross country time of the day behind France's Geoffrey Lafarge (28:14.7) and Druml (28:37.2).
Ben Berend (Steamboat Springs, CO) and Michael Ward (Aspen, CO) were both in the points.
QUOTES Billy Demong It felt really good to be back competing. I didn't quite get the jump I wanted today, but that is just the way it goes when the winds are gusty like they were tonight. As for the race this morning, I didn't race quite as strong as I would have liked, but I am confident about my place going into tomorrow.
Taylor Fletcher I am fairly happy with my jump tonight given the gusty conditions. Overall I am just really glad that everyone was able to jump even with all of the wind delays. Had we not been able to jump, tomorrow's race would have looked a lot different. The way things stand now, it should shape up to be a pretty tight race in the morning. I was able to ski a really strong race earlier today on a challenging course which leaves me confident going into tomorrow. Even skiing as strong as I did, I know have have more in my tank and I am looking forward to racing hard and pushing a faster time in the morning.