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Taylor Fletcher edged out of Steamboat sweep at Continental Cup

Joel Reichenberger For Steamboat Pilot & Today

U.S. Nordic combined skier Taylor Fletcher flies down Howelsen Hill on Saturday during the Continental Cup event in Steamboat Springs. (Photo by Joel Reichenberger)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Taylor Fletcher may be as fast as anyone at any level in Nordic combined when it comes to cross-country skiing. He showed as much again Friday, skiing away from the pack to win the first of two Nordic combined Continental Cup events in Steamboat Springs.

Saturday, however, he showed that power has some limits. For all the scorching he can do on the course, he’s not quite built to win at the end of a tight race.

“Sprinting has never really been my forte,” Fletcher said. “I’ve always been the guy who tries to go early.”

Fletcher jumped well enough Friday; his “go early” strategy worked perfectly. He got out in front early in the 10-kilometer race, skied alone and won easily.

Steamboat Springs skier Ben Berend, a 2018 Winter Olympian, flies high during Saturday’s Continental Cup competition at Howelsen Hill. (Photo by Joel Reichenberger)

On Saturday, a more average jump forced a change in tactics. He still caught the lead group by the midway point of the race, but there was no chance to “go early.” He still made a break for the finish line, tearing away on an uphill segment of the final lap. This time, however, someone was able to hang on,

Austria’s Paul Grestgraser, who applied some rockets of his own, beat Fletcher down the final home stretch to win the day in Romick Rodeo Arena in downtown Steamboat Springs.

“Taylor went on the last uphill, and he was strong, but I just tried to stay behind him,” Grestgraser said. “I had a good feeling I could beat him at the finish. The finish sprint is quite long, and I knew if I saved some energy for the last 100 meter, it would be enough.”

Taylor Fletcher offers a shrug of his shoulders as he crosses the finish line in second place after he lost a sprint to the finish against Austria’s Paul Grestgraser. (Photo by Joel Reichenberger)

Despite Fletcher’s mild disappointment in a second place finish rather than another victory, it was another big day for the Americans.

That started on the women’s side, where Vermont skier Tara Geraghty-Moats continued to set the bar for the early days of women’s Nordic combined, winning again Saturday to make it a clean sweep of the Steamboat events.

She won Saturday’s race by 40.1 seconds, down slightly from her 47.7 second victory the day prior. Both ended the same way, with her coasting toward the finish line, a wide grin on her face and her arms in the air.

Geraghty-Moats skied up from a fourth-place jump to win.

Norway’s Gyda Hansen Westvold had the day’s best ski jump and turned that into her second consecutive second-place finish. Italy’s Veronica Gianmoena, edged out at the finish line for third place Friday, secured that third-place finish Saturday.

The U.S. and Steamboat had two more strong finishes. Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete Tess Arnone pieced together a very strong race to place seventh, and teammate Annika Malacinski was ninth.

Steamboat Springs skier Jasper Good tries to catch his breath after an eighth-place finish in Saturday’s Continental Cup Nordic combined event in Steamboat. (Photo by Joel Reichenberger)

On the men’s side, Park City skier Jared Shumate capped a strong week, placing sixth. Steamboat’s Jasper Good was eighth, Ben Loomis 10th and Ben Berend 19th.

Lars Buraas of Norway was third.

The competitions will now shift to Park City, which will play host to two more Nordic combined Continental Cup competitions for both men and women next week.


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