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Demong Wins Lahti World Cup

First World Cup win in five years

Sat, Mar  10, 2007 - By US Ski Team

LAHTI, Finland (March 9) - World Championships silver medalist Bill Demong (Vermontville, NY) took the lead at the 8K mark Friday and went on to the second World Cup nordic combined victory of his career, winning by 6.6 seconds at the Lahti Ski Games.
 
Bill Demong (center) wins his career second World Cup, just one week after winning World Championships silver (credit: Pekka Sakki/AFP/Getty Images)
 
"I'm psyched to put another result back to back, just for my own confidence, that I didn't get lucky [in the sprint at Worlds], that this really is the shape I'm in," Demong said. "It's nice to put together two in a row like this."

"Billy showed everyone that the medal he won last weekend in Sapporo [Japan, during the individual event at the 2007 FIS Nordic world Ski Championships] wasn't a fluke, wasn't a one-time lucky deal - that he's the real deal," Head Coach Lasse Ottesen said. "He's shown that all year, but he just hasn't gotten to the podium," a reference to two photo finishes for third place which Demong lost each time.

The field was cut to 35 after the first round of jumping on the 130-meter hill; Demong was 10th with Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO) 19th but Eric Camerota (Park City, UT), who was 38th, was eliminated.

The loneliness of the leader
Demong, 1:25 behind jump leader Espen Rian of Norway, started fast, reeling-in skiers ahead of him as the six-lap 15K race opened, and he finished by holding off Sebastien Haseney of Germany, who was another minute behind Demong to start the race. Third place went to World Cup champion Hannu Manninen of Finland, who was nine seconds father off the pace with Ronny Ackermann of Germany, who has won the last three individual titles at World Championships, in fourth place.

"Today was good," Demong, a three-time Olympian from the Lake Placid region, said, "because I was out there by myself for the last 7.5 Ks...off the front, on my own. I didn't ski the best tactical race, but this is a hard course. It's an all-new course and it almost bit me.

"I was putting it out during the first five Ks but I was hanging on for the last 10. Well, that's probably a little exaggeration, but it's really tough. When I spit out [No. 2 jumper Austrian Christoph] Bieler, I said 'Let's imagine there's somebody 20 seconds, or maybe 30 seconds, in front and I have to go get him.' Those last five Ks I was digging deep, just kept putting one foot after the other...

"I took three [liquid] feeds and the last one kicked in for that last kilometer, gave me a little bit of juice in the legs," he said.

New course, ages-old nemesis: hills
Lahti organizers revamped the traditional cross country layout, he said, which starts in a track&field stadium, climbs up a hill to a series of trails on the second level. But they ran the new trails down a couple of hillsides and back, creating more climb for the skiers.

"There are at least 10 solid climbs over five Ks, three of them are multiple-minute climbs, so it's very challenging," he said.

The victory also washes out some of the sour taste he had from his 2002 World Cup triumph in Liberec, Czech Republic, when he won following a protest over weather conditions when a bloc of skiers refused to compete. "Today was much more satisfying," he said.

"Once he took the lead, Billy had control all the way although he said [before going into a press conference] he thought he might have pushed a little too hard on the second lap because he tired at the end as [Germany's Sebastien] Haseney put on a real effort to catch him."

Eerie calm for the jumpers
It rained during the night and up until perhaps an hour before the jumping competition and then everything went still, Ottesen said. "I've never seen Lahti this way, no wind whatsoever. It was definitely the calmest jumping competition we've had this year."

Demong and U.S. coaches said Pete Vordenberg, cross country head coach, and his staff pitched in to test and wax the combiners' skis Friday after combined waxer Snorre Haugland had a death in his family and returned earlier in the week to Norway for the funeral.

"We got it down to one pair apiece which Johnny, Eric and I wanted to ski on, and we gave our skis to 'Vordy' and the guys. We counted on them for the pure, finishing touch and they did a bang-up job," he said, noting combined Coach Dave Jarrett also helped with the testing and waxing.

The Lahti Ski Games, at the end of every World Cup season, are among the most prestigious in nordic skiing. The last American combined win in Lahti came in 1983 when Kerry Lynch won what turned out to be the next-to-last unofficial World Cup meet; the combined World Cup officially began with the '84 season - and Lynch was a co-winner in that opening event in Seefeld, Austria.

The combiners have a sprint event Saturday before heading to Norway next week for the traditional season-ending competitions at Holmenkollen in Oslo.

WARSTEINER NORDIC COMBINED WORLD CUP
Lahti Ski Games
Lahti, FIN - March 9, 2007
Men's Nordic Combined Individual (K130/15K)

1. Bill Demong, Vermontville, NY, (10/6)
2. Sebastien Haseney, Germany, (30/1) 6.6 seconds back
3. Hannu Manninen, Finland, (26/2) 15.6
4. Ronny Ackermann, Germany, (18/4) 18.8
5. Felix Gottwald, Austria, (23/3) 31.6
-
30. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO, (19/29) 4:29.2
-
DNF (eliminated after first round of jumping):
Eric Camerota, Park City, UT

For complete results:
http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?event_id=20951&cal_suchsector=NK