TRONDHEIM, Norway (Dec. 8) - World Championships nordic combined silver medalist Bill Demong (Vermontville, NY) put on a final burst Saturday for his third World Cup win. He edged German Bjoern Kircheisen at the finish line. Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO) overcame stomach problems to finish 13th.
"I controlled things right from the start. I told myself I was skiing a 15K, not a 1.5K," Demong said after producing the third-fastest time for the six-lap race over a relentless course. "I didn't want to start fast but not finish."
Demong, a three-time Olympian, finished seven-tenths of a second ahead of Kircheisen, who had the fastest 15K race. World Cup leader Ronny Ackermann of Germany was third, 8.5 seconds back.
Eighth after two rounds of jumping, Demong began picking off skiers and took the race lead midway through the third 2.5K lap. He and Kircheisen, who was 12th in jumping, dueled the rest of the way before Demong's victorious final surge.
Finish burst wins it
"The last two laps Kircheisen and I went back and forth up front," Demong said, "It was clear that neither of us was going to break away from the other, so we wanted to put time on Ronny and drop the rest of the field. I was 10 meters back of him going into the final stretch after he pulled by me going into the stadium.
"Every time I double-poled I'd give this loud grunt. I don't know - maybe it scared Bjoern," he joked. "I knew I had to pick it up, and I was going at it...and just got him."
It was reminiscent of a year ago when Demong lost back-to-back photo finishes, coming in fourth each time, early in the season. However, at the 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships last March in Japan, he won a tight finish to capture the silver medal. That made him only the second U.S. skier to win a nordic combined medal at the Olympics or Worlds (Spillane was sprint gold medalist at 2003 Worlds).
"This is a hard course because there's nothing steep, and no real climbs except coming out of the stadium and going back into it. They're gradual, so you can't make up any time on anyone and you have to keep hammering every lap," Demong said.
Head Coach Lasse Ottesen was concerned midway through the race that Demong might have started too fast. But he could see Demong was strong and wasn't going to let Kircheisen get away from him.
"But I know Billy's strong and I could see over the last two laps that Kircheisen tried to pull away three or four times and Johnny stayed with him pretty easily. I knew, everyone could see, it was going to be a great finish."
Spillane had stomach problems during the jumping but then fought through the six laps of the race to finish. After three events, Ackermann is the leader with 210 points. Kircheisen is second at 198 with Demong third at 196 and Spillane fourth.
One difference is...
Asked what, even this early in the season, the difference is for himself and Spillane who have a victory, a second (Spillane) and a third (Demong) in three competitions, Demong said confidence and experience. "Johnny was sick today with some kind of stomach bug, but he still was 13th, so when he's healthy, he'll be higher. And, for me, a lot has to do with confidence, a little of it a holdover from last season, for sure. But confidence breeds confidence." (Last season, in addition to his silver medal, Demong finished the World Cup schedule with a victory and was third in the final sprint of the winter.)
"In cross country, we're not getting freaked out by things," Demong said, "We're more relaxed and you always perform better when you're relaxed - in any sport. When I put my cross country skis on I have so much confidence. Last year I knew I needed to relax and I've been able to do that better. When you have confidence on the jump hill, you're not sitting up top at the start and wondering about things. You can focus on your jump."
Ottesen said the confidence also comes with his two veterans being healthy. "They're able to relax because they know they can get it done. They have the patience they need to perform well."
The schedule calls for a sprint event Sunday at the 1997 World Championships venue before the tour heads to central Europe with events next weekend in Ramsau, Austria.
WARSTEINER NORDIC COMBINED WORLD CUP
Trondheim, NOR - Dec. 8, 2007
Nordic Combined Individual (134m/15K)
1. Bill Demong, Vermontville, NY, (8/3)
2. Bjoern Kircheisen, Germany, (12/1) 0.7 seconds back
3. Ronny Ackermann, Germany, (6/4) 8.5
4. Eric Frenzel, Germany, (3/10) 51.3
5. David Kreiner, Austria, (5/7) 1:01.3
13. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO, (10/21) 2:16.5 Click here
for complete results.