VAL di FIEMME, ITALY (Jan. 10) - Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) just missed the podium finishing fourth in a mass start Saturday as the DKB FIS Nordic Combined World Cup opened a two-event weekend in Val di Fiemme. Germany's Bjoern Kircheisen took the win, moving into second in the World Cup standings as Demong dropped to third.
The mass start reverses the normal routine, with skiers first taking on a 10K course with a mass start, followed by a pair of jumps. Penalty points are assigned after the cross country leg based on time behind the winner. With the changes in every other World Cup event to a single jump with a 10K race, the two-jump mass start event heavily favors the jumpers as the jump points remain the same, even though there are two opportunities.
"I was pretty satisfied with fourth, all things considered," said Demong, whose strong suit is cross country skiing. "It's a little frustrating when it favors the jumpers."
Billy Demong took it out to 127.5 meters on his second jump. (Getty Images/AFP-Vincenzo Pinto)
U.S. Ski Team Head Nordic Combined Coach Dave Jarrett played a strategy, together with the Norwegians, to set a torrid pace in the mass start cross country race to hopefully put as much time and points on the jumping specialists as possible to hopefully even the playing field. "We wanted to control the race, making sure the pace was high the whole way," said Jarrett. "It was just keep the pedal to the metal and try to make the biggest gap possible on the jumpers. And it worked."
American Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO), who won a world title in the sprint event in 2003 in Val di Fiemme, set the early pace and led through the 5K point before dropping back. Demong hung in a pack with the leaders, but ultimately was fourth behind Norway's Magnus Moan.
"It was a hard race," said Demong. "I wouldn't say it was one of my best days but I pretty much had to try to follow the leader. The plan worked, for sure, but it was really, really tough."
The 10K course in Lago di Tesero was one of the toughest of the year with hard and fast snow.
In the opening round of jumping, Demong soared 122.0 meters. That was enough to move him up to second behind Kircheisen. In the second round, he pushed it out to 127.5, but was caught by Austria's Bernhard Gruber and Norway's Jan Schmid, two of the best jumpers on the tour, and dropped to fourth.
"Billy's second jump was fabulous," said Jarrett. "If he does that tomorrow, there's nobody who is going to be in his way. He's getting that confidence where he knows what he needs to do on the jump hill."
Spillane ended up 19th on the day. Teammate Bryan Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, CO) cracked the top 30, finishing 28th for his first World Cup points.
"My hats off to Bryan for his first World Cup points," said Jarrett. "He skied a great race and held his own in jumping. It's a big step for our Team."
Action continues Sunday in the Italian nordic hotbed with a traditional Gundersen start event with a single jump followed by a 10K cross country event. You can follow the action live at FIS Live Timing. The jump is scheduled for 4:00 a.m. ET with cross country at 9:15 a.m. ET.
DKB FIS NORDIC COMBINED WORLD CUP
Jan. 10, 2010
Val di Fiemme, Italy
(rank in XC, rank in jump 1, rank in jump 2, total points)
1. Bjoern Kircheisen, Germany (2/11/2) 258.5
2. Bernhard Gruber, Austria (13/2/1) 258.0
3. Jan Schmid, Norway (12/3/2) 254.7
4. Billy Demong, Vermontville, NY (4/12/7) 252.2
5. Janne Ryynaenen, Finland (24/4/2) 246.0
19. Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO (7/17/28) 218.7
28. Bryan Fletcher, Steamboat Springs, CO (21/35/25) 208.0
43. Brett Camerota, Park City, UT (40/44/-) 124.7
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Click here for complete results.
Bryan Fletcher scored his first World Cup points. (FIS-Egon Theiner)
Johnny Spillane heads up to the jump. (FIS-Egon Theiner)