We had two individual competitions in Sapporo, plus the usual pre-comp day of official training, a provisional jump (PCR) and cross country training. Each day we loaded onto coach buses early in the morning and wound our way out of the city up to the jump venue. After jumping, we had about an hour bus ride to the cross country venue – past all sorts of city shops, restaurants, a few casinos and finally out into the countryside. Everyday, dump trucks were out in full force hauling snow out of the city. This was a nice contrast to the truckloads of snow that we’ve so far this year – which have been bringing snow in to make a course on green grass fields. The ski trails in Sapporo seemed to be a bit higher in elevation than the city, and there was even more snow out here. Incidentally, this was no more than 150m above sea-level.
If you haven’t watched the first video from my Part 1 blog, check it out for a look at our fun on the buses. Fast Big Dog, aka Jon Schaefer, made both of the videos. He’s a good friend and supporter of ours who usually tries to come to at least one of our World Cup weekend. When Taylor told him that we decided to go to Sapporo, he said that he’d always wanted to race in the Sapporo Loppet – which is this weekend – so the timing couldn’t have been any more perfect. We only brought our wax-techs as staff and worked with the Swiss jump coach, so FBD was our "coach" and – perhaps more importantly – motivational figure for the week.
In that role – he might just have to come along more often. I didn’t have quite the weekend I was hoping for, but the Fletchers brothers lit it up. Bryan had his best jump result of the year so far on Friday, and was top-ten both days (9th and 8th).
The real success came on Saturday though, when Taylor tore through the field from 28th place and almost 2 minutes back, then proceeded to attack the lead group on the last lap and skied onto the podium. I could hardly believe it when I finished the race and saw his name in 3rd on the leader board. Then again, if there’s anyone who can make up that much time, it’s Taylor. He was over 20 seconds faster than Bryan, who was the next fastest skier.
This was Taylor’s 2nd individual World Cup podium, ending a dry spell for our team since their World Championship team bronze in 2013. It definitely was deserved and made the long trip to Japan even more worthwhile.
I was able to come away with a few more points. I finished in 28th the first day after solid jumping in tough conditions and a good, but not great race. On Saturday I didn’t fly away from the hill in strong headwind after a pretty good takeoff, and left myself too far behind the majority of the field to ski into points. I did however, set a PR cross-country race, with the 9th time rank. After a disappointing jump, it can be tough to refocus, but having the chance for a redemption race is one of the great things about Nordic Combined. Clearly, we’re doing something right in the cross-country side, and the jumping aspect is coming along steadily.
Although our weekend wrapped up on Saturday, we didn’t fly out until Monday morning. I was happy to get the chance to explore the city before we left. We spent most of Sunday in the city, wandering through massive shopping malls with an electronic district that could have been Amazon.com’s warehouse, and perused shops and markets on the walking-street mall.
The trip back to Munich was of course, a long haul. We were all feeling a little under-the-weather, which isn't surprising considering all the travel and racing, so we did our best to sleep through the 13 hours from Tokyo to Paris. If it was a competition, Taylor won that as usual. Now we're in Predazzo, Italy for another busy World Cup weekend. Italian food is a bit of shock to the system after Japanese but I think we'll manage just fine.
Here's a few more pictures from the week in Japan. Check back for next week's update.
Where am I?