STEAMBOAT SPRINGS —Though skiing is very much a team sport, it’s divided into two distinct disciplines that, aside from morale, have little to do with each other.
No matter how Colorado’s Alpine team fared in Friday night’s slalom races, the Nordic team will be focused and ready to go come Saturday morning.
The men will compete in a 20-kilometer classical cross-country race at Howelsen Hill at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with the women starting their 15K race a few hours later.
The classical races mark the final day of competition at the NCAA Skiing Championships, a four-day event CU is hosting in Steamboat Springs.
“We want to feel like we’re a team and supportive of everybody, but I sort of tell our guys ‘Don’t think about what happened (in Alpine),’ ” said Bruce Cranmer, CU’s Nordic coach. “We don’t have any control over what they’re doing, just focus on what we can do.”
The downhill events are far more variable when compared to the cross-country races, he added. There’s no reason for the Nordic team to get too caught up in how the Alpine squad skied.
“These NCAA championships are such crazy things,” he said. “You can be way behind and all of a sudden a couple Alpine people fall and woo, all of a sudden we’re back and have a chance and things like that. There’s not much you can do like, ‘Oh, we’re going to win today because they did badly.’ We just try and focus on doing our best and see what happens.
“It definitely hurts when they don’t have a good day and you can feel it, but at the same time we don’t dwell on it and have it be a big factor in our races.”
Coming off a dominating win in the 10K freestyle cross-country race earlier this week, CU junior Mads Stroem is looking for his third national title in as many years at Saturday’s race.
As a freshman, Stroem won the freestyle national title and finished fourth in the classical race.
Last year as a sophomore, he finished fourth in the freestyle race and second in the classical race, having been out-sprinted by six-tenths of a second by the winner, Northern Michigan’s Fredrik Schwencke.
One key difference between the freestyle and classical races is the start.
In Thursday’s freestyle event, skiers were spaced 30 seconds apart from one another, which meant they were each racing against the clock and not necessarily against each other.
On Saturday, all 40 skiers in each of the men’s and women’s races will start at the same time, which requires more strategy and decision-making.
“It’s definitely much more tactical when you have a mass start because people start strong, you have to make decisions about whether you want to push hard or just stay behind a little bit and not be in the lead or you want to push the pace and see if you can get a smaller group,” Cranmer said. “So there always are a lot of tactics that go into it.”
Cranmer doesn’t see much of a difference in CU’s abilities in either event.
“Some people do better with groups and others better with individuals,” he said. “I think our guys really like both.”
Though he said he likes the mass start and will fight hard to win another title, Stroem said the true champion shines when no one else is around and he must push himself.
“I like the mass start because you always can see the leader, you always know where you are, but I must say the real skier, the real cross-country skier, is the guy who can win the interval start,” he said.
The Buffs will also lean on freshman Petter Reistad, who finished sixth in Thursday’s freestyle race and is coming off an impressive rookie season, and on senior Arnaud Du Pasquier.
The women are led by sophomore Petra Hyncicova, who surprised herself with a second-place finish in the 5K freestyle race. Also racing for the Buffs are sophomore Ane Johnsen and junior Jesse Knori.