MINTURN, Colo. – The University of Colorado ski team completed an impressive comeback Sunday with Nordic classical races here at Maloit Park, winning the 2013 Denver Invitational by 19 points over the host Pioneers. DU held a 71 point advantage over CU entering the weekend’s Nordic action.
CU picked up two more individual wins, as well, with senior Joanne Reid taking her third race of the season and sophomore Rune Oedegaard picking up his second win of the season. Neither Reid nor Oedegaard have finished lower than second in the four Nordic races this season.
CU opened the day down 20 points to the Pioneers after having made up 51 points on Saturday. Oedegaard’s win was big in that it enabled the Buffs to score 105 points in the race as the Buffs outscored DU by 19 to open the day, making it essentially a dead heat entering the women’s race with DU holding the slimmest of margins, 725-724.
The CU women then did what they have done in each of the other three Nordic races this season, dominate. Behind Reid was senior Eliska Hajkova in second place while senior Mary Rose brought home ninth place as the Buffs won the race, scoring 128 points. The Pioneers didn’t go easily, however, finishing third, seventh and 11th to earn 108 points and finish second, giving CU a 19-point victory.
“When things are good, sometimes you get nervous that it’s too good,” CU Nordic coach Bruce Cranmer said. “But we will take it. It was an awesome day; we got two wins and another podium. You have to enjoy these kinds of days when they come.”
The Buffs finished the meet with 852 points, followed by Denver’s total of 833 while Utah jumped New Mexico Sunday for third place with 796 points to the Lobos’ 754. Alaska Anchorage finished fifth with 704 points while Montana State took sixth with 652.
Skiers concern over the course causing a lot of crashes was put to rest by a few factors, including a course change that switched a steep right downhill turn into a gradual left hand turn. Secondly, the Buffs pushed the pace early in both races to spread out the racers to help diffuse the concern.
In the early race, Oedegaard was part of a four-skier group that pushed hard from the beginning and opened up a big gap on the competition. The second group that consisted of the next 10-15 skiers slowly spread out over the first half of the six-lap, 15K race.
“It surprised me that we skied that fast from the beginning,” Oedegaard said. “I was expecting a bigger group up front. I initially thought it would be easier to stay behind the first group and have a shot to win, but when we skied so fast from the beginning, the gap formed really early. I wanted to be in front with the tough downhill’s. For me, it was all about being smart, skiing fast on the flats and not going too hard on the uphill’s.”
That worked for Oedegaard, who edged out Utah’s Einar Ulsund by just two seconds with his time of 39:33.8. New Mexico’s Mats Resaland was third about 25 seconds back after having fallen off the lead group near the end, but then there was another 17 second gap before Alaska Anchorage’s Lukas Ebner, the leader of the second pack some 43 seconds behind Oedegaard.
“Rune is in good form,” Cranmer said. “He was excited to come out today after getting banged up a little yesterday. He will have to stay on form; there are five or six guys who can win on any given weekend.”
Oedegaard, who finished second Saturday despite falling and needing Super Glue to close a cut on his forehead, now has seven victories and 13 podium appearances in 16 career races. This season, he has a pair of wins and pair of runner up performances in the season’s four races.
“It’s a good start to the season,” Oedegaard said. “I haven’t done anything to peak yet, so I hope I can continue this.”
Freshmen Gustav Nordstrom and Mike Vigers were the Buffs second and third scorers, finishing 13th and 14th, respectively, after Nordstrom beat Vigers and former Buff Vegard Kjoelhamar, skiing independently, in a sprint to win by less than a second. Nordstrom’s time was 41:40.8 while Vigers came in with a time of 41:41.6 to Kjoelhamar’s 41:41.8.
“Gustav still has a ways to go, I think,” Cranmer said. “Altitude, for one, he’s just learning to race at altitude. This is relatively high altitude, even compared to Soldier Hollow and Montana. It takes a while to acclimate, but also to figure out how to race at altitude. He hung in there strong today so it was good. Mike is getting better each race so hopefully he can keep that up.”
For Nordstrom, it was his first set of races this weekend after having returned from World Cup racing in Europe last week.
“It’s tougher right now for me with the altitude,” Nordstrom said. “I tried to stay up front on the lead lap and felt pretty good, but then got tired on the second and third laps, so I had to take it easy for a while before getting back in the race. I can usually finish pretty strong, especially when there are flat finishes like this one.”
“It was a good race,” added Vigers. “I got a little separated on the first lap so I was in no man’s land, trying to catch the leaders. Then I latched on with Patrick Johnson from Sun Valley and skied with him, Vegard and Gustav the rest of the way.”
Junior Andreas Hoye finished in 16th in a time of 42:37.3. Freshman Charlie Von Thaden was 22nd in a time of 44:00.3 while sophomore Arnaud Du Pasquier (45:21.0) and Ian Mallams (46:30.9) rounded out the CU men in 26th and 27th place, respectively.
On the women’s side, Reid skied away with the victory after opening a lead the first time through the big uphill portion of the race course. She then extended her lead the remainder of the race, eventually winning over Hajkova by 17.2 seconds.
“You always try and win, but it usually doesn’t work out for you,” Reid said. “That race didn’t go the way I expected or planned in any way. I was just skiing up the hill, trying to stay out of trouble, I didn’t want anybody to come around me, I’m not usually a strong uphill classic skier. When you’re in the lead by a lot, instead of being really loud it’s really quiet. You can’t see people behind you or hear them, so I got worried and kept going faster.”
Reid is going against her claim that it usually doesn’t work out for her to win, as she swept the Nordic races for the meet, the first time in her career she has accomplished that feat, and she has now won three of the four races on the season, taking second in the other one. She won both races this weekend by at least 17 seconds, a considerable margin, and she now has five victories and 13 podium appearances in her career.
“Joanne seems like she’s enjoying herself out there,” Cranmer said. “She’s skiing relaxed. She didn’t look like she was pushing or trying too hard. She’s doing great, it’s awesome.”
Hajkova continues to improve and return to 100 percent, as evidence by her second place showing and two podium appearances on the weekend. She was in the pack of three or four skiers behind Reid for the majority of the race. She was skiing uphill better than the competition, so on the final lap, she pushed on the last uphill and created a gap, pulling about five seconds ahead of Denver’s Silje Benum and Utah’s Rose Kemp. She finished the race in a time of 32:00.9.
“The first lap as a team, we tried to go really fast so we could get Mary through and she could stay with us,” Hajkova said. “Then I slowed down so I thought it was a lost race, but the lead pack also slowed, which was good for me. Every time we went up the big hill, I could pass the others without really going hard. The last lap I could see Joanne way in front and that motivated me and I was able to pull away from the pack and got enough away that they gave up on me.”
Hajkova now has 27 career podium appearances in her CU career.
“Eliska was able to get a good kick and charge up the hill and had an advantage there,” Cranmer said. “She also has a lot of confidence in sprinting and she was able to do that at the end of this race to finish second. She has been struggling a little compared to what she’s done in the past, so it’s good to see her returning to top form.”
Senior Mary Rose had another top 10 finish, a spot she has been accustomed to this season. She finished ninth in a time of 32:57.7, her fourth top 10 this season and fifth in her career. Freshman Maria Nordstroem finished 11th in a time of 33:22.2. Much like the men’s race, both Rose and Nordstroem found themselves skiing with a former Buff, as Alexa Turzian finished between the two in a time of 33:14.8.
After opening the season with four races in the span of eight days, the Nordic teams will have a weekend off before returning to action Feb. 1-2 at the New Mexico Invitational in Red River, N.M. The alpine teams, meanwhile, return to action in the Utah Invitational Feb. 6-7 at Loveland.
The Nordic races in Red River are actually the highest in elevation of the season and the format differs from most races throughout the season, with team trial format on one of the days.
“At this point, we will do some easy volume training this week,” Cranmer said. “Our focus isn’t as much about being in top form for New Mexico, but continuing to do training that will make us the strongest at the end of the season. We always want to do well and be competitive, but we won’t focus too hard on one race.”
Denver Invitational Team Scores (Final)— 1. Colorado 852; 2. Denver 833; 3. Utah 796; 4. New Mexico 754; 5. Alaska Anchorage 704; 6. Montana State 652; 7. Westminster College 337; 8. Wyoming 223; 9. Colorado Mountain College 92.
Women’s 10K Classical (28 collegiate finishers)- 1. Joanne Reid, CU, 31:43.7; 2. Eliska Hajkova, CU, 32:00.9; 3. Silje Benum, DU, 32:06.4; 4. Rose Kemp, UU, 32:06.6; 5. Marine Dusser, UAA, 32:11.5; 6. Linn Klaesson, UNM, 32:36.0; 7. Katie Gill, DU, 32:39.9; 8. Parker Tyler, UU, 32:50.8; 9. Mary Rose, CU, 32:57.7; 10. Anna Svendsen, UU, 33:16.2. Other CU Finisher: 11. Maria Nordstroem, 33:22.2.
Men’s 10K Freestyle (31 collegiate finishers)- 1. Rune Oedegaard, CU, 39:33.8; Einar Ulsund, UU, 39:35.8; 3. Mats Resaland, UNM, 39:59.9; 4. Lukas Ebner, UAA, 40:16.6; 5. Miles Havlick, UU, 40:33.2; 6. Niklas Persson, UU, 40:44.3; 7. Patrick Madden, MSU, 40:45.1; 8. Noe Bellet, UU, 40:52.3; 9. Lasse Moelgaard, UAA, 41:00.7; 10. Andrew Dougherty, DU, 41:01.4. Other CU Finishers: 13. Gustav Nordstrom, 41:40.8; 14. Michael Vigers, 41:41.6; 16. Andreas Hoye, 42:37.3; 22. Charlie Von Thaden, 44:00.3; 26. Arnaud Du Pasquier, 45:21.0; 27. Ian Mallams, 46:30.9.