In this article, Norwegian skier Mathias Aas Rolid from Team Næringsbanken Stora Enso explains why he decided to switch from traditional to long-distance skiing and what he expects from his first season in Ski Classics.
Investing in long-distance only from the beginning of this summer, the Norwegian already has top 20 placements in long rollerski events as he placed 19th at Blink Classics and 11th at Alliansloppet. He talks about his years skiing and studying in the US, his training philosophy, and his ambitions for long-distance ski racing.
Could you give a little background about you as a skier?
“I started skiing when I was around ten years old. A little late to be a Norwegian, maybe, but my dad was not particularly interested in sports at the time. After I finished my junior career in Norway with a few top 20 positions in the Junior Norwegian Cup, I wanted to study in the US. I felt like that was the best way to combine education and skiing. I went to Northern Michigan University and took a major in economics with a minor in business administration. I struggled the first two years in America, as I didn’t quite figure out how to optimize studying and training. I raced a lot better during my last two years in college and started to win a few races. I won regionals and a few other big races in my last season over there. I was the best-ranked skier in the region. Skiing in the US was a great experience, and it is something I would highly recommend. I have never had any super specific goals because I have always wanted to be the best that I can be. To always be improving is my goal. I think long-term. My best result in Norwegian Cup is a top 10 in sprint. My focus last year was on classic sprint.”
Why did you decide to switch to long-distance, and how has your training changed?
“I really like the concept of Ski Classics and how they have been able to grow so quickly. And to be honest with you, I was kind of fed up with the Norwegian Cup. It’s the same thing every weekend. I don’t know how skiers can do that year after year. I was lucky enough to be racing at some really cool venues in the US, and I believe that has played a major part in why I’m still ski racing today. I’m a fairly big guy, and I’ve always had a strong double pole, so I felt like it was now or never if I wanted to specialize in long-distance racing. My training has changed in the way that I almost only double pole on rollerskis. I rarely skate or use diagonal stride anymore. I have more frequent over distance workouts than before, so I have fewer days where I train twice a day. Over distance is like 3hr+.”
You had solid performances both at Blink Festival and Alliansloppet. Were you expecting that you would be able to ski with the peloton until the end? How would you describe those performances?
“Thanks. I’m very pleased with how those races turned out. I had a good training camp with the team between those races, so at Alliansloppet, I was expecting to stay in the peloton until the end, actually. However, I still find it difficult to have enough juice for a big sprint at the end. I know that if I’m fresh, I can outsprint most people, but it’s all about having that extra gear when people get tired. I’m very happy with 11th at Alliansloppet, but when you’re in that fight, you’re always hoping for more.”
How is the training looking before the season starts?
“Team Næringsbanken Stora Enso is having a few more camps before the season starts. We’re going to Spain for two weeks in October, for example. For racing, I am doing Klarälvsloppet. My focus will be to continue to improve the specific endurance you need to be able to double pole everything. Muscle adaption is very important, like it’s still weird for me to double pole up long climbs.”
As it will be your first winter in Ski Classics, what are your expectations and goals?
“I will just go out there and have fun. Hopefully, I’ll be able to fight for the top 10 in some races and maybe win a few green bib sprints. So, we’ll see how it goes! I’ll play it by ear.”
Any specific race that you are looking forward to?
“I obviously look forward to racing the big ones like Marcialonga and Vasaloppet, but Pustertaler could be a good race for me if I can stay with the peloton up the big climb at 39km.”
Photo: Eivind Fuglehaug Ekrem