Steamboat Springs University of Colorado skier Maria Grevsgaard quickly established her strategy during Saturday's Denver University Women's 10K Classic at Howelsen Hill.
Just a few meters from the start - and with the racers still bunched up in a pack - Grevsgaard had her skis stepped on.
So instead of hanging back and waiting for her opportunity, Grevsgaard decided to distance herself and take an early lead.
The gamble paid off, because after climbing the first hill, Grevsgaard led the rest of the race.
"I decided to get rid of them," said Grevsgaard, a native of Norway. "I was kind of surprised I got a gap right away. I expected people to keep up with me."
For Grevsgaard, a junior, the hilly course set up well for her.
"I love this race. I love Steamboat," she said after finishing with a time of 35 minutes, 57 seconds. "I skied here in the NCAAs last year, and I like the course because you ski uphill. It's a very hard first 3K."
New Mexico's Polina Ermoshiner finished second in 37:28, and Jamie Woelk from Montana State finished third in 37:38.
The men's race featured a sprint to the finish, with Utah's Snorri Einarsson outlasting Denver's Rene Reisshauer.
After two laps of the men's 15K, Einarsson was in fourth place. Reisshauer, who finished first in Saturday's 15K skate event, distanced himself from the pack at the start of the third lap.
"Reisshauer started going fast and I knew I had to stick with him if I wanted to win," said Einarsson, who raced the course at Howelsen for the first time. "I did, and when we got to the 3K point on the last lap, I decided to take him."
The two racers were within meters of one another down the last straightaway before Einarsson - also a native
of Norway - made a break.
"I knew if I could stick with him in the first 3K he wouldn't be able to drop me," he said. "So I stayed behind him and he waited for me to start."
Einarsson won in 46:58. Reisshauer finished in 47:00, and Colorado's Matthew Gelso finished third in 47:18.
"It gives me a lot of self confidence, of course," Einarsson said. "It doesn't mean a whole lot, but it's always nice to get a win."