Bad weather conditions and Ristomatti Hakola were the main acts of defiance for all competitors at the Suomen Cup in Rovaniemi. The second stage of the Finnish Cross-Country national circuit held all competitions in classic technique and marked a perfect warm-up for the Coop FIS Cross-Country World Cup opening competitions at the end of the month in Ruka (FIN). All distances, formats and techniques were the same as they are scheduled for Ruka. Saturday saw the ladies 10 km and men’s 15 km interval start whereas Sunday was fully dedicated to the fastest skiiers with sprints in classic style.
A great challenge for athletes but surely also for the organizers were this year’s autumn temperatures as they stubbornly remained above zero and brought rain on the tracks instead of snow.
Krista Pärmäkoski was not distracted by the conditions and immediately took the lead. Despite a strong start into the race, 27-year-old Pärmäkoski was not completely satisfied with her performance as she told Finnish YLE TV:
«It was a difficult start from me, my body started slowly today. I come from a period which was loaded with a lot of trainings. I have noticed that I am quite tired, but I think I can still be in a better shape towards the next international competitions».
In second place followed 22-year-old Johanna Matintalo, who confirmed herself as a young and strong force for classic competitions. The outlook onto the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships season is looking bright for Matintalo, as Kerttu Niskanen committed to Muonio and Kyllönen focuses on her recovery after her back operation. Thus, a spot in the 4x5km relay in Seefeld is increasingly probable for Johanna.
The podium was completed by Laura Mononen who overtook the eternal Roponen in the final. Worth mentioning is fith place Eveliina Piippo, who showed good progress in classic, finishing less than a minute behind Pärmäkoski.
Final results 10 km ladies C
1) Krista PÄRMÄKOSKI
2) Johanna MATINTALO
3) Laura MONONEN
4) Riitta-Liisa ROPONEN
5) Eveliina PIIPPO
If Iivo Niskanen is looking for someone who will support him in his hunt for a gold medal at the team sprint in Seelfed, the 15 km competition in Rovaniemi undoubtedly presented him his future teammate: Ristomatti Hakola.
The 27-year-old Hakola, who is called "Rise" by his friends, has now completed his transition to be considered an allrounder and yesterday he even topped Niskanen in his favorite format.
The two skiiers alternated the lead until the km 10. Then Ristomatti shifted gears and speeded towards the finish line. He wasquite surprised himself with his victory and especially in beating Niskanen:
"I was definitely expecting the podium but winning in front of Iivo is a huge surprise for me. This gives me great confidence and trust for the opening in Ruka and for the following races who lead to Seefeld”.
"Rise" climbed on the top of the podium for the first time in a distance race, finishing 29 seconds ahead of Niskanen, mainly gained during the last lap. Behind the two but with more than a one-minute gap followed the three components of the Finnish national team Hyvärinen, Lehtonen and Vuorinen.
Final results 13,2 km man C
1) Ristomatti HAKOLA
2) Iivo NISKANEN
3) Perttu HYVÄRINEN
4) Lari LEHTONEN
5) Lauri VUORINEN
For the Sunday sprints, the temperatures remained above zero. After setting the best time in the qualifications, 22-year-old Matintalo was confident for a successful day. At the final heat she proved her form by winning before the specialist Leena Nurmi. The expected head-to-head final between Matintalo and Pärmäkoski did not take place as surprisingly Krista did not qualify after the quarter final.
Final results sprint ladies C
1) Johanna MATINTALO
2) Leena NURMI
3) Anni KAINULAINEN
4) Heini HOKKANEN
5) Andrea JULIN
6) Laura MONONEN
Classic men's sprint closed the programme of the Suomen Cup in Rovaniemi. Hakola again, dominated the men’s sprint, easily winning the quarter final, semi final and final all in a row.
Anssi Pentsinen set the best time in the morning, ending on the 2nd position after the finals, followed by Joni Mäki the 23-year-old who races for bronce.
Final results sprint men C
1) Ristomatti HAKOLA
2) Anssi PENTSINEN
3) Joni MÄKI
4) Ari LUUSUA
5) Lauri VUORINEN
6) Verneri SUHONEN