Ski Classics Pro Team Kaskipuu’s Veli-Matti Räsänen is a Finnish skier focusing on the Ski Classics and long distances. Last season was a bit too eventful, but Vasaloppet’s 61st place and other successes at the end of the season left a positive feeling about the season.
Räsänen’s last season took an unfortunate turn when he injured his knee during a run around New Year. A sudden stabbing pain in the knee led to a medical examination, which revealed a ruptured articular cartilage.
“The knee was locked, and I could not fully straighten the leg. It took a little over three weeks after it was operated. There was a little break in the middle of the winter there, but luckily I could do rehab for the knee and get back on skis pretty quickly,” Räsänen recalls his winter to Maastohiihto.com.
Of course, the situation is not ideal for an athlete, but the forced break during the season had its positive side:
“The beginning of the season was a bit off, and I felt it was a little stuck’ with my performance. There were no really satisfactory performances. With the injury, I was forced to rest and focus on substitute training. Finally, it was a turning point for the winter, as the rest of the season went so well.”
One month after the operation, Räsänen skied Finlandia Ski Marathon, where he did well and won.
“It was a test race for me. I had an idea to start at Vasaloppet, so I wanted to do Finlandia to see how the body felt. The rest of the season was upbeat from there in almost every race. I had a good feeling in most of the races at the end of the season that I could attend.”
In the upcoming season, Räsänen will continue to focus on Ski Classics; thus, his training will focus on long distances. Alongside Ski Classics, he will race some of the main races in Finland whenever possible.
The focus on Ski Classics and long-distance skiing has been evident in Räsänen’s training for the last two to three years. The 2019 Ylläs-Levi was the spark that got him into long distances. The following training season, his focus was already on Ski Classics.
“2020 was the first season when I did more Ski Classics races. That was the first year I trained with the long distances in mind. It was a new motivator to my training.”
As a double poler, Räsänen has so far been at his best in longer races like Marcialonga and Vasaloppet.
“I am also at an okay level in races with more uphill. What I still need more of is some speed capacity for the race pace. The capacity to go fast at times. When you have the maximum speed, it brings ease to the overall race pace.”
Of course, there will be a lot of double poling on roller skis, but intensities staggered into smaller parts are also part of Räsänen’s program.
“It can be, for example, a 10-15 minute interval, but with 40 seconds of work with 20 seconds of recovery. Like that, you get” power spikes” during longer intensities. I have found that it works for me, and I will continue to do it.”
He thinks Ski Classics is a good concept, but he has the same thoughts as many Finnish Pro Tour athletes:
“It would be great to have Ski Classics competitions in Finland. However, I think it is great to start the season in Central Europe. The variety of the race venues has been good; there have been different races on different types of venues,” Räsänen concludes.