By Teemu Virtanen
Masako Ishida, Team Koteng, has had a busy season with many World Cup races, the World Championships in Seefeld, Austria, and she also participated in Birkebeinerrennet and finished 4th. She is now putting her sole focus on the remaining two Visma Ski Classics races, and tomorrow’s Reistadløpet is close to her heart as she is the winner from last year.
Pro XC Skiing had a chance to chat with the always happy and joyful skier in the eve of the race.
1. Describe Reistadløpet from your perspective?
I suppose that race has a nice atmosphere, and it’s great to see how the army and the organizers work together for a common goal. The course has two really hard climbs, but even after those there are some smaller hills that are tough.
2. What did it mean to you to win the race last year?
It was a nice day! And I have to thank my team’s waxing guys for making me really good skis. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to win. It was also fun to ski with Justyna Kowalczyk.
3. Who are you toughest opponents this year?
Of course my teammate Astrid is in good shape now. So, I think we can ski together, and my toughest opponent is actually me as I'm a bit lazy in nature. I have to push myself and keep telling me that I have to do it!
4. How does one win a tough race like this - what is the tactic?
You just have to go hard and keep up a good speed until the finish line. You can’t go maximum speed, but it’s important that you find the right pace.
5. Would you recommend the race to your fellow athletes and what about for amateurs?
This race has nice views and beautiful scenery. I hope many people will enjoy and feel great when they complete this race! At least I will feel that way even if I may not win. The feeling you get when crossing the finish line after pushing yourself so hard, that so wonderful! So, I would certainly recommend this race to anyone.
6. What is the difference between racing in World Cup/World Championships and in Visma Ski Classic?
I think Visma Ski Classic is directly connected to amateur skiers. This is a really good point. Everyone can see how far behind they are from the top skiers. In the World Cup races distances are mostly short, and if I’m not satisfied with my result, I instantly feel disappointed. But in long distance skiing, it’s different. To be able to do a long race is a goal in itself, and there’s always something to be satisfied with, and there are great atmospheres and sceneries to enjoy in Visma Ski Classics.
7. What is your favorite Visma Ski Classics race?
Maybe La Diagonela is the best one if I just want to enjoy a ski race.
8. Next year there are no World Championships or Olympics, are you planning to do more Visma Ski Classics races?
This is a good question. I’m thinking so much about the next year and what I want to do in 2020. But I don’t have definite answers yet. So, we will see what happens.