Original text by Petri Ikävalko, English text by Teemu Virtanen
The Pro Team registration for teams is now closed, and there are a few new squads stepping into the long distance arena. One of them is a Pro Team from Finland called Team Kaskipuu. The director of the team is a silver medalist in the 50 km race at the Finnish Nationals from last winter and a multiple Finlandia-hiihto winner Kari Varis. The team is sponsored by a Finnish door and window manufacturer Kaskipuu.
Matti Kaski, the founder of Kaskipuu, and Kari Varis, got to know each other in Vuokatti, Finland, last winter. Kaski wanted to participate in Ylläs-Levi, and Varis lent a hand. Due to the pandemic, the event was moved to to Vålådalen in Sweden. Kaski and his colleague Tuomas Mikkonen decided to travel to Sweden for the race, and Varis was there as their serviceman.
"The men wanted to continue skiing in the future, and in the spring, we wondered whether we should set up our own team and try to bring in some competitive skiers. Then that's how this got started,” Varis explains.
The 45-year-old Kaski and 44-year-old Mikkonen are the owners of Kaskipuu, extensively involved in business as well and have really been smitten by cross-country skiing.
"Their goal is to combine business and skiing. That's why they've gotten into this project. They are passionate endurance athletes,” Varis describes his team’s sponsors.
Naturally, most of the skiers in the team will be seen in the season finale race in Ylläs-Levi in April. Another important weekend for the team is the opening of the season in Orsa Grönklitt in Sweden with the prologue races. For the rest of the season, the team’s racing calendar is still a bit up in the air, but they know that according to the Visma Ski Classics rules they need more events to attend to.
"In addition to Kaski and Mikkonen, the team includes Miro Karppanen who is a strong double-poler, Anni Kainulainen and Rebecca Immonen,” Varis tells us about his team members.
Karppanen, who won the 30 km race at Finnish Youth Championships in the spring, has already shown what he is capable of in the men’s category by being fourth in the sprint competition at the Finnish Nationals.
Immonen, a multiple junior category medalist, has already taken part in several Visma Ski Classics races, and her 11th place at Ylläs-Levi is her best result so far. Anni Kainulainen, a multiple relay gold medalist at the Nationals, participated at Saimaa Roller Ski Marathon in Imatra, Finland, two weeks ago and finished second.
Varis intends to focus more on the role of the team leader, even though he will be racing in Orsa and do at least one more race in Season XII.
"I like being part of this, but I’m not going to make this a full-time job for me," says Varis.
How far can this new team go when the season starts? Only time will tell, but at least by the time the season reaches its finale in Finland, the team is ready to rumble.
"The aim is to expand the team during the winter, and then at Ylläs-Levi we will have more strong skiers in the team and possibly reach greater success," Varis says with confidence