By Teemu Virtanen
As a cross-country ski enthusiast and torchbearer for long distance skiing, I have always been fascinated by the limits of human endurance, our mental capacity and the power to push further. I have done several 24 hour skiing events and used to hold (still the official Guinness holder) the world record of 24 hour Nordics skiing with my result of 433,5 km. So, pushing the envelope has been close to my heart, and Visma Ski Classics is a perfect platform for me to spread the message of endurance skiing and develop the sport for the future.
Vasaloppet is of course the greatest and biggest ski race in our tour, and all pro teams and their athletes are now getting ready for the big day on Sunday March 3, the 90-kilometer race from Sälen to Mora in Sweden. I've done the race myself countless times, my best result being 44th, but this year I wanted to do something different. Over the years, I have heard some speculations and discussions among various skiers about doing the race twice back-to-back, which would mean 180 kilometers of continuous skiing. This intrigued me and tickled my fancy being an ultra-skier myself, and an opportunity to do this came about when Wolfgang Mehl, the CEO of Nordenskiöldsloppet, presented the idea to me.
So, a week from today, Thursday February 28, I will embark on a journey from Mora to Sälen and back starting at 9 am. I will carry a Polar Vantage heart monitor to get some useful data while skiing and write an article for your reading pleasure and to give you some interesting facts about an ultra-long performance such as this one. So, stay tuned and get ready for your Vasaloppet, be it on the tracks or on your couch watching TV or our PLAY app. In the meantime, you can enjoy the press release attached that was sent to various media representatives about this 180 K endeavor.
Jan Erik Länta from Jokkmokk, Sweden and Finnish skier Teemu Virtanen both feel for a bigger challenge than just skiing Sälen-Mora one way. That’s why they will use the classic portal in Mora two times. It both serves as the starting and arrival point for their 180 km long feat from Mora to Sälen and back.
“Everybody is welcome to come and join us for a while or the whole distance from Mora to Mora via the start area in Sälen”, say Länta and Virtanen.
Early morning on Thursday, February 28, four days before about 15 000 skiers will line up at the start in Sälen, Länta and Virtanen will embark on their tough journey. 180 km are going to await them.
”This will to be the next longest distance that I’ve covered. Only Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet with its 220 km through arctic wilderness is even longer and harder”, explains Jan Erik.
Länta has participated in all three editions of Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet in modern time and is one of only 17 skiers who managed to complete the world’s longest ski race every year since 2016. Also Teemu Virtanen has fulfilled the ultra challenge above the Polar circle, finishing on an impressive 13th place in 2018.
Teemu Virtanen estimates that it will take him about ten hours to ski from Mora to Sälen and back. Jan Erik Länta aims to cover the distance in 14 hours and will therefore start at 7am in the morning, while Teemu Virtanen only will be leaving at 9am.
How did Länta and Virtanen come up with the idea to ski these iconic tracks in both directions at once?
“It’s a way to show that it’s possible for a normally trained long distance skier to overcome an even tougher challenge and to do Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet in the end of March 2019”, states Jan Erik Länta.
Teemu Virtanen adds: "I've always been an avid fan of long distance skiing and a torchbearer for the sport. I'm doing this extraordinary effort to promote Nordenskiöldsloppet, which is my favorite race.
I want to enhance the sport and particularly ultra distance skiing, which is now missing in Nordic skiing. Hopefully, this event will show people that like in cycling and triathlon, you can do races that can last for several hours."
Now neither Länta nor Virtanen are exactly beginners on skis. Virtanen once held the world record for skiing the longest distance within 24 hours. Also Jan Erik Länta got skiing in his genes. His ancestor Pavva Lasse Nilsson Tuorda had spectacularly won the world’s first real long distance race in 1884 by covering the 220 km long distance between Jokkmokk and Kvikkjokk (SWE) and back in just about 21 hours.
“It was polar explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld who arranged that competition”, tells Jan Erik Länta.
It was during Nordenskiöld’s 2nd expedition to Greenland in 1883 when two members – both Sami from the mountains around Jokkmokk – had set out on skis to explore the island’s yet unknown inner areas. They returned exhausted after 57 hours, as they in less then 2.5 days had covered incredible 460 km. Hence, no one believed in their achievement upon return home.
“It was considered impossible to get that far in such a short time. To prove his doubters wrong Nordenskiöld arranged the original race”, Janne continues his explanation.
Before 2016, the competition had laid dormant ever since it was organized for the first and only time in 1884. The next Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet is held on Saturday, March 20. It will be the fourth competition in modern time and both Länta and Virtanen again plan to start.
“It’s long and tough but at the same time a challenge that many long distance skiers can overcome. Other than that, it’s a fantastic experience to ski through the mountains of Lapland”, says Länta.
It will be possible to follow their ultra challenge on: https://www.redbullnordenskioldsloppet.se and https://www.facebook.com/nordenskioldsloppet/