Ylläs-Levi offers sunshine and smiling faces
Visma Ski Classics Ylläs-Levi was a success!
As the race director of Ylläs-Levi, who has suffered many sleepless nights before the race, I am sitting at the Visma Ski Classics trailer watching the live broadcast on TV while the Team Santander captain Magnar Dalen marches in saying that the first ten skiers need to be disqualified. My heart skips a beat and in my mind I start painting a picture of another mishap waiting in the wings. But the cunning master of cross- country skiing continues with a wink in his eye saying that all of those skiers are smiling.
Magnar’s statement describes the event perfectly. Earlier today, the atmosphere was beyond description with the sun basking over the mountainous landscape of Lapland. The course was in mint condition and skiers seemed to be in great mood when crossing the finish line in the center of Levi. Our event organization has worked day and night to make this happen, and they are still out there making sure that everyone comes to finish safe and sound. I truly want to thank them and tip my hat for each and every person in the team. They made an event that will be remembered.
“I participated in Birkebeinerrennet in Norway a couple of weeks ago,” a happy amateur skier claimed when sipping his recovery drink in the finish area.
“But this course was the best I’ve ever been on. Absolutely amazing and I will definitely come back next year. The start area was a bit crowded in the morning, but that’s what it’s supposed to be when you have a race like this.”
Indeed, the 67-kilometer course from Ylläs to Levi through Äkäslompolo, Kukastunturi, Pyhäjärvi and Pyhätunturi offered a unique experience and a diverse journey for both elite and recreational skiers. The Visma Ski Classics final race was won by Petter Eliassen of Team LeasePlan who has dominated the sport in recent years. He broke away from the leading group in the final climb to Pyhätunturi and was greeted by Santa Clause when he crossed the finish line in Levi. Two young skiers, Andreas Nygaard of Team Santander and Stian Hoelgaard of Team LeasePlan took the remaining podium positions respectively after a tight sprint finish.
In the women’s race, Britta Johansson Norgren of Lager 157 Ski Team and Katerina Smutná of Team Santander continued their cat and mouse game that had been going on throughout the season. The latter proved to be a bit stronger in the end while the former claimed the overall title of the Season VII in Visma Ski Classics. The Nordic ski legend Justyna Kowalczyk of Team Santander was third more than six and a half minutes behind.
All the skiers above praised the course and conditions saying that Ylläs-Levi was the best possible ending for the long season.
“It couldn’t have been any better – thumbs up,” the second fastest skier in the men’s race Nygaard admitted in the finish.
Encouraged by the positive feedback the event organization is already ready for the next year’s race, and they promise to come up with some great surprises.
“It was wonderful to see an event like this in Levi,” Kristiina Kukkohovi, the CEO at Levi Destination Marketing & Levi Events, said proudly in the midst of the hoopla in downtown Levi.
“When I look around, I see so many people and it’s impossible to describe the feeling that I’m having at the moment. The atmosphere is simply stunning and to have this finish line right here in the middle of action is superb. To have an event of this stature and scale here in Levi is something new, and we will work even harder to make Ylläs-Levi a true winter carnival!”
The marketing director of Ylläs Janne-Juhani Haarma seemed to be as flabbergasted as Kristina and continued with the same train of thought:
“I was so pleased to see the start in Ylläs this morning and witness the buzz and hype around. It was so tangible, and the TV broadcast looked picturesque throughout. That’s the best marketing we can get, and I can’t wait to start working on the next year’s race because I feel that the sky is the limit for us.”
As a devoted cross-country skier and a semi-serious racer, I also believe that we have embarked on a journey that will change the future of long distance skiing in Finland. Ylläs-Levi shall be the flag-bearer, and all of you are welcome to join us when we make history. The next step is Ylläs-Levi 2018 and together we will make it the greatest winter celebration on earth!