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Finnish Head Coach Admits: “Even for Iivo It’s A Question Mark How Is His Shape”

The Finnish cross-country skiing team’s head coach Teemu Pasanen is still waiting to sight relief, although the participation of the team’s biggest star Iivo Niskanen in the Tour de Ski seems likely.

Photo: Jon Olav Nesvold/Bildbyrån

“Yes, Iivo is traveling on Thursday unless there are more obstacles,” Pasanen told STT on Wednesday.

A new illness, worsening feeling, or a logistical failure could still ruin Niskanen’s participation in the Tour that starts Saturday in Val Müstair, Switzerland.

“A total of four athletes (from Finland) will be traveling on Thursday. This was the plan. The rest of us came up here already on Monday. Iivo, Lauri Lepistö, Markus Vuorela, and Anni Alakoski are coming on Thursday with the staff. They are coming from low altitude and decided to train in Finland after Christmas,” says Pasanen.

Medal Machine Up and Running

Niskanen last competed in Olos FIS-races on November 12-13. He fell ill with Covid just before Ruka World Cup in late November. However, the end of the year has also been filled with joy as his wife and he had a baby.

Head coach Pasanen does not set specific goals for the three-time Olympic Champion.

“I am looking forward to him skiing a few races first and getting the international competition season started. I am sure it is a question mark for everyone, and even for Iivo himself, as to how things will actually go. First of all, it has been quite a long break from training, and then he has not been able to race for a long time. Not really hard intensities either.”

“I guess no one knows how he is going to do. The most important thing is to get out there and get a feel for it. After Tour de Ski, there is almost a month’s break from the World Cup. Then I would be worried if he could only open his international season at the end of January.” 

With only a couple of months to go until the World Championships in Planica, Slovenia, in February and March, Niskanen still has time to get his body in shape.

To the Start with Different Plans

According to head coach Pasanen, arriving last minute for Tour de Ski is not a problem, even though the race on Saturday is taking place at 1600 meters.

“Last year and the year before, there was no chance to arrive early to altitude. It was a tight schedule, and sometimes there were problems with accommodation. This time there were no problems with accommodation,” Pasanen underlines.

“The high altitude has worked well for Iivo. He has been able to perform well at altitude right away. Sometimes we have had races on high altitude in the middle of the Tour, and no one has had the chance to adapt,” the head coach recalls.

The Finns will arrive at the start of the Tour via different routes, as some of them stayed in Switzerland after the World Cup in Davos. Some traveled to Central Europe earlier this week, and the quartet led by Iivo Niskanen is not expected to arrive until Thursday.

“Krista (Pärmäkoski), Perttu (Hyvärinen), and Kerttu (Niskanen) were in Davos and moved up to Val Müstair on Monday. Anne (Kyllönen) spent Christmas in Pontresina,” Pasanen explains.

Saturday’s skate sprint will be followed by a ten-kilometers classic mass start on Sunday, both in Val Müstair, before the Tour continues next week in Oberstdorf, Germany.

“The first race may not be perfect. Things will level out when we move to a lower altitude for the rest of the Tour. You can get good results both ways,” Pasanen reminds. 

Tour de Ski finishes on January 8 in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

According to the Finnish Ski Federation, Arsi Ruuskanen, however, will miss Tour de Ski due to a cold he caught last week. There will be no alternative to his place. 

Ruuskanen, 23, the Junior World Champion, has so far skied the best World Cup points of his career this season, finishing eighth in the 20km skate race in Davos, Switzerland, before Christmas.

TOUR DE SKI 2022/2023

Day-by-day schedule

Stage 1

  • When: Saturday, December 31, 2022
  • Where: Val Müstair, Switzerland
  • What: Sprint Freestyle Technique
  • Times: All times are CET
  • 11:30: Qualification, women and men
  • 14:00: Heats and finals, women and men

More Information 

Stage 2

  • When: Sunday, January 1, 2023
  • Where: Val Müstair, Switzerland
  • What: 10km Classic Technique, mass start
  • Times: All times are CET
  • 12:00: 10km Mass Start Classic, women
  • 13:15: 10km Mass Start Classic, men 

More Information

Stage 3

  • When: Tuesday, January 3, 2023
  • Where: Oberstdorf, Germany
  • What: 10km Classic Technique, individual start
  • Times: All times are CET
  • 11:45: 10km classic individual start, women
  • 14:45: 10km classic individual start, men

More Information

Stage 4

  • When: Wednesday, January 4, 2023
  • Where: Oberstdorf, Germany
  • What: 20km Freestyle Technique, pursuit
  • Times: All times are CET
  • 11:15: 20km Freestyle Pursuit, women
  • 14:30: 20km Freestyle Pursuit, men

More Information

Stage 5

  • When: Friday, January 6, 2023
  • Where: Val di Fiemme, Italy
  • What: Sprint Classic Technique
  • Times: All times are CET
  • 10:00: Qualification, women and men
  • 12:30: Heats and finals, women and men 

More Information

Stage 6

  • When: Saturday, January 7, 2023
  • Where: Val di Fiemme, Italy
  • What: 15km Classic Technique, mass start
  • Times: All times are CET
  • 11:45: 15km Mass Start Classic, women
  • 12:30: 15km Mass Start Classic, men 

More Information

Stage 7

  • When: Sunday, January 8, 2022
  • Where: Val di Fiemme, Italy
  • What: Final Climb – Alpe Cermis (aka “Monster Climb”) – 10km Freestyle Technique, mass start
  • Times: All times are CET
  • 11:00: 10km Mass Start Freestyle, women
  • 12:45: 10km Mass Start Freestyle, men

More Information

FACTS: Tour de Ski 2022/2023 

  • Tour de Ski 2022/2023 starts in Val Müstair, Switzerland, on December 31 and concludes in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on January 8. 
  • The race consists of seven stages in nine days.
  • Tour de Ski 2022/2023 is the 17th edition of the brutal stage race. 

New this season is the same race distances for women and men in all World Cup events, as the International Ski & Snowboard Federation (FIS) decided in May. Several other changes have also been introduced to the World Cup.

Also Read: New Distances At The Cross-Country Skiing World Cup

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