Following content originally appeared on The Invisible Hill Cycling.
Kilpapyöräily ry., founded in October 2013, has started the season 2014 with a great pace. The association aims to lift the Finnish cycle racing scene to a level where it deserves to be – it’s after all one of the most popular competitive sports in our neighboring countries. The founding members of the association (27 members) have all achieved an internationally successful career, and some are still active in the world of elite cycling. Such members are Jussi Veikkanen, Kjell Carlström, Charly Wegelius, Joona Laukka, Mika Hämäläinen, Jukka Heinikainen and Kimmo Kananen – to name a few.
Ambitious goals were set up for the first season: 16-18 year old junior cyclists from national teams around the country will be participating in both international and top national races, resulting in some 65-70 race days during the 2014 season. The operations are made possible by dedicated voluntary work by the founding members and by the financial support from the sponsors, SKODA, Helkama, PowerBar, Sportful, Shimano, EuroSport, Polar, dmp, Javatrans and Leijona-tuote. During the 2014 season, at least 14 boys will participate in international races, following the international rules of attending with a six man strong team in each race.
The first kickoff was held with 14 boys at Solvalla Idrottsinstitut between January 31st and February 2nd. The aim of the camp was to inform the boys, their coaches and parents about the project and what it would be all about. Charly Wegelius (Garmin-Sharp), Kjell Carlström (IAM Cycling), Kimmo Kananen (Shimano), Jani Paju (Fustra), Juho Suikkari and Marko Vauhkonen all acted as instructors during the weekend. Focus was also set on the comprehensive training programs and the professionals shared their knowledge with the coaches. As cycling is a sport where proper set-up and equipment matter, the boys were instructed about the importance of an accurate bike fit and the impact it can have in both comfort and efficiency on the bike. These instructions were provided by Shimano Nordic and Fustra. The technical and tactical aspects were also highlighted and presented both with interactive conversations and through watching some interesting videos. The importance of nutrition during both training and racing was equally highlighted. Fincycling team is energized with PowerBar products.
Our boys made a trip to Estonia during Easter. The team consisted of Simo Terävä (16), Jonne Itkonen (16), Jaakko Hänninen (17), Ville Hirvenoja (17), Walteri Lepistö (18) and Lauri Koski (18). In Estonia we lived and trained together with the National Junior cycling team of Estonia who live and train in Audentese Sports-school in Otepää. A race was also scheduled for Sunday, a national race with 271 cyclists at the start line, among them ex-professionals and team Alfa Baltic, a professional team from Latvia. The Fincycling team started off well and the boys executed and followed the pre-planned race tactics all the way. A good effort was rewarded with a great 14th place for Waltteri Lepistö (5th in the youth classification). Toomas Kirsipuu, a legendary Estonian ex professional cyclist was also impressed by the Fincycling team effort. Toomas, who today actively supports the local junior cyclists, also participated in the race and therefore closely followed the Fincycling team in action.
April 26th and 27th marks the official cycling season opening in Turku, Finland. Fincycling took part with a team consisting of Aleksi Hänninen (18), Sasu Halme (18),Waltteri Lepistö(18), Antto Tunkkari (18) and Arttu Suvisaari (18). Charly Wegelius, former world-class professional cyclist and today one of the sports directors at Team Garmin-Sharp flew to Finland and joined the team on Saturday morning. Charly Wegelius was the sports director for team Fincycling during the weekend. Having such a person in the team as Charly gives the boys in Fincycling the best possible guidance and support on their way to the world elite. The race tactics was again executed close to perfection and our rider Aleksi Hänninen was in the 12-man breakaway, which went all the way to the finish. The race was won by a Latvian professional rider, Maris Bogdanovics, and Aleksi finished 10th overall being the best junior.
The Finnish spring classic, Turun Sanomien kortteliajot the following day was another good performance by the team. The race plan was executed once again well, and especially Sasu Halme had a strong day in the saddle being at the front throughout the race and fighting at the final bunch sprint. TWD-Länken, the number one road cycling team in Finland this time had more riders and a stronger team and made a good leadout for the winner Ilari Kahila. Sasu Halme crossed the finish line as 7th rider and secured the junior overall win with Aleksi Hänninen taking overall second place for team Fincycling (Pavel Sveshnikov 3rd).
During the weekend Kilpapyöräily ry. also organized a cycling season 2014 – opening gala as a part of financing its own operations. The work done by the association has drawn a great attention in significant cycling countries, therefore many professional teams and cyclists donated valuable items for an auction held at the gala. Items were donated by reigning road cycling world champion Rui Costa (Team LAMPRE-MERIDA), Team SKY, Sylvain Chavanel (Team IAM Cycling), Daniel Martin (Team Garmin-Sharp) and the reigning Finnish road cycling champion Jussi Veikkanen (Team FDJ.fr) to mention a few. The project also awoke interest and enthusiasm, which culminated in the auction.
–A great project to support our youth, educating both internationalization and cycling at the same time, Marko Toivonen, Sales Manager of DMP Diesel added.
He became the owner of a valuable Team Sky signed jersey.
The first international race, La Coupe du Président de la Ville de Grudziadz (UCI 2.1), was ridden in Poland between May 1st and May 5th. The race included 5 stages with a total length of 408,1 km.
A UCI 2.1 race is the highest category for juniors where only national-, Team- and clubs can attend. 176 riders, 36 teams with 10 nationalities entered the race. A major part of the roads were in bad shape, which would make the race really hard. Aleksi Hänninen (18), Marco-Tapio Niemi (18), Lauri Koski (18), Waltteri Lepistö (18), Arttu Suvisaari (18), Erik Relanto (17) formed the Fincycling squad with Mauno Uusivirta as soigneur (former professional cyclist with both Olympic and world championship experience) and Marko Vauhkonen as sports director.
Few Fincycling boys have international experience. The objectives were to work well as a team and use the knowledge learnt during winter and spring from both Kjell Carlström and Charly Wegelius. The race began with a 12, 5 km team time-trial, Marco-Tapio was the only boy to have previous experience of a team time-trial. With a great support from Mauno Uusivirta who has lots of experience of team time-trials the team ended up with 21st place having an average speed of 49, 8 km/h, a really good effort. The following stage was ridden that same day and the rest of the stages in the coming days. Fortunately the condition of the roads was a bit better towards the end. Unfortunate was that two boys did catch a cold in the really chilly weather.
Sports director Marko Vauhkonen was really pleased by all the actions during the race. Attitude, willingness to learn and team spirit could not have been better.
– I really got emotional when I watched our boys execute everything they’ve learnt during the project so far, a really great way to show their respect for all people involved in the Fincycling project. The race in Poland was a great boost in the team self confidence, to the grade where Fincycling actually dominated the race events during the last stage. The whole team worked really hard to push Aleksi Hänninen to a podium place and top 15 overall position that day. Despite hard work, this time the goal was not reached, but the confidence within the team really grew a lot. Experience and confidence are key success factors in developing as a team and a cyclist.
The goals set up for the rookies before the start of the race:
1. Placing among the top third in the team classification. 36 teams started (5-6 man teams) where only 24 managed to finish the race, Fincycling being the 12th best team.
2. At least one cyclist should finish in the top quarter in the general classification. Aleksi Hänninen managed to take 39th place in a very hard race among 124 riders (176 cyclist started the race)
Now it’s time to rest, go to school and prepare for future races. The next race will be between May 24th and May 25th where team Fincycling will participate in AAH Etappiajo, a Finnish national stage race (Elite) in Hyvinkää. When the race in Hyvinkää is finished, the team will immediately head for the next race in Switzerland, where they will participate in 46ème Tour du Pays de Vaud UCI 2.1 between May 29th and June 1st.