Finland has its first-ever UCI-registered pro mountain bike team, the Medilaser- Specialized MTB-Team, for 2013. The squad was presented in late February in Helsinki.
Finland has had international-level mountain bikers for years, but hitherto, the nation's top racers have had to look abroad for team sponsorship.
The main sponsor of the team, Medilaser, has previously worked with athletes, even supporting a cycling team, but it wanted to step up its game and do something more ambitious. The title sponsor company specializing in eye surgery.
"Along the elite racers, we will promote U23s and juniors. We will start our season in Spain where some of riders will race and train for two months," said Petri Oksman of the Medilaser team.
The team's top racer, Jukka Vastaranta, is joined by and Sonja Kallio, Jasmin Kansikas and Valtteri Repo.
Vastaranta is a well established international elite rider, having been a pro cyclist for 10 years both on the road and the trail. He has previously won silver in the European marathon championships.
"I am excited that we had a chance to put together this team. It is fantastic to ride when supported by Finnish sponsors," said Vastaranta.
"This gives me a chance to focus on riding and is a huge boost of motivation for the coming season. As we also have really competitive equipment and a top professional support I have all the reason to expect a top performance for 2013."
Kallio is the U23 Finnish champion in cross country skiing from a few years ago. She has won all other podium places in Finnish MTB championships except the title, therefore her clear goal for the season is to reach the top podium place in the Finnish Championships.
Kansikas is just 18 but dominated junior women's category last year in Finland. She has just moved up to the elite ranks.
Finally, Repo, who was the runner-up at last year's Finnish cross country championships and had a strong season in the national-level races. He will race in Finland and abroad.
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