Finnish national champion Jukka Vastaranta has joined the Trek-Brentjens Mountain Bike Team for the remainder of 2010. The 26-year-old, who now resides in Spain, is an accomplished road and mountain bike racer. The former pro road racer is hoping to return to racing at a high level off-road.
"I started to do mountain bike races in the end of May of this year. I was doing well in Spanish races, so I decided to do some marathons in Europe, and I was really lucky to go to Zillertal where I met Bart Brenjens."
"Bart knew me already and after leaving him behind on the mountains a few times during the race, he decided that I am strong enough for his team this season."
Vastaranta won a World Cup in 2001 and finished second in the World Championships in 2002 on the road. He also won a stage in the 2005 Ster Electro Tour and was second in the Tour of Luxembourg that same year.
As the reigning national cross country and marathon champion, Vastaranta previously won his nation's cross country championship in 2001 and was junior European Champion in 2001.
Vastaranta started mountain biking when he was nine years old, and he rode his first mountain bike race when he was only 11. Vastaranta raced both mountain bikes and road bikes until he was 17 years old. Then, he devoted his career to road racing, including five years with Rabobank and one year for Jartazi. In 2006 and 2007, Vastaranta had to stop racing due to health problems, and he resumed mountain biking again in 2008.
"I am happy to be on a strong team again after few years of working and racing at the same time. I feel that I have a good chance now to get back to a high level." As he returns to elite mountain bike racing, the Finnish rider hopes to leverage his road experience as well as his past accomplishments on the dirt.
"When I became European Champion in 2001 in St Wendel, Jukka also became European champion in the junior category," said Brentjens. "Then he went to ride on the road under the supervision of my nephew, Frans Maassen from Rabobank. I believe he is a very talented rider, but he had bad luck due to health problems the last years. These are solved now and I want to give him a chance. I am confident he can ride some good results this year."
Vastaranta joins his new Trek-Brentjens teammates Jelmer Pietersma, Lukas Kaufmann, Tim Wijnants ,Frank Beemer and Irjan Luttenberg for national and international races.
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.