Forza Azzurri - from Bologna to Pogosta
It’s a long journey from Bologna, Italy to the ski tracks. However, it is even longer to Finland. But Finland is the best country for a cross country skier, says Massimo Martelli who is packing his skis and coming to ski in North Karelia in March.
"It’s a long trip from Bologna to the mountains, and I do not get to train cross-country skiing in practice. My training is a mixture of running, swimming, cycling and gym," says 58-year-old Massimo Martelli.
Martelli is an experienced visitor to Finland, and Finnish words show through when he talks in English. He has guided numerous tourist group that arrived in Finland to ski. It’s interesting to hear him mix in terms like “savusauna” [smoke sauna], “pyöriä lumessa” [a roll in the snow] and “avantouinti” [dip in an ice hole] that have become very dear to him.
In conversation Martelli quickly lists a dozen Finnish skiing events or resorts that he has already been to. He then soon expands the list by famous skiing events abroad that he has attended as well: Marcialonga, Toblach-Cortina and Pustertaler in Italy, Dolomitenlauf in Austria, König Ludwig Lauf in Germany, Vasaloppet in Sweden, Birkebeiner, Skarverrenet and Troll Ski Marathon in Norway as well as Estonia's Tartu Marathon...
But Finland is his favourite. "Finland is the best country in cross-country skiing!" he says.
Skis from the age of 27
Martelli received his first skis from his father as Christmas gift in 1985. He was fascinated by the sport and went to learn skiing at the age of 27. A year later, he had his first attempt at the Marcialonga cross-country skiing event.
"I still remember it very well: 5 500 skiers, the route through the small villages of Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa, with lots of people along the route cheering all the way along the 70 km to the finish."
Now, 31 years after his first skiing experience Martelli, is packing his skis for Finland. This time, he’ll participate in the Pogostan Hiihto ski marathon in March. He’ll do the first 51 km in the classic style event on Saturday, then on Sunday it's time to for the 58 km skating style event.
"Hopefully, there will be lots of happy faces, including Italian ones”, Martelli gleams.
The preparatory camp in Joensuu
Martelli travels to Finland with four friends, among them the 45-year-old Thomas Macchia (who will ski 30 km on both days) and 52-year-old Andrea Calzolari (who will ski on Sunday). For both, Pogostan Hiihto will be their first cross-country skiing event.
"We are looking for some other winter activities for the other two in the group, something like snowmobiling, ice fishing and snowshoeing. They will come to the race venue to take pictures and cheer us on."
The group will arrive to Joensuu prior to the event to allow them to acclimatize and to get familiar with local conditions.
"We are in Joensuu for a few days and will hit the local tracks straight away. For the Pogostan Hiihto, however, we will probably have to prepare our skis with the advice from some local experts," says Martelli.
*) Cheering on for Italian athletes. Freely translated as "Go for it, Blue ones!".