Cross-country skier and Olympic gold medalist Iivo Niskanen and high-intensity athlete Jonne Koski were among those taking part in Lahti this year. Fitness and strength can only take you so far in any competition and especially in Red Bull 400 and drive and determination are big, if not the biggest, factors for success in this monstrous challenge.
Having driven from Slovenia by car just to take part in the Red Bull 400 Lahti contest, professional road racing cyclist, Martin Kozelj, knows all about the focus and will power needed to win. The Slovenian athlete has competed in 19 previous Red Bull 400 competitions, but this year his perseverance paid off. Storming ahead to cross the finishing line in 3m 30s, Kozelj claimed his first victory.
Following closely behind Kozelj was Finnish skier, Juho Veikkolainen, who remained true to his performance last year and again took second place on the podium in 3m 43s.
Having finished in third place in last year’s competition, double Olympic champion Iivo Niskanen was under huge pressure to deliver a repeat performance to his home crowd this year. Sadly the athletes were in for an extra challenge, with the rain-soaked track making for a slippery climb, and third place this year was claimed by Estonian Nordic combined skier, Han Hendrik Piho, in 3m 52s.
The Finnish event has expanded massively over the years, with the competition just getting bigger and better. Featured on the front pages of several top Finnish newspapers, today’s event pulled in an incredible 1,100 competitors, all having challenged themselves to overcome this extraordinary challenge. Whether they were competing for the first time or trying to smash a previous record, this 400m race uphill appeals to anyone who has the grit and resolve to brave the pain.
In the women's race, last year’s second placed athlete, Mila Koljonen, exploded up the mammoth 38.6 degree hill to take first place in 4m 25s, leaving the competition scrambling to keep up. Valeriia Merkureva and Elena Bogdanova were left battling it out for second place. In the end, Russian cross-county skier, Bogdanova just couldn’t keep up and was edged out into third place, leaving Merkureva to claim a triumphant second in 4m 55s.
The Red Bull 400 competition is now picking up speed with all upcoming weekends jam-packed with races. If you are looking to challenge yourself, there's no better opportunity. Next up is Copper Peak, USA.
Results Red Bull 400 Lahti, FIN
1. Martin Kozelj (SLO) 3m 30s
2. Juho Veikkolainen (FIN) 3m 43s
3. Han Hendrik Piho (EST) 3m 52s
1. Mila Koljonen (FIN) 4m 25s
2. Valeriia Merkureva (RUS) 4m 55s
3. Elena Bogdanova (RUS) 5m 05s