Jukka Vastaranta – New Blood At Rabo
Just after the Hessenrundfahrt, we had a short chat with Jukka Vastaranta, a young and aspiring rider in the Rabobank TT3 team and the sole Finnish participant the Worlds. We talked about his strong season in the U23 peloton and about the challenges of following a dream far from home…
Pez: Jukka, you originate from Tampere, Finland. It’s not a typical cycling country. So how did it all begin with your cycling career? Which sports did you do before cycling and which ones do you practice for cross training?
JV: My dad was a cyclist, so I had always a good bike. First I rode much BMX and mountain bike. Up to the age of ten, I played a lot of ice hockey in the winter and football during summer. At the age of nine, I started crosscountry skiing, which I’m still doing during the winter. At the age of ten, I started road cycling – and my first race I did at the age of 11. My best results are two national Finnish titles in the Juniors’ 10km skating.
Pez: Right now, you are riding for the strong Rabobank TT3, living in Belgium. How did you get there? And how is it living so far from home throughout a season of tough racing?
JV: Frans Maasen [a famous European cyclist] helped me to get a place in a TT3 team. The Rabobank Espoirs Team arranged a house for me at a very friendly Belgium family. I lived alone there, but the family helped me a lot. It is ok to live far from home as long as everyhing works out fine. In times with problems it would be good to have close friends and especially other things to do besides cycling. Sometimes I felt like the people in my team don’t understand that foreign guys have more stress than the “home boys”. This sometimes can cause additional pressure and then you start missing your home.
Pez: What role does your professional team Rabobank TT3 play to help you grow into the pro business?
JV: It has helped me from the juniors! They prepared a good racing program for me and gave me a chance to focus on cycling only. It’s all I needed – you can’t help much more.
Pez: Who are your idols? And what would be an aim that you’d love to reach in your cycling career?
JV: My idols are Zabel and his kind of riders. I think that it is good to be a strong rider who can win races throughout the year. It would be nice to be a strong all-round rider with muscles and not only a lightweight “machine” who only can climb.
Pez: How would you characterize yourself? What are your strenghts and weak points as a cyclists as well as a person? And how do they help you on in your role as a pro cyclist?
JV: I want to improve my skills constantly – and I am willing to work for it. My weak points are better not to tell. Someone might use them against me in a race!
Pez: What do you enjoy doing if you’re not riding?
JV: I love nature and doing a lot of things there. Normally, I’m discovering nature whilst riding my bike – you see a lot of things following your training schedule. But I love to enjoy nature even without my bike, discovering new places!
Pez: What was your greatest result as a cyclist?
JV: I think that my whole season 2003 was good. It was a good first year in amateur circuit.
Pez: I met you at the Hessen-Rundfahrt. After that, you rode a strong Triptyque des Barrages, finishing 3rd in the individual time trial. What did your training/racing schedule look like this year?
JV: In the Rabobank Espoirs team, we do half amateur and half pro races, including some stage races with time trials. This helps me to build up my strength to the end of the year.
Pez: What’s your favourite event? What will be the next races for you? And what will you do at the end of the season?
JV: I like one day races. The moral is very good there. You give everything for one day – or the race is over. This week, I will compete in the road race at the World Championships in Verona. [ed note: Jukka dnf’ed in Verona – bummer.]
Pez: Finally, Jukka, what are your wishes for 2005?
JV: I hope to win one race. – Then I am happy.
Pez: Many thanks for this interview. Good luck this week and all the best for the future!
Name: Jukka Vastaranta
Year of Birth: 1984
Height: 172.5 cm
Weight: 65 kg
Best skills: Allrounder
Team: Rabobank TT3
2004 victories: Circuit des Mines one stage, Tour de la Manche one stage, Olympia’s Tour one stage, Finnish TT Champion. 2 Kermis races in Belgium.
2003 9 victories with amateurs.
2002 Junior World Vice Champion
2001 Junior World Cup Overall Winner, Junior European MTB Champion.