Thursday, February 23, 2006
50 Skaters Online
Central Park— New York, NY
Sunday, June 22, 2003
RECORD RAINS... RECORD CROWDS
After yet another weekend of rain (8 in a row?) the damp and slightly down Empire crew prepared for the worst. Saturday before the race there were heavy downpours that were expected to continue into the Sunday morning start time. Luckily, we got a break in the downpours that lasted until an hour into the race, and at that point the rain didn't affect the already drenched course and nearly 400 skaters that braved some of the worst conditions imaginable
The pro men's field was represented by Verducci, Bont, K2, Mogema, Canarium, Empire Speed and the top Canadians, as well as Kelly Springer's team from Virginia UTV/Bones. The race had an International flavor with Colombia, Ecuador, Australia, Japan, China and Chile all in attendance. The race started out with Verducci's Derek Downing, last years winner, on the sideline with teammate Fourth Lacey preparing to watch. Fourth still isn't up to par after his post World team tryout injury.
Empire was the team with the greatest numbers so they took it upon themselves to constantly attack and try to wear down the other teams top skaters, who turned out to be K2's Josh Wood, Canadian Steve Robillard and Verducci's Terrance Allmond. Empire's Juan Naula broke hard from the start, then new teamate Pat Creveling kept the pressure on for the next 5 miles until Eddie Wilcox went on a strong flyer. Josh, Steve and Terrance were spending their wet day running down flyers. Josh Wood told us that he felt Bret and Pat were very strong on this day. Bret didn't really get into the race until the second 10K loop due to the fact he needed to get Remys wrench to tighten his loose frame. Teammate Scotty Bliss dropped off and helped Bret remove his wheel, tighten the frame and finally get the frame back on. At this point they caught the pack and went by like a freight train, someone managed to jump in front of Scotty and slow him down but Bret continued on his first flyer of the race and it was a joined by Josh and Terrance. The attacks continued and it became apparent Bret and Pat were being marked by Verducci and K2 so when Empires Remy Chait and Steve Robillard slipped away no one took notice and chased them.
After opening up a several hundred meter gap they worked together and quickly got away from the pack that was being slowed by the NYC crew. Steve Robillard has raced 2 of the best races I have ever seen run and they have both taken place in Central Park. Last year he chased and caught every attack, starting with the patented Dane Lewis 15 minute 10K to start a marathon, and all through the torture fest put on by Verducci's Derek Downing and Jon Webster. I have had the luxury to view the video of the lead pack for the past two races and Steve was in EVERY attack or chase. The man is incredible!!
Well we figured this would be his year to win after losing the third place position to Remy last year, but Remy put the afterburners on up cat hill and cruised to a well earned victory. It was cool to see Remy sharing his water with his competitor just before the final sprint. This was a great finish between two very classy athletes.
The field sprint was won by Bret Whitman who was followed by Terrance and Josh to round out the top 5.
The pro womens race was a very exciting finish, Verduccis Kristen St Nicholas was seen running up cat hill at the finish in front of her friend and competitor Helen Havam, only to be overtaken at the end. Helen secured her second Central Park win while Kris had a very hard earned silver. Lisa Harrison of WOW skates and Channa Bradley UTV/Bones rounded out the top four.
The masters mens race was well attended as usual and we saw Danny Matchett of EC Beast power stroking up the final hill to beat out Empires Dennis Humphries and ICB legend Ton Keane.
The Master womens race saw a new face that many will have to reckon with this year Jenna Armstrong, from LA. She came to have a good time and give all the east coast girls a run for their money! Coming up cat hill we thought she was alone for a second but out popped Alison Sawyer of Empire to catch,pass and win by the length of two wheels in our only photo finish of the day!!Kudos to Naomi Shecter who had her bearings seize up on lap one only to do a pit stop halfway thru the race and catch all the other girls and still take third.
Next year you can expect to see a thousand skaters at the line in Central Park.
Next stop for the Empire Skate Series is August 23,24 in Binghamton NY at the Chris Thater races.
- Doug Fessenden
©Empire Speed and www.RaceReports.net