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Empire Speed Season Preview
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   The Big Apple New York City, NY
   Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Empire Speed has some exciting announcements on their team and race schedule this year. RaceReportsNet had a chance to talk with Doug Fessenden of Empire to find out about the developments.

RRN: First on the team, tell us about your new sponsor and what their support means to the skaters on the sponsored team. It sounds like you are taking it to the next level and presenting and organizing the team on the same level as other factory teams, although in the U. S. most factory teams are not so tightly integrated with one regional powerhouse like Empire.

K2 is a very large corporation compared to many of the other speed skate manufacturers. This allows for some interesting support that may not have been there in the past. We have been blessed with great sponsors in the past especially from the Phil Senechal, Doug Glass team at Verducci back in the day. With their support The Empire Race Series was born four years ago. We also developed a nice pro team to chase the Verducci/EC Beast Juggernaut. K2 will also offer support to us with the Fitness/Recreational skaters that make up a large portion of our club. This is something that we haven't had in the past.

As far as the sponsored team, we are now in a position to compete world wide. We are very excited that the K2/Empire team will be adding two of the finest young skaters in the world. Brigyette Mendez and Kelly Martinez from Colombia.

Brigyette moved up to senior last year in Belgium and became a world champion in the 1000 meter's. This year at Barquestmento she almost won another gold in the 5000 meter road race but was beaten by superwoman (oops) I mean Julie Glass. Brigyette still managed to come home with 4 silver medals.

Kelly Martinez won 5 gold medals in the junior world championships this past year and she is the current overall FIRS World record holder in the 15K track elimination race. Several people felt that she may have been the most impressive female skater at this past world championships.

With these two girls added to our already strong team of Helen Havam, Daniela Martinez, and skater coach Bibiana Calle we feel we will be a contender at the highest level.

RRN: Is this different/How is this different than last year?

Last year was a learning experience, we made several trips to Europe and had moderate success. Bret Whitman placed top 15 in Berlin. We are hoping to use last year as a springboard and see where we may land. Hopefully somewhere near a podium.

RRN: Now that the team is not backed by Verducci is this going to intensify the rivalry we saw last season between Empire and the Verducci team? (Krawulski, Allmond, etc.)

That's an interesting question Mike. Most of the Empire and Verducci skaters have grown up together and at one point or another have been teammates or best friends in the past. We saw a trend develop that was not what we had hoped for. I think by the Empire crew separating it may lessen any animosities the teams have had towards each other in the past. At least thats one of the offshoots we are hoping for now that we are no longer competing for the same sponsor dollars.

RRN: Will the international team be competing together in Europe or mainly in the U. S.? What is type of competition schedule do you have planned for the different teams?

The Empire Skate Club is always well traveled, we had 40+ members at Disney last year, so you expect to see us at just about every major race in the USA as has been the case the past three year.

Our International team will be kicking off its season May 2nd at Disney, then off to do a few races in Switzerland and possibly France. We will be in the states for the Central Park Marathon Festival and then we plan to hit as many of the fall classics as possible, Duluth, Berlin, NYC 100K, and Long Beach.

RRN: Empire has so many members and teammates. This may be a stupid question, but do you ever get concerned that your big roster of skaters tends to overwhelm smaller regional teams? On a team level, no other regional team can bring enough skaters to your races to counter the attacks Empire can repeatedly launch with the many skaters you have at each race.

This has been a major concern to me since late last spring when Verducci no longer sent the big team to all the races as in the past. I admit our pro team developed as a response to the great Verducci teams. They had many skaters on salary who were world champions.

I begged Nick Esposito of NYC to put on a Empire uniform and help me build a team. Once he was done with his skating career in Holland he agreed to help me start the team. One by one skaters that had hoped to get picked up by EC Beast or Verducci approached us and we welcomed them onto the team. Then the local skate coaches came to me and said give my kid a uniform he needs a team, once again being a not for profit club we welcomed everyone. Then one day I looked at a race pace line and saw 4 Verducci skaters and 15 Empire Skaters and knew I had a problem. The solution is we will now have an International team and a National team with different uniforms as well as our regular club skaters.

One of my big fears is that some of the old Empire skaters will fade away from the sport because they aren't on the front line team, but I have had to weigh that against presenting a fair and fun place for skaters to come compete. I hope that clears that up a little, I know Jordan Malone has commented on this point and I wanted to let him know that we didn't try and emulate the other model we were just a response to it.

RRN: What does the Empire team have to do to have a successful season in 2004?

To have our team travel the world and represent in a positive manner.

K2/Empire Press Release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

K2 Sponsors New York Citys Empire Speed Skating Team and Club

VASHON ISLAND, Wash. (January 23, 2004) Inline speed skate manufacturer K2 Skates this month signed a sponsorship agreement with New York Citys elite Empire Speed Team and Empire Skate Club of New York. The K2/Empire team will exclusively use K2 speed boots and five-wheel frames during their race events around the world.

Two teams were newly formed under the K2/Empire banner to race at national and international events. Team members include:

International:
Women:
Brigyette Mendez-Col
Kelly Martinez-Col
Helen Havam-USA
Daniella Martinez-USA
Bibiana Calle-USA- coach

Men:
Bret Whitman- USA
Carlos 'Capeto' Penagos-Col
Remy Chait-USA
Eddie Wilcox-USA

USA National Team:
Junior Men:
Chris Crevling
Scotty Bliss
Darren Kaufman

Junior Women:
Samantha Carr
Elizabeth Drenkhan

K2 Skates is a leading manufacturer of performance-oriented SoftBoot inline skates for recreational, fitness and elite-level skating. For more information on K2s products, visit www.k2skates.com.

Empire Speed, a division of Empire Skate Club, is Americas largest speed skating club. A team of world-class athletes represents Empire Speed at race events in North America, Europe, Asia and South America. In addition Empire Speed sponsors an annual series of races in the New York City region that draw thousands of racers from around the world. For more information, visit www.empirespeed.com.
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About the Empire Speed Series 2004:

RRN: The Empire Skate Series has well earned reputation as an the place to be in the U. S. for great competition and great races, but we know you're not satisfied if you're not moving the series up a notch or two. What have you worked on to make this year better than last?

We are very proud and excited to be offering the AMB matless timing chips at each of our races this year. This will eliminate the mistakes some of the kids have made in the past counting laps, and at the same time offer the most accurate and safest system available.

RRN: The Empire races have world class competiton on great courses, but you only get the big numbers in entrants when you make it friendly for the recreational and intermediate skaters. Do you want to put on a race with 4,000 skaters someday? What is the biggest race that you want to organize this year?

We do have plans to make the Central Park race a huge event this year. The Big Apple Roll will be done in conjunction with the Central Park Marathon. We will be reaching out directly to the Fitness skaters of the world and we are projecting close to a thousand skaters this year.

Our dream here in the city is to transport Duluth and drop that race in front of a million spectators. (laughs...)

RRN: Tell us about the Central Park Festival. I see it is combined with the Big Apple Roll weekend and there are alot of parties planned.

We are studying the successful models and we think we have all that's necessary: great organization, a great course, a great city, and great parties

RRN: What about the World Inline Cup tentatively scheduled for October? What surprises do you have in store for us in this event?

Right now that's a no comment... let's just keep our fingers crossed.

RRN: When do we get on television with the races? What about ESPN- are you working on that?

Thats what I want to know. I can tune in each week to ESPN and watch lawn mower races, but I can't see our fantastic athletes performing their craft? I call them and send them tapes but no luck. I really thought the US Cup races a few years back that were professionally filmed had a real shot of getting seen but that hasn't happened... yet.

RRN: What else do you want everyone to know about Empire Speed this year?

Just that we are all looking forward to seeing you again here in the city.

Empire Speed Race dates for NYC 2004

April 17   Orchard Beach Blast
10K, 15K, 1/2 Marathon

May 15 Orchard Beach Classic
10K, 15K, 1/2 Marathon

June 12  Grants Tomb
10K, 15K, Marathon

August 1  Central Park Marathon Festival/ Big Apple Roll weekend
10K, 20K. Marathon, Many Parties

September 25  NYC 100K National Championships and 42K

October 2  World Inline Cup Grand Prix(tentative)

Check the RaceReportsNet or Empire Speed calendar for more information and details on the race series when available.

©RRN and www.RaceReports.net

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