Printed: Thursday, August 25, 2005
Berlin Marathon
   City of Berlin Berlin, GDR
   Saturday, September 27, 2003

If Aphrodite were a skate race, she would be the Berlin Inline Marathon. I'm in love, and every race I shall ever do will now seem like spinning around a gravelly parking lot. At 4pm on Saturday 9/27, under perfect conditions, 9,612 skaters rumbled off the start line for a 42k tour of Berlin before 200,000 spectators, accompanied by motos and helicopters. At least so I heard. The frenzy of the race and simply trying to hold position in a pack which extended as far back (and sometimes as far forward) as one could see, precluded any attention to the world beyond. The course was flat and fast, with enough twists and turns to keep various parts of one's equip! ment in the throat for most of the race. Of course, as a world inline cup event, this race was led out by more than 200 of the world's finest racers,who helped it live up to its reputation as one of the fastest marathons anywhere. Although team tactics appear to have gotten in the way of any new world records this year, consistent attacks kept the pace hot, and a monster pull by Tristan Loy (VW SportXX) left more than a few in the men's pack with asphalt on their tongues. None proved strong enough,

however, to put a serious gap on the field and the final pack sprint of better than 70 racers to the crowded finish line at the Brandenburg Gate almost burned up during re-entry. The SAAB-Salomon World Team continued their dominance with Juan Carlos Betancur and Massamiliano Presti taking first and second places, and all 6 skaters in the top 9. Team Hyper skated brilliantly, pulling Diego Rosero of their stunt team back from a brainrattling backwards midpack somersault headplant, to third place overall, with Chad Hedrick just behind in fourth, and Jorge Botero (Rollerblade World Team) landing in 5th. Racers from VW SportXX, Roces, EmpireSpeed, and Fila rounded out the top 15 in the men's field. The women's pack also took it all the way to the line in a mass sprint, led across by a near unbeatable Julie Glass of Powerslide. Verducci International and Rollerblade World Team, close behind, duked it out for the nex four spots with Jessica Smith and The! resa Cliff in 2nd and 4th, and Laura Lardani and Silvia Nino in 3rd and 5th. Roces, Fila, and Salomon added theirs to the top ten.

Check the links below for video of the race. - lower qual movies, but entire race - good (rec pack)

It was not just the other racers, however, that inspired ..The five Empire Speed racers delivered fresh from the 100k National Championships in New York City (thanks Doug and Francine!) represented and raced exceptionally, placing Bret Whitman in 14th place overall in the men's race after a splendid leadout by Pat Creveling, crossing less than 1 second behind Juan Carlos Betancur of SAAB-Salomon. In the women's race, Helen Havam finished in the field, moments behind the winner, Julie Glass of Powerslide. Whitman spent much of the time during the race on the telephone. Fortunately for us, its batteries ran out before the sprint, allowing him to battle for position with both hands ! free. Given the speed and contact of three packs bent on skating through each other, I spent much of the race admiring the near total lack of blood (until a fast 45-degree turn in Kreuzberg, when I spent a short time admiring the pavement., and then the curb, before being popped upright and, luckily, back onto the end of the pack). One major scare for Empire occurred during that same turn, when Whitman, leading out the field with Salomon's Pier Romani, also came into the corner a little hot and had to hockey stop into the crowd. By the time the pair was able to turn around and get back on course, the back of the packs had already passed. Gapped, they had to time-trial their way back until Pat Creveling, having already dragged me up to the middle of the pack after my crash, made his way to them to help pull Bret the rest of the way to the front. Eddie Wilcox, struggling initially with shin cramps, was able to hang onto the pace in midpack until recovering and moving up, so that by ! the time teams started forming up for the final sprint with about two miles to go, all four members of Empire were battling together for position in the front. As we came into the final long straightaway, Pat and Bret managed to hold together in good position just ahead of Salomon. When Rollerblade lit the fuse, Pat gave a strong leadout for Bret, who said his quick good-byes and hung up just in time to pull through for a spectacular sprint, finishing less than two thirds of a prayer length behind Betancur. All said, this was the most cohesive and driven that I have ever seen this team, and if a sign of things to come, be on guard. On the women's side, Helen Havam of Empire reports that, from the start, the race was controlled by the Rollerblade, Salomon, and Verducci teams, keeping the pace fast with break after break. However, no group formed up that was allowed to drift away, and the finishing pack of 39 racers tore up the road to Brandenburg Gate together, finishing! between 1:11:28 and 1:11:37 (Actually, 40 racers, if Helen's malfunctioning chip can be disregarded). She also notes the myriad crashes due to the fast pace and technical course, though says she saw no limbs tumbling down the street without skaters attached to them. Word.

"Lined up and linked"

For further info, results, . be sure to check the Berlin Marathon website.For more links to media, movies, pix of the race, check RBB website. Berlin. Oh, hell yeah! Great city. Great place to race. A word to those out to skate Berlin in the street (when a race is not in progress). The drivers, and the cops, may not love you as much as you think. No joke, they get really pissed off and make New York cabbies seem like friendly little OompaLoompas. But do it anyway - it is a killer town to visit and to skate. Special thanks to Mike and Marie Eggersluss (and Adrien and Luigi) who swooped out of nowhere and gave us the super all-star VIP treatment and shepherded us around Berlin in the team truck (Doug, you listening?) to all the great skate and feeding spots. ((We didn't tell them until later that we weren't Team Salomon)). For some of Mike's pix of Empire in Berlin, click here.

And one time, hats off to all the skaters who raced with true professionalism and made this event an ideal of inline racing. Also, big love for the local and world-inline-cup organizers who put on a magnificent event, and to the crowds and the drummers who came out to watch and be loud and crazy, and especially to the folks from Rainbow skate store who put Bret's skate back together in time for the race.

EmpireSpeed (w/ Anne of XSpeed)

©Empire Speed and