(Updated Monday with corrected NROC points for Rebecca George)
Joey Mantia won the Texas Road Rash in a stroll today to move into a tie for first place in the 2008 National Roller Cup.
The reigning all-around world champion was in or near the lead for the entire 28.2-mile race in Round Rock, TX, and says he even slowed down at one point when he started to get too far ahead.
"The pace was pretty easy," said the 22-year-old from from Olympica, WA. "I went on a few breakaways, and at one point, I got pretty far ahead, but I decided I didn't want to skate the next 16 miles alone, so I slowed down a little and got back with the pack."
Mantia stayed with the lead pack for the rest of the race. Finally, about a mile and a half from the finish line, he picked up the pace and took the lead for good. His Luigino teammate Colin Thomas went with him, as did Team Simmons' Adam Miller of Independence, MO.
Mantia finished first about 10 meters ahead of Thomas. Miller was third.
Mantia's timing chip failed, so his time was not recorded. Thomas, 16 of Cypress, TX, finished second with a time of 1 hour, 23 minutes and 44 seconds.
Mantia, originally from Ocala, FL, has won the marathon at the world championships for the last three years. He said he hasn't had much chance to train outside this year, but has been working hard indoors "doing lots of reps and light weights."
"I'm feeling pretty good right now," he said. "My speed is there, so I'm feeling pretty confident."
The win earned Mantia 60 points in the National Roller Cup. That puts him in a tie for second place with David Sarmiento, who won the opening race of the series last month in Minneapolis. (Updated NROC Pro and Prime scores will be posted Monday.)
The Colombian did not race today.
Bont North America's Debbie Rice beat rival Peggy Girgenti in the sprint to claim victory in the women's race.
The two women spent the race tucked away in the men's chase pack (cross-drafting is allowed at the Road Rash).
"There was a lot of slow-fast, slow-fast," said Rice, 40, of Baton Rouge, LA. "And then Alex Fedak dropped out of the lead pack and joined our pack. He kept picking up the pace and starting breakaways, and we were wishing he would go away because he kept us scrambling."
Eventually, Fedak (Team Simmons) pulled away from the chase pack and the pace settled down.
Rice, who has a strong sprint, said she expected Girgenti to try to break away before the end of the race. But she never did.
"Finally, we all started sprinting and I got there first," Rice said.
Her time was 1 hour, 24 minutes and 59 seconds, only about a minute behind Mantia.
Luigino's Girgenti, 42, of Anaheim Hills, CA, finished 15 seconds back to claim second place.
Two minutes later, Rebecca George, 25, of Baxter, MN, crossed the line to claim third.
George was the first woman in NROC's open pro division (under-35) to cross the finish line. That earned her 60 points in the division, putting her in first place in NROC's Pro Division with 110 points. Former leader Kara Peterson, who did not skate today, dropped to second place.
Rice and Girgenti are both in NROC's master's division (35-44). Rice's win put her in a tie for first place in the master's division; Girgenti's finish put her in a tie for third.
Rice won last year's Road Rash in a time of 1:25:05, beating Stephanie Combs by two seconds.
The race attracted a record crowd this year: 235 skaters participated in the full and half marathons, up 55 from last year.
The oldest skater on the course was Peter Benford, 78, of Austin, TX. He skated the half marathon in 1:09:46. The youngest skater was Braeden Kenney, 5, of Aurora, TX, who skated about one lap on the 4.7 mile course.
Race conditions at Old Settlers Park were mild but breezy.
After the race, skaters were treated to a Texas-style barbecue and entertained by Austin singer/songwriter Guy Forsyth.
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