(updated May 5 with revised results in men's division)
The San Francisco Inline Marathon proved a showcase for world champions today with Joey Mantia winning the men's race, Sara Sayasane winning the women's and Wouter Hebbrecht hawking for second in the field sprint.
Mantia, 22, of Olympia, WA, made it look easy. But he says the race was a struggle.
The Luigino-Answer team member, who has won 16 world champion titles, said he battled severe shin splints from the start of the 26-mile race in fog-shrouded Golden Gate Park. At one point, he even dropped into last place in the big lead pack of 17 skaters.
But more often, the U.S. star was at or near the front of the pack, and with three laps to go, he took off on a solo breakaway. "And they let me get away," he said.
He pushed his lead to nearly three minutes before cruising across the finish line 1 minute and 19 seconds ahead of the chase pack. "Coming to the finish, I was like, this is it ... just look smooth ... don't fall down."
His time was 1 hour, 15 minutes and 40 seconds.
M-Team's Brian Talley, 18, of Corona, CA, said he tried to go with Mantia when he got away. "But he is so strong."
Talley was one of 11 skaters left in the chase pack when they started their final sprint about 500 meters from the finish line.
Jake Sawyer started the sprint but was soon passed by Talley and Hyper's Ricky Blas. Talley led a clump of five skaters on the right side of the course.
But MPC's Wouter Hebbrecht, a Belgian skater and the reigning 200-meter world champion, drove to the left side of the course and at the last moment, shoved his foot across the line just in front of Talley's. Hebbrecht finished about three hundreds of a second in front of Talley.
Donnie Beck finished five hundreds of a second back in fourth place. (Earlier results listed Simmons' Adam Miller in fourth, but he apparently finished fifth.)
The seven members of the women's lead pack skated together throughout the 11-lap up-and-back racecourse on JFK Drive. "The wind made it hard, but the women all worked together and that was awesome," said MPC's Sara Sayasane, a 3-time world champion.
With about 500 meters to go, Bont North America's Helen Havam started sprinting. "I knew I had to make a move, and I just went for it," the 32-year-old New Yorker said.
She took the lead. "But then in the end, Sara went nicely around me," Havam said.
Sayasane, 22, of Milpitis, CA, finished about a half second in front of Havam.
Luigino's Peggy Girgenti, 42, finished three-tenths of a second back to take third.
The event, which is a fund-raiser for the Savant Group Charitable Foundation, drew about 150 skaters, about 50 more than the inaugural event last year.
Skaters said they liked the new racecourse in Golden Gate Park, though some said they would prefer wider turnarounds.
Last year's race was held on rougher pavement at the Presidio overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
"This was a very nice improvement," Havam said. "The asphalt was nice and smooth. And it was all professional. We will definitely be back next year."
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