You might not be surprised to hear who won today's Saint Paul Inline Marathon: Simmons' Adam Miller, who leads the NROC rankings and won last week's race.
But guess who he had to pass in the sprint: 41-year-old Eddy Matzger, competing in his first U.S. marathon of the year.
After a scrappy race in which he was never far from the front, Matzger (TWINCAM) sprinted into the lead as the small pack turned left onto Sibley Street on its way to the finish line.
"Eddy took off early and went flying by me," said Miller, 26, of Independence, MO.
"I took off and caught him with about 150, 200 yards to go, and went on and was probably at least 20 feet ahead at the line."
Adams Inline's David Sarmiento, 26, of Colombia caught Matzger in the sprint to take second. Matzger was third.
Miller, who won last week's Chicagoland Inline Marathon, described today's race as fast and steady.
He and Bont's Matt Walther took off on an early breakaway that lasted about three miles. "But then Eddy caught us and I looked back and saw David Sarmiento in full arm swing and he was pulling the the whole pack, so we let them catch us."
Breakaways by Bont and Simmons skaters — and Matzger — thinned the pack. By the time it reached the Sibley Street turnoff on the second lap, there were only seven skaters left: Miller, Sarmiento, Matzger, Rob Bell (Simmons), Walther, Jono Gorman (Bont) and Jordan Nelson (Luigino).
It was Miller's first win in the Saint Paul Inline Marathon, which he has skated every year since it was founded in 2004.
The women's race was another display of the smarts and strength of the Bont North American team.
The team put four women on the line: current NROC leader Debbie Rice, Jilleanne Rookard, Helen Havam and Conny Strub.
Lined up with them were another dozen women, including Rebecca George (second place in the NROC women's rankings), Sarah Hopkins, who finished second in Chicago, and hometown favorite Kara Peterson.
The Bont women surged and attacked repeatedly on the hills, thinning out the pack.
Rice, Rookard and Hopkins all took strong pulls. Havam's legs cramped up and she dropped out of the pack, as did Peterson.
Midway through the race, Hopkins slipped on wet pavement and nearly fell. "She went down on one knee but somehow she popped back up," Rice said.
The lead pack had shrunk to five when it approached Sibley Street and the final climb to the finish line.
Rice and Rookard, the two remaining Bont women, attacked on the corner and took the lead.
"I took off first," Rice said. "Then going up the hill, I pulled off to the right and Jill went straight up the hill to the left. Then I looked back and there was nobody there. So we kind of took it easy across the finish line."
Mejia Posts Best Time
After the race, fellow skaters were describing Bont's Luis Carlos Mejia as an animal.
In fact, he skated a monster race, posting the fastest time of the day and nearly catching the pro-elite pack, despite its 4-minute head start.
The 47-year-old Colombian raced in the master division (for skaters 35-44). But Mejia was not content to hang with the masters and took off after the elite pack.
Near one turnaround on the two-lap course, Luigino's Jordan Nelson caught sight of Mejia gaining on the elite pack. "We thought, Oh, God. He's going to catch us," Nelson said.
Mejia finished shortly after the lead pack with a time of 1 hour 11 minutes and 50.55 seconds. His time was 2 minutes and 20 seconds faster than Miller's: 1:14:10.42.
"I should have entered him in the elite division," Bont manger Glenn Koshi said after the race.
Downpour at the Start
Thirty seconds before the 7 a.m. start of the race, a hard rain began falling. The first waves of skaters (pro-elite men, master men and veteran men) were set off in the rain. But then it stopped, and the racecourse quickly dried.
"After a while, the only water on the course was in the potholes, which made them easier to see," said Team Safe's Paul Sargenti.
Masters (35 to 44)
Veteran (45 and over)
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