10:55 am | Recap: Luigino's Michael Cheek and Bont's Debbie Rice were the winners in today's Texas Road Rash.
Cheek, a top U.S. indoor skater, overcame an impressive effort by the Team Simmons duo of Rob Bell and Alex Fedak.
The two Simmons skaters broke away during the third lap and built a big lead.
Cheek, Bont's Norm Kirby and Cado Motus' William Bowen caught up a lap later. But even then, Bell and Fedak pushed the pace. "They seemed to be skating from the heart," Kirby said.
At the end, it was Bell and Cheek in the sprint with Cheek finishing ahead by three seconds.
Rice, trading leads in one of the chase packs, won the women's race for the fourth year.
In all, 238 skaters competed in today's half and full marathons; 68 skaters raced in Saturday's elimination event.
"For a season opener, it's pretty nice to see so many people showing up," Kirby said.
9:58 am | Rice interview: Once again, Bont's Debbie Rice wasn't even sure she was going to race today.
"I've been sick for the last two weeks and lost six pounds," says the 42-year-old Texas native. "Before the race, when I warmed up, my legs were just shaking, and I thought, there's no way I am going to finish this thing."
But guess what ... she won ... again ... for the fourth straight year.
She employed her usual strategy. She hung with the lead pack for the first two laps. Another woman — a skater from a team from the Yucatan — was in the lead pack for a while. But once the Mexican woman dropped back, Rice felt free to do the same.
"There was a lot of craziness in the pack ... people jumping around, trying to get in and out of the line," says Rice. "When I dropped back into the second pack, it felt a lot safer."
Last year, Rice broke her wrist a half mile from the finish line when a skater fell in front of her.
She stayed with the second chase pack, trading leads with the men, for the rest of the race.
One of the biggest challenges today was the wind, Rice said. "It was unreal — cross-winds, head-winds. And every lap, it got stronger."
9:45 am | Cheek interview: Luigino's Michael Cheek says he knew he was in a strong position today after Cado Motus' William Bowen dropped off the pace.
"He was the only one I was worried about in the sprint," said the three-time world champion.
So he relaxed and waited for the sprint, which he won handily.
Cheek, 29, of Greensboro, NC, skated with the lead pack for much of the first half of the race, even after Simmons teammates Rob Bell and Alex Fedak took off on a long breakaway.
"I wasn't too worried," he said. "They never got more than 200 or 300 meters ahead of us, so I wasn't worried."
Eventually, he was one of three skaters to catch the breakaway. The other two were William Bowen and Norm Kirby.
Later, Bowen dropped back and Cheek waited to make his move on the sprint.
"It was a pretty hard race, but good," Cheek said. "It's pretty early in the season. I'm not in shape for marathons yet."
9:35 am | Unofficial results:
Cheek's time — 1:18:14 — is half a minute faster than the last year's winning time of 1:18:45.89 (Jorge Botero).
Debbie Rice finishes at 1:25 to win the women's race.
9:23 am | Cheek wins: Luigino Michael Cheek and Simmons' Rob Bell duel each other on the final straightaway. Cheek gets out ahead. Bell tries to catch him but then gives up. Cheek cruises in three seconds in front for the win.
9:12 am | Fifth lap: The lead pack is breaking up. The two Simmons racers, Rob Bell and Alex Fedak, are in front with Luigino's Michael Cheek right behind them. Bont's Norm Kirby is five seconds back.
The chase pack is about a minute back. It includes Cado Motus' Ryan Wiederhold, Brian Talley and Morgan Williams.
Next comes a small group that includes William Ringer and Jon Elliot.
Michael Cheek is setting in a strong position to win. "With one lap to go, he has the race," says Kelly Springer. "William Bowen is the only guy who can beat Cheek in the sprint, and William is not with the leaders."
One lap to go.
8:59 am | Fourth lap: At the end of the fourth lap, William Bowen, Michael Cheek and Norm Kirby catch the two-man Simmons breakaway.
The new lead pack is made up of five skaters.
A minute back is a small chase pack of four skaters, including Michael Ringer.
Debbie Rice is in the third chase pack, which includes Aloe Up's Herb Gayle from Toronto.
Two laps to go.
8:49 am | Third lap: Two man breakaway: Rob Bell and Alex Fedak, both of Simmons Racing, take a big lead on the third lap.
They finish the lap a quarter mile ahead of the pack.
Randy Bowman is at the head of the pack, which has shrunk to about a dozen skaters. In the pack are Michael Ringer, Morgan Williams, Ryan Wiederhold, Michael Cheek, Brian Talley and William Bowen.
Cado Motus' manager Kelly Springer says there appears to be a lot of indecision in the pack. "No one wants to take charge to catch the breakaway."
Bont's Debbie Rice has fallen back and is skating in the second chase pack.
8:38 am | Speed: The lead pack has been skating 13 minute laps. That's about 21.5 mph.
8:30 am | Second lap: Brian Talley leads by 20 meters as the skaters finish the second lap. In second place is Luigino's Michael Cheek, followed by William Bowen and the rest of the pack of about 18 skaters.
Cheek and Bowen were members of a medal-winning U.S. relay team at last year's World Championships.
Bont's Debbie Rice is tucked away in the lead pack. She is in first place among the women.
Four laps to go.
8:25 am | First lap: Morgan Williams of Toronto leads the big lead pack at the end of the first lap.
Among the leaders are lots of master skaters: Asphalt Beach's Lenny Willcox, Alex Fedak and Richard Cassube (both of Simmons), Bont's Norm Kirby.
As usual, Debbie Rice is the first woman.
Also in the lead pack is Zach Stoppelmoors, 10.
8:00 am | Start: A big mass start: 150 full marathon skaters, 88 half.
7:50 am | Scene: Near perfect conditions in Round Rock this morning: 61 degrees, no wind, dry.
Skaters in the full marathon race six times around the 4.7-mile course in Old Settlers Park.
Last year, Powerslide's Jorge Botero and Bont's Debbie Rice were the open pro winners. Rice, the 42-year-old world master's marathon champion, is back this year. But Botero is not.
Cado Motus has a strong team of William Bowen and Ryan Wiederhold.
Copyright © 2009 by Inline Planet