Paceline battles fatigue and the elements at the windy Marathon Roller Montreal 2009.
This weekend's Marathon Roller Montreal is shaping up to be one of the best races of the year with two Olympic gold medalists vying with a field of top NROC skaters.
The gold medalists are Canadians Oliver Jean and Mathieu Giroux.
Jean was part of the team that won the 5000-meter short track relay in Vancouver; Giroux was part of the team that won the long track team pursuit, beating the U.S. squad led by Chad Hedrick.
Spectators may be watching the Olympians, but the Olympians will probably keep their eyes on Speed Skate World's Peter Doucet of Mississuaga, Ontario. Doucet won last year's race standing up and went on to finish second in the 2009 National Roller Cup.
Other skaters to watch Sunday include Montreal's Marc Bélanger, Quebec's Benoit Tremblay, Bont's Norm Kirby, Simmons' Alex Fedak, Skaters Quest's Brian Oswald and the two young Cado Motus skaters, Christopher Springer and Ryan Wiederhold.
Doucet says he wouldn't be suprised to see Ottawa's Sergio Almeralla or newcomer Jade Pauley of Toronto get the win.
Almeralla is "coming off an incredibly strong season," says Doucet. And Pauley "has been tearing everyone apart at practice. If he skates as well in the race, he could very well leave Montreal as the winner."
Another skater to watch will be Montreal's Steve Robillard, a World Cup short-track champion who won the 2007 Saint Paul Inline Marathon.
Speed Skate World's Morgane Echardour, rolling on new skates (her old ones were stolen), will be defending her title from last year. The 21-year-old NROC champion's biggest challenge is expected to come from Sarah Hopkins.
Echardour finished more than four minutes ahead of second-place Hopkins last year. But since then, Hopkins moved to Calgary to train on long-track ice and she may have elevated her game.
A question mark in the women's race is Canada's Martine Charbonneau. "She's very strong and may suit up for the race," Doucet says.
The weather may be a factor in the race, which starts at 9 a.m. Eastern Time. The forecast is for cooler temperatures and some wind with a possibility of rain.
Skaters will race a true marathon: 42.195 kilometers, which will be almost 10 laps around the Park Jean Drapeau racetrack. Last year, the race was a full 10 laps and 43 kilometers.
It's the same track where Meagan Buisson set the solo marathon world record (1h 18min 15sec) in July 2006.
About 200 skaters are expected for the race, said organizer Philippe Candelier. (See list of registered skaters.)
All the distance races — the 8K, 21K and 42K — will start at the same time. But the half marathon and 8K skaters will start 150 meters behind the full marathoners.
A 4K fun race at 11 a.m. will give kids the opportunity to skate one lap of the racecourse with the Olympians.
The Inline Planet will start live blog coverage of the event at 8:30 a.m. Central Time on Sunday.
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