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From left: Steve Robillard, Olivier Jean and Peter Doucet
photo: Philippe Candelier
11:30 am | Olivier, Echardour Win: Olympic gold medalist Olivier Jean made a triumphant return to inline skating today, winning the Marathon Roller Montreal in commanding style.
Jean, 26, of Montreal took off on a solo breakaway with three laps to go on the 4-km racecourse and never looked back.
At times, he built his lead to more than a minute and eventually he rolled across the finsh line with no other skater in sight.
"I knew I was safe, so I didn't have to work too hard," said Jean, who won a gold medal in short-track ice skating in Vancouver in the 5000-meter relay.
Jean used to race inline; he was the 2006 Canadian inline sprint champion. But he hasn't done much time on wheels for three years while focusing on short-track ice. "I just decided to do a little more inline this year, and this race is just two minutes from my home," he said.
The marathon started slowly with the skaters moving cautiously on the wet, cold F1 racecourse.
There were a few early breakaway attempts but nothing stuck until the fifth lap when Speed Skate World's Peter Doucet, last year's winner, took off.
Olivier Jean and fellow Canadian short-tracker Steve Robillard caught him on the sixth lap. A few minutes later, Jean took off for good.
Robillard finished second, 43 second back; Doucet, third.
Jean said he only started training again on inline skates two weeks ago. "I train really hard (on ice), so even if I didn't skate a lot of inline, I know I am really fit," he said.
Jean says he plans to compete in more inline races this summer.
He also wasn't worried about the weather conditions. "We knew how it would be. I've been watching the forecast. So you dress warm and you know everyone is dealing with the same weather."
In the women's race, Speed Skate World's Morgane Echardour, 21 of Mississauga, Ontario claimed victory for the second year in a row.
Echardour, last year's NROC champion, skated with one of the chase packs and finished in 16th place overall.
Sarah Hopkins finished a few minutes behind her.
Asphalt Beach's Candy Wong crashed and did not finish.
Bont's Norm Kirby won the master men's race, finishing seventh overall. Il Peloton's Morgan Williams was 10th.
Skater Quest's Brian Oswald of Manassas, VA, finished 11th. He drove 750 miles yesterday from Indianapolis, where he finished third in the Brookside inline marathon.
Asphalt Beach's Steve Larios said it was one of the hardest races of his life. "There was snow blowing sideways at 30 mph," said the Nashville resident. "And then you are soaking wet, and you come around that turn and the wind is right on you. I was frozen stiff. I was shivering so bad I couldn't get my helmet off at the end of the race."
"Of course, it was the same for everyone. But Wedneday, I was skating and it was 89 degrees."
10:50 am | Olivier Jean Wins: Olympic gold medalist Olivier Jean stays away on the final lap and wins easily by 43 seconds.
Steve Robillard beats Peter Doucet in the sprint to claim second. Sergio Almarella is fourth, followed by Benoit Letourneau, Jesse Pauley, Norm Kirby and Christopher Springer.
Morgane Echardour easily wins the women's race.
(Question: How come Canadian short and long-track ice skaters can lace up for inline races and U.S. ice skaters can't?)
10:44 am | Final lap: Status quo: Olivier Jean holds onto his lead. Doucet pulls the chase pack of 14 skaters forty seconds back.
The race is for second place. Among the contenders: Sergio Armeralla, Benoit Letourneau, Brian Oswald, Norm Kirby, Ryan Wiederhold, Chris Springer and Morgan Williams.
Morgane Echardour now has a commanding lead of nearly two minutes over Sarah Hopkins.
10:32 am | Eight lap: Olivier Jean is about a minute head. Doucet is at the front of the lead pack of 14.
10:24 am | Seventh lap: Olivier Jean wants another gold medal. The Olympian has gone on a solo breakaway and finishes the lap 18 seconds ahead of Speed Skate World's Peter Doucet.
Steve Robillard, former Canadian short-track team member, is right behind Doucet.
Sergio Almarella is alone 22 seconds back, followed by the pack seven seconds later.
The race pace is 18 mph.
10:15 am | Sixth lap: Short trackers take the lead! Olympic gold medalist Olivier Jean takes the lead with Steve Robillard on his wheel. Peter Doucet is three seconds behind them.
The pack of 12 skaters is 20 seconds back, led by the Toronto skater Jesse Pauley. No one has fallen out.
The first woman, Morgane Echardour, is skating with a small pack that includes Jade Pauley, three minutes off the pace.
Echardour is now 1.5 minutes ahead of second-place Sarah Hopkins, who spent the off-season in Calgary on long-track ice.
10:08 am | Fifth lap: Peter Doucet takes the lead and Sergio Almarella falls to the back of the lead pack of 15 skaters.
The pack is loaded with talent: Steve Robillard, who won the 2007 St. Paul Inline Marathon, is in second place; Olympian Olivier Jean is in fourth; Norm Kirby is in fifth; the Cado Motus team of Ryan Weiderhold and Chris Springer in seventh and eighth.
9:58 am | Fourth lap: The breakaway is caught. At the end of four laps, Il Peloton's Sergio Almarella is back in the lead, skating at the head of a group of four skaters (Almarella, Marc Belander, Brian Oswald and Norm Kirby), who are just in front (by 1.5 seconds) of the main pack of 11 skaters.
Among the women, Speed Skate World's Morgane Echardour is still in front, tucked into the second men's pack.
Sarah Hopkins in a minute behind her.
9:50 am | Third lap: Two Canadians, Steve Robillard and Benoit Letourneau, breakaway. They are 12 seconds ahead of the chase pack of 15 skaters, led by Skater Quest's Brian Oswald.
Also in the chase pack are Sergio Almarella, Ryan Weiderhold, Bont's Norm Kirby, Olympic gold medal Oliver Jean, Cado Motus' Chris Springer and, at the back, Speed Skate World's Peter Doucet, who won the race last year.
9:40 am | First lap: Leading after one lap is Il Peloton's Sergio Almarella, followed by Marc Belander and Jade Pauley. The three are at the head of a large lead pack.
Cado Motus' Ryan Wiederhold is fourth. Last year's women's winner, Morgane Echardour, is the first woman, tucked into the pack in 24th place.
The marathon is 42.125 km, almost nine laps on the FI racecourse.
9:24 am | The Start: The skaters start cautiously without apparent mishaps. First to go are the marathoners. Then the half marathoners.
9:12 am | Numbers: At this point, 77 skaters have picked up their timing chips. So it appears that half of the 160 people who had pre-registered for the race have decided not to lace up. And of course, some skaters who would have signed up at the race decided to stay in bed.
Warm up video:
9:06 am | More snow: It has started to snow again. But fortunately, the snow melts when it hits the wet racecourse.
The race will start soon. But in the meanwhile, skaters are keeping dry in the paddock area.
8:58 am | Venturing outside: Skaters are heading out onto the cold and wet F1 racetrack to warm up near the starting line. Apparently, the start of the race will be delayed.
8:40 am | Rain and snow stop falling: Conditions are improving. "There is nothing falling now," said race volunteer Jonathan Villemure.
More skaters are arriving. People are staying in the paddock area to stay warm.
Race starts in 20 minutes.
8:25 am | Wet Racecourse: The racecourse is wet but, at least in this section, snow free. (Photo by Philippe Candelier):
8:15 am | Pre Race Video: Organizer Philippe Candelier took this video of skaters milling around the paddock area before the race:
8 am | Snow is Falling: A mix of snow and rain is falling on the Park Jean Drapeau Grand Prix racetrack an hour before the start of the marathon. The temperature is 35 degrees. Skaters are looking for shelter.
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