National Roller Cup

Montreal's Marathon Roller Comes In From the Cold

July 15, 2011

Planet report

Map of the PMG track

Map of the PMG track with the 3.2 km loop outlined in green.

Last year, snow, sleet and icy winds lashed skaters in the Marathon Roller Montreal. The year before that, there was no snow but plenty of cold and wind.

But this year promises to be different, less like Alaska and more like Hawaii. If forecasters are right, it will be in the mid-70s at race time, dry and with just a light wind.

“The weather will be good this year,” said organizer Philippe Candelier. “No snow!”

The organizers shifted the date of the event from May to July to try to get as far away as possible from the chance of cold weather.

Moving the date made it necessary to find a new racecourse since the old one, the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, is booked solid in the summer with Grand Prix auto racing.

After a long search, the organizers settled on the PMG Technologies test track in Blainville, 30 miles northwest of downtown Montreal. The track is used by government agencies and private companies to test cars, trucks and other motorized vehicles.

A strong field of Canadian skaters, including the two top athletes in the 2010 National Roller Cup, along with a handful of U.S. skaters, are headed to the race.

The big question is how many of Canada’s short track Olympic ice skaters will compete. Last year, several skated and seemed to thrive in the snow, including Olympic gold medalist Olivier Jean, who won the race.

So far this year, Jean and Steve Robillard are the only two short-trackers who have signed up, though a few more may register before the 9 a.m. EDT start.

The short-trackers will face some stiff competition from Canada’s inline skaters, including Toronto Inline’s Peter Doucet, the winner of the 2010 National Roller Cup, and Il Peloton’s Sergio Almeralla, who is coming off a big win in the Ottawa Inline Festival.

Almeralla, 34, of Ottawa, is likely to drive the pace Saturday with help from his teammates Jade Pauley and Constant Montpellier. Almeralla has a motive to win. A first place finish would put him into a tie for first in the 2011 NROC rankings.

Another skater to watch in the race will be 13-year-old Juan Diego Zuluaga of Colombia. The boy finished third in last month’s Ottawa Inline Festival marathon, a few monhts after moving to Canada with his mother and his skate coach, Jose Luis Munera.

Women's Race

The women’s race is shaping up to be another rematch between Vitesse’s Martine Charbonneau and Toronto Inline’s Morgane Echardour.

Charbonneau, 33, of Montreal, finished one second ahead of Echardour to win last month's Ottawa Inline Festival.

The race allows women to draft men, and vice versa. So the likely strategy for Charbonneau and Echardour will be to stay tucked away in the men’s pack until the field sprint.

Another woman who may try to stay with the men is Asphalt Beach’s Candy Wong. The 34-year-old from Richmond Hills, Ontario, is skating well this year and is currently in second place in the NROC standings.

Three other women with a shot at the podium will be Schankel Kallisto’s Shannon Hegarty, Montreal’s Julie Robert, and Asphalt Beach’s Nadine Currie Jackson.

The full marathon will be 13 loops of the 3.2 km racecourse, which is paved with asphalt and cement.

Following the marathon, there will be a one-lap family skate at 10:45 a.m. and a half marathon at 11:30 a.m.

The NROC points race is the marathon, although youth skaters will also earn points in the half.

Live blog coverage of the event will start at 8:30 EDT on the Inline Planet.

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