Rollerblade World Team Faces Challenges in 2006
New Faces Are Vital to Team's Hopes
Rollerblade withstood the Fila juggernaut last year to win the World Inline Cup. But making it two years in a row isn't going to be easy.
First, there's the problem of how to beat the new MMCmicro-Salomon team, which on paper has the makings of a new juggernaut.
Then, there's the problem of how to replace team member Alexis Contin, who defected to the Salomon team.
Judging from its new team roster, Rollerblade appears to be pinning its hopes on a combination of new and proven talent.
Three of the five members of its new team are holdovers: Jorge Botero, ranked third in last year's individual World Cup standings; Shane Dobbin, ranked fourth; and Diego Rosero, ranked 12th.
New to the team are the 27-year-old Frenchman Baptiste Grandgirard and a newcomer to the World Cup, Juan Nayid Tobon.
Grandgirard is a World Cup veteran. He finished 10th in the individual rankings last year skating with the Fila team. A year earlier, he finished 8th.
Grandgirard finished in the top-ten in several races last year but only landed on the podium once. (He won the bronze in the Paris Marathon.)
Juan Tobon is a big question mark. He has been a member of several Colombian world teams. He won the bronze in the 500-meter sprint, both on the track and the road, at last year's World Speed Skating Championships in Suzhou, China.
As a junior, he won the bronze in the 500 meters at the 2002 championships.
In last December's South American Inline Cup, he finished ninth.
On paper, he doesn't look like he's ready to fill Alex Contin's boots. (Contin finished fifth in last year's World Cup rankings and has won a few world championships.)
But who knows?
Tobon's young, and maybe the Rollerblade sponsorship will allow him to raise his skating a notch or two.
It's not clear why Rollerblade chose Tobon from among the scores of talented young skaters. (Once again this year, no major team has signed the great young Swiss skater Roger Schneider.)
Apparently, Rollerblade sees something in Tobon.
Let's hope so.
Rollerblade is going to need a strong showing from all of its skaters to keep up with the new Salomon team.
(Posted on Feb. 20, 2006)
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Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson
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