Winner - Jimmy Blair celebrates as he crosses the finish line in Round Rock.
Pinnacle Racing's Jimmy Blair came from behind in the sprint of today's Texas Road Rash to win the first event of the 2007 North American outdoor racing season.
The 27-year-old indoor skater from Cumming, GA, finished two-tenths of a second in front of Bont North America's Jake Sawyer. Bont's Jordan Nelson was third.
Veteran Bont skater Debbie Rice won the women's race. Stephanie Combs was second.
The six-lap inline marathon at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock got off to a leisurely start. But before long, members of the Bont and Pyro Apparel teams started testing the field with breakaways, giving the race an accordion-like pace.
None of the breakaways was successful, and about two miles from the finish line, the skaters who remained in the pack began positioning themselves for the finish with the Bont team in front.
With about 1000 meters to go, Jarrod Fischer, a member of the 2005 junior world team, started sprinting and took the lead.
On the Podium - Debbie Rice atop the Road Rash podium. Next to her the second and third place winners hold their "Cheese Grater" trophies.
That got the rest of the skaters moving, and after a short chase, the leaders began to pass Fischer, who faded to seventh.
Bont's Sawyer and Nelson took the lead with Ryan Chrisler, Randy Bowman and Jimmy Blair following.
"I was hurting after the first two laps, so I didn't know how much I would have left for the sprint," Blair said. "But on the last corner, I just put my head down and started sprinting."
Blair took the lead about 100 meters before the finish line and rolled across comfortably for the win.
Just behind him, Sawyer, Nelson and Chrisler hawked the line for second and third place with Sawyer and Nelson winning the podium spots. Pyro Apparel's Randy Bowman finished fifth.
Bont's Norm Kirby was near the front but somersaulted to the pavement before the finish line. He suffered road rash but was not seriously injured.
Debbie Rice's strategy in the women's race was to stay with the men's lead pack as long as possible. (The event allows cross-drafting.)
The 39-year-old from Denham Springs, LA, stayed with the lead pack for three laps before falling back. She skated the next two laps alone before the second men's pack, which included Combs, caught up with her.
The two women finished with the pack; Rice two seconds ahead of Combs, who won the 2005 Road Rash. The next woman finished 14 minutes back.
This year's Road Rash, the fourth annual, attracted 187 skaters. Organizers said they had expected a few more but some may have been scared off by the forecast of rain. (The sky was overcast but no rain fell during the morning.)
After the race, the city of Round Rock, which puts on the race, treated skaters and their families to a Texas-style barbecue. During the awards ceremony, the city unveiled new Road Rash trophies, shaped to look like cheese graters, which, like pavement, can rub a person the wrong way.