The Team May Introduce Bigger Big Wheels to the Competition
Saab-Salomon is one of the three teams expected to challenge Fila International this year for the World Inline Cup.
Last year, the team finished second in the standings, and landed three of its skaters in the top-ten in the individual rankings.
This year, Saab-Salomon's top two skaters -- Pascal Briand and Franck Cardin -- have returned to the team. But it lost its No. 3 skater, Juan Carlos Betancur, who finished seventh in last year's individual World Cup rankings.
The 28-year-old Colombian left the team during the off season and has been devoting more of his time to managing Supersonic, the company that he and fellow team mates started in 2002. (Betancur also became engaged to the U.S. inline speed skater Ashley Horgan.)
Despite the loss of Betancur, the team remains powerful: All five of its skaters ranked in the top-20 of last year's individual rankings.
We asked Betancur and team leader Pascal Briand (fourth-ranked in last year's individual rankings) for their thoughts on the 2005 season.
Here's what they had to say ...
Robert: What kind of changes do you expect this year?
Pascal: Every year things are different. This year, many skaters have changed teams, and the evolution of skate technology has been higher again. Also, the people who lost last year have returned more motivated to win.
Robert: Do you expect Fila to be as dominating as they were last year in the World Inline Cup?
Pascal: I'm sure they won't. Maybe they will win a few races, but not as many as last year.
This year Salomon, Rollerblade and Bont are more closely matched to Fila. Fila lost (Francesco) Zangarini, who was a key man for the finish.
My guess is that no team will dominate the circuit, but that the top four teams will trade the lead from one moment to another.
Robert: What is your assessment of the Bont and Rollerblade teams?
Pascal: Bont is a nice team composed of ex-skaters from Salomon, Rollerblade and Fila. They are great skaters, nice and fast.
Rollerblade is similar to our team, except they have no real sprinter. However, they have lots of experience with Shane Dobbin, Diego Rosero and Jorge Botero, so they should be strong on tricky and small courses, like Basel.
Copyright © 2006 by Robert Burnson
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