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Engadin '07: race report

Another year, a new World Cup stage in Switzerland. For the “pros”, it surely is like another day at the office, but for us poor souls, every one of these is a brand new and exciting adventure. This time over, a trimmed down Team Speedsk8rs arrive to the World famous Saint Moritz (Laure Sintes stayed at home, the missus did not authorize his trip).
Seated in the middle of Engadin valley, it’s a charming place that lifts the heart as soon as you set eyes on it. In fact, for ages it’s been the aristocracy’s winter location to be seen, while during summer months it’s a well known altitude training center for the professional teams of many sports. The Spanish brothers Ruiz cannot hide their amazement at the sheer view of this wonderful region, even in spite of living in a place as much as beautiful as this one. Hey, that’s a freakin' glacier, man!

Danny the Beast  Carlos the Charmer 

The hotel send us somebody to pick us up at the train station: lovely accommodation situated just steps away from the Inline Village. We must express our gratitude to Sylvianne & Coni Altherr for having us there! We arrive with plenty of time to be at the pre-race technical meeting in a nearby hotel, but our cultural requirements to taste the local beer makes us get late: when we get into the room, Coni’s already speaking about the next stage in China. The only person who notices our entering is Tamara, she waves her hand and says “hello” to us, sporting a smile that would melt our Hypers.

Afterwards, Coni’s right hand would explain the technical aspects of tomorrow’s race: Frenchman Cristophe Audoire puts some emphasis on the potentially dangerous downhill at St. Moritz exit (about halfway the race). Also, he points out something that sounds weird to me: from this race on there will be no disqualification if female do mix with male athletes (and there is no difference in the outcome of the race).

Unfortunately for a couple of well known ladies, that’s exactly what happened a couple of weeks back in Dijon! When he finishes, Chirstophe asks if there are any questions. Mr Bill Begg’s peculiar voice booms in the room: “Well, what are the guidelines for the arrival sprint?”. He has reasons to ask that particular question: last year his daughter Nicole was disqualified for supposedly crossing the adversarie’s lines. An acrid discussion between both men follows, they unfold pictures of several arrivals, compare trajectories… They cannot agree, as Cristophe maintains that the skaters must follow a straight line from the start of the sprint and keep it, which might be logical if the final 200 meters or so were straight… Which is not the case in this race! Bill is furious at this stage and insults the Frenchman, Christophe answers that if Bill’s implying any favoritism to his girlfriend’s team (Alessi Powerslide), he’s wrong. At this point things were getting really rogue, so Coni closed the argument for good: “What are we talking about here? Does it something to do with tomorrow race? Is the final trajectory clear to everybody? Well, in that case I’d like to conclude this meeting”. Then he approached us extending his hand. What a lovely guy! Daniel came out with an original comparison: he said that if Coni was the Bernie Ecclestone of the skating world, I was the Flavio Briatore!I liked the idea, so did Coni. Sounds good, does it?
Coming out of the room we met the nice Argentinian ladies, the Colombian guys, Mrs Desly Hill and Cathy Peñán, the Chilean beauty. We walk with them to the Inline Village, were we would have something to eat, get our racing chips and take some incriminatory pictures that we won’t publish but will serve their purpose to black-mail our victims. On a table we find Coni, Bill and Christophe having a whisky. They call me, order me to sit down and pour me a shot of Jonnie Walker. “So, what the hell was that back there?”, I ask them. They laugh, and the answer was something like “Oh, don’t worry, we’re almost always like that. It’s part of the show”. Is it? I wonder.

The conversation then steers towards America’s Cup, and Coni points out that he used to sail at the top level. “Then why on earth did you switch from such a prestigious sport to little poor skating?”, I ask him. “Everyone makes mistakes”, he answers.
We get back to our hotel just in time to see Zepto Team’s arrival, but the Ruiz brothers wouldn’t pay attention to the Germans, because in the lobby we came upon Maria Mutula, the great Olympic champion. She’s training here with her team, as well TVM, the Dutch ice speedskating pro-team. These guys really got the money!
Outside it’s cold and rainy, but the forecast seems good for the next 24 hours. We better go to bed, tomorrow will be a long day.

Racing day

Luckily, the Spaniards did not snore nor emitted any flatulence during the night, so everybody wakes up fresh and rested. The sky is cloudy, but there’s no rain. Our team gets down to the restaurant just in time before the restaurant’s closure. We ate half a dozen ostrich eggs, 4 buffalos, 2 brontosaurus, a ton of cereals and 3 croissants, washed down by liters of coffee and fruit juice. Man, the Swiss really know how to breakfast!
With full tummies and high spirits we stroll to the Inline Village, to see who’s there and what they sell. First, we meet Ronan Sanchez (Timerman Powerslide) who says to me: “I’m not happy with what you’ve written”. He refers to my Spanish affaire article >>. I said: “Well, I just presented the facts and the opinion of the decision-makers. It’s up to the readers to take their own conclusions; I’m not taking anybody’s defense here”. He’s still not happy with that, and I guess he’s not able to read English properly: the Ruiz brothers will confirm that. I’m really sorry for him; if he does not wake up quickly he’ll pay dearly for being involved in a stupid politic plot.

On a stand we discovered a bargain box where we found some old cheap RollerBlade jackets. We are already the last among the least, and now we sport these three year old models, but we look like a proper team now. Team Albania, perhaps, but a pro-team nevertheless. The skinsuits are an entirely different matter; I still need to solve that problem.

Team RealBollocks

We then cheer some more famous racers, visit Davide Mariani in his boot’s booth, and abundantly salivate in front of CadoMotus’ stand. I expected to see here Mr. Diederik “Big Butt” Hol, but the lucky Dutchman was doing some business in Asia.
Some pasta for lunch, and it’s already time to catch the bus that will take us all to the starting point. It’s a 20 minute nice ride among dreamy vistas, or that’s what they told me, as I wouldn’t take my eyes away from a foxy blond lady seated in front of us. She’s got the right equipment, and my race strategy is defined there and then: I’m following that ass for the whole 42 km and even further; maybe I’ll have enough time to chat her into my room. Since we got down the bus I kept her under control, but then my journalistic job interfered and I lost her forever. I hope you readers appreciate my sacrifice to bring you the end of this report!
As we reached starting point about an hour before the race, we lied down on the floor among thousands of skaters, taking it easy, while Double A (Canadian star Aaron Arndt) is already warming up on skates. He’s the only one! It must be a Canadianism, or perhaps a maple syrup overdose.

But the starting hour comes fast, it’s time to get ready. Since we are at about 1800 meters of altitude, as soon as the sun is covered by clouds the wind blows icy needles in our ears. Should I put on a jacket, or not? The Ruiz bros wear their awful uniforms, and I really feel ashamed to be seen near them.


While I’m attaching my chip, Andrea Gonzalez and Tamara Llorens pass by and say hello. Tamara asks me if I had proper training. “Sure, baby: enough to avoid dying of a heart attack before the fifth kilometer!” She proceeds to give me tactical advice to race against the veteran Italian warriors. “Thank all the same, but I got tired of winning to those slow bonkers back in our day”. She now sits between her teammates and goes on: “If you win, you must publish that it was thanks to your great lady coach”. “Well”, I reply, “to win a race like this I need a much greater motivation, something like sleeping with the whole RollerBlade female team”… She keeps her cool and says: “Deal!” Yeah, sure. Now that’s something I need to train hard for!
Patrizio Triberio is pulling on his skinsuit, I came from behind and stroke his nipples. At first he did not recognize me: you should have seen his face! Andrea Haritchelar sees me dressed as a real skater (sort of) and asks me if I’m racing too. “Of course my dear! Who do you think I am, some nerd that runs a website in Spanish?
It’s time to get into my journo mode. The real pros are aligning themselves on the starting line, so I go on with my camera, catching some interesting expressions and a very erotic moment between Andrea González and Karina Morales. I’m a professional, am I not?

My coach  Des&Cher  Mel&Nat  Hey! You perv! 

Massi & Co give me a hug, they can’t count on Zangarini today: the jackass had too much sex during national trials a few days back, and now has his balls swollen. The official version is that he suffers a muscular strain, so let’s assume that's true.
Moments before the starting blast, I place myself at the front line between Massi and PierDavide just for a picture, which I’ll send to my little mountain hometown newspaper headlines, to be entitled “We have a native racing the WIC!”. The youngsters that don’t know me put faces like “Waddafook is this old fart doing here?” . But the picture would not come out right, as my face shows a painful quirk: while it was being taken, Saggiorato and Triberio sexually abused me. Massi asked them to behave, but it was too late, my skinsuit has a hole back there. No matter: if I had to loose my virginity away, I’m happy it happened with the two best looking guys the WIC has to offer (apart from Joey Mantia, but he’s not my type). By the way, rumours are true: while Patrizio is extremely well stocked down there, Luca’s got a rather short frame.

OUCH! The pain, oh the pain!

The wind blows in the right direction, the sun comes out: it is a good day for racing. My teammates will start in the second line group, hopefully they’ll make me proud… or at least less ashamed. Three, two, one, business as usual: Bang! The long skater’s snake take the first bend in less than 30 seconds, it’s going to be a fast pace. The helicopter is taken cinematic images from up there: where can we find its videos? Sooner or later I’ll find out.

Now it’s the ladies turn. They group by the line and are already hitting themselves in the back of the head, grabbing and pushing, extending their claws. Man, they really need a good shag before starting! I joke with some of them, just for a slim comic relief: “Hey, I’m going to film you from behind again, and will do a ranking for the fattest ass!” They smile, point taken. But hey! Am I already having visions, or do I see Mrs Cheryl Begg and Mrs Desly Hill ready to start in the crowd? I can’t bloody believe my eyes, this is like the Clash of the Titans, part two! I wish I’m able to catch them and skate near them during the race: for you new generations, it would be like playing tennis with Steffi Graf, or to play one on one with Magic Johnson. And there they go! The ladies start as fast as the guys.

Now it’s my suicide time. I’m racing (sort of) among the fitness ranks, there’s like 3000 of us. I’m almost 1.80 mt tall, but I feel like a squirrel among elephants. These guys are huge! Anyway, considering the altitude and climate, plus my age, training level and sexual abstinence, I have only one choice if I want to finish today: to go as slow as possible. No problem, said and done. I found a group of Jurassic athletes, and stick to them for a while, except during uphills (where I crawled almost to a stop) and downhills (where I speeded past them like park benches). The road was so smooth, the panoramas so enchanting… I went down singing, chatting and taking pictures. I even passed Thomas Boucher, who must have suffered some technical problem. When I reached St. Moritz I seriously thought about stopping for a beer or two, as I lost one of the Heineken cans I had in my back pocket, but just then I reached living legends Cheryl and Desly. I strolled away with them for a while: the ladies were taking it real easy, reminiscing good ‘ol times and laughing their asses off. Cheryl got a bit pissed by all these amateurs passing us by without showing any respect, so I tried to comfort her by saying: “Speaking of technique, style and looks, we have no rivals here, me dear”. Then I asked them where the hell was that supposedly dangerous downhill: as soon as I finished the phrase it presented itself in front of us. To be honest, it didn’t appear that dodgy to me, but then again, I was not competing the way pros do: they surely did land down there at about a hundred miles per hour! On the right side of the road there was some sort of carpet to allow people to go down slowly. The ladies asked me to stay with them, I thought about it for a moment: in other conditions I would have accepted the offer, but descending on the carpet would have taken the fun from me, so I said farewell then went straight down. Actually, I pushed and gained some extra speed, since in front of me at the entrance of the downhill there were some newbies T-stopping and wriggling on their skates: I just wanted a clean road for myself. It was exhilarating and I passed like a dozen more rookies on my way down, so when the surface started to be plain again I wanted some more. I’d seen much harder downhills in my day, granted.
Problem is, after a few kilometers, there was a long way up at Pontresina. It took the smile away from my face, to the extent that I wanted to quit and get my money back.

A nice young lady came to my rescue: she passed me, I was outright attracted by her perfectly rounded buttocks and followed them blindly to the end of the hill. From then on it was another long promenade in the mountains, with my new friend Armin who cut the wind for me for about the last 10k or so.

Armin: my taxi (thanks mate)

Obviously, I let Armin way back when I saw the finish line, engaging into my dreadful sprint. As soon as I crossed the line I realized something interesting: I was not sweaty at all! Was it maybe because of my brand new CadoMotus PRO frame? Never in my life had I finished a marathon so fresh! Well, it was more than understandable as I checked my time: this race for me was slower than a Peter Doucet’s time trial.
I found Carlos and Danny in the crowd, then we headed together to the train that would take us back to St. Moritz. Carlos was OK with his 134º placement; his brother was not with an 80º. I guess I did the best job of the team by coming in 67º (in my own category, of course).
The pro guys were quiet as usual, all cool, no problemo there. The girls were putting up a circus instead. It seems the Alessi team followed a diagonal path again during the final sprint (Rollerblade Team presented a formal protest), while on their back it was the International Grab Festival. French bombshell Ghizlaine was looking for somebody to strangle, several Germans were life threatening a judge, the Argentineans were screaming and pushing each other and Bill Begg was barking like a Great Dane. Boy, isn’t this sport fun!

During the train ride, we saw down the road a very long line of skaters going towards the end of the course, while the Spaniards wouldn’t take their helmets and eyewear away. They never fail to embarrass me, apparently. In fact, we miss the bus that would take us from the station to the hotel, so we started skating back home, but unfortunately we encounter Laura Lardani and Michaela Neuling walking back to their hotel too. Now, as Danny has a soft spot for Laura, and his brother has one for anybody else, I have no choice but to follow them. After a long sequence of elevators and escalators, we found ourselves in the high part of town, miles away from our hotel. The girls ask us where the hell are we going: I wish I could disappear under my bearings.

Back to the plain, we skate through a beautiful path in the lakeshore where we encounter Double A, his Canadian girlfriend and young Italian star Dario Danese. Now, Aaron’s girlfriend is a nice lady, no doubt, but I'm being told that also the other Canadian WIC skater Andrew Hegarty has a fellow national girlfriend (Ziegler) …

Is this another Canadianism, to import girls from their own country? I mean, when abroad the Brithish take their own tea and the Italians need their own coffee, right? Or is it that Canadians are simply not able to catch local prey?
Anyway, let’s get ready: we have a party tonight!

Party? What party?

Shower, proper clothes, then away to the party at the Inline Village. Everybody was talking about this event, which actually is the only reason I came down here, so expectations were high… but given my age, I was not planning to stay over midnight, or at least until I catch a glimpse of what this orgy was supposed to be. Local bands play a series of classics on stage, beer flows freely. I bumped into sweet Hoa from Athleticum Rollerblade, and asked her if she’s satisfied with today’s results. “My boys are not, you know. After all these years, they’d like to be more on the podium. They should attempt more breakaways ”… Given today’s racing conditions, I must agree with her. I noticed with disappointment that almost all Italians guys are not present at the Village, so the party will probably never take off, although somebody points out that Gavin Polloks is in the house: will he save the day? I’ll never knew, as I was not able to get hold of him (again). When prizing time came, we all shared a truly funny moment watching Kalon performing the karaoke remix of the kiwi national anthem, while an already drunk Peter Michael directed the orchestra with a finger and a skate from the top of the podium. One of those priceless moments this sport has to offer!

After prizing is over, Coni calls me and orders me to get to the VIP lounge. In there we only find the male Powerslide team still discussing the race, a few local politicians and judges. Coni brings a bottle of wine and we all quickly finish it, just in time to open another one for Bill Begg’s arrival to our table. We engage an animated conversation about our favorite technical subject: sex. Well, in truth it was mostly Bill’s monologue, and we must admit it was instructive and fun, even if the Spaniards understood half of what he said!

When I check the clock, it’s more than twelve: we get out of the VIP lounge and only find a Suiss drunken mass dancing to some yodeling polka or something. Where the hell is everybody else? Danny suggests that they might have gone to sleep, I won’t believe it. But it’s too late for me, besides I couldn’t bother since there were less than slight chances of getting laid at that point. However, the two morons kept me awake until three in the morning, chatting all along about skates and skating. Man, get a life!
Just a short distance away, though, the real party was taking place. Those in the know left the Inline Village for a disco nearby, and the celebrations lasted well after the sun came up. I can tell you that more than one internationally acclaimed male skater was heavily drunken and completely messed up, while a certain stocky individual well known for his coaching talent was filmed while ludicrously dancing on a table. But the real scandal was this very famous female athlete, moving herself in a very suggestive way while being sandwiched by two much younger skaters (that would underpin her from both sides, the dirty bastards). Cook me! I’m glad I was not there! See the shocking scene below:

Now, jokes aside: this reminds me that, at the end of the day, all this amusement is the second best thing that we can gain from sports: traveling to exotic/wonderful places with great people that boast our same passion for skating, to share a fantastic adventure with beloved friends and massive amounts of fun… An extraordinary experience that we’ll never forget even if many years go by.
What? You’re asking me which is the best single thing we can get from sport?
Come on, use your brains.

M. Bresin ©

More stuff about Engadin '07

Complete results >>
Aaron Arndt report >>
Sigrid Ziegler report >>
Stephan Keel photo-album >>  

Spanish flies
What's wrong with Italians?