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Berlin 2007: race report

Friday, fair & meetings

On 28/9, while picking up my Press kit and accreditation at the Marriott, I came across one Mr. Haile Gerbselassie >> for the second time in my life. Eventually, he would run for 50.000€ on Sunday morning, breaking a World record that got him extra money. Aren’t we all in the wrong sport?
The weather is awful, rain and cold are expected for tomorrow’s race too: that’s why I decide here and now that I’m not going to participate. I’m too old for masochism and got new boots; besides I only trained for a short sprint against certain lady skater… Ms Andrea Haritchelar argued in my recent visit to Switzerland that she could easily beat me on a 100 meters sprint. So the challenge was on, and we are scheduled to race one on one after the marathon on Sunday morning.
In the Vital Fair I find many of the big names, although some of the superstars are not there yet: Team Hyper/Bont or Joey Mantia, for instance. I reckon that this year the skating stands are less and even poorer than last year, in addition the WIC presentation was a bit sad and melancholic, since some teams or athletes will not be here next time.
Speaking of skating products, there were few new items displayed: only RollerBlade and Powerslide presented a couple of 2008 models and the only new manufacturer to be there was CadoMotus. Prices this year were lower (even for MPC wheels), but all stuff for sale basically was last year’s or even older. I assume the only thing that sold very well was MPC Storm Surge wheels. Obviously.
Afterwards, the usual technical meeting took place. This time over it was nice to know that a big regional TV channel was to be covering the race live. Coni Altherr gave his advices, emphasizing that end-of-season’s habitual rumours should be quieted and that everyone relaxed and have fun at the party. Next was Mr Muller speech: the newly appointed Iguana boss said that the management was dissatisfied with this year’s result but they admit it was their fault for not placing the promised resources into this business. So their next step was to design a strategy that would expand WIC to new countries and more events. Hopefully they will succeed.
When the talking was over, the eating took place: this year the dinner was the best ever, with a richer and more abundant buffet, and plenty of drinks. Then we got on the buses and left for the hotels. As opposed as the last few years, me and my team mates decided to go to sleep early. In spite of that, the next morning I woke up tired and anxious: the bloody hotel assigned us a queen sized bed, so I spent the whole night keeping my rear guarded, as my mate Laure had a tendency to came too close and blow in the back of my head. He’s not my type, y’ know…

Can any of you give me her number? Please?  Er... something to say, guys?  "Und next year, ve vill have morre nude chicks"  

Saturday, wet racing day

We spent the morning resting, eating as if there was no tomorrow, and checking the weather forecast. By midday we went to have lunch with all the teams at the Holiday Inn, where once again we meet the crème-de-la-crème of our skating world. Right there we found out that Diego Rosero would not race, as he was limping around still hurt by his fall in Mainz a week before. Sadly, also Kalon Dobbin was out of the game (for a nasty muscular problem) as well as Luca Saggiorato (for an unknown illness).
At 2 in the afternoon everybody started boarding the buses that would take us to the starting line. It was not raining, but the sky was really dark, and the forecast announced bad news. On the bus, I got the chance to sit down with Massi and his team. We all chatted about skating’s general situation, the silly comparison between Chad and Joey (they all agreed with me, that’s crap) and what to do to promote our sport. I wonder if the big bosses ever listen to these guys! Well, at least Coni does.
When we got down the bus, we were greeted by a drizzle and a freezing cold wave, so everybody ran to the elite skaters tent in search of some warm. Massi was in high spirits (no wonder!), as opposed as Zanga: he almost sodomized me for touching his skates!

So she said, you're on, boy!   Man, I'm getting bald by the minute...  Piss off my skates, you wanker!  Horny Laure pictured in yellow  

Right, warming up time came. Helicopters flew above us in spite of the bad weather, and from a stage Olympic champion Anni Friessinger would give the start to the skaters. The drizzle becomes full grown rain at times, then stops, then starts again. Skaters pulled out their rain wheels, except the Hyper sponsored bunch: I feel sorry for them, they realized by now that it’s going to be a slippery journey. When they get ready a the starting line, I made my pictures as usual, but the shots were ruined by the line of volunteers keeping the skaters at bay on the line (there’s no ascending metal bar here).
The pro girls smiled at me, except Andrea H. that warned me: “Hey! I’m going to save myself for tomorrow’s race”. Right. My pants are wet, baby.
As for me, I have chosen to be on the race head minivan again. Since I hadn’t got nice company as last year (no lovely female managers this time over), I extended an invitation to Mr. Luigino to come along, since he obviously didn’t have an ultra-VIP/access-all-areas pass as mine.
Ok, then, time to race. The girls go first, and as in every WIC race I always watch in amazement as some people at the back that can barely skate correctly pass me by. The same can be observed in the male ranks. I wonder why these complete rookies are allowed to start in the pros’ area… The traditional 3-2-1 follows for men: in spite of Coni recommendation not to go before the pistol signal (because of TV cameras it would look unprofessional), a few eager skaters jumped ahead when the countdown reached 1. A few guys would sprint at a 1000 miles per hour, but the wet floor invited the bunch to a more cautious approach. See the race first moments in this video >> (RealPlayer content)
This year we had a more competent driver that knew his stuff, so for a good part of the race we could see what was going on in front of the pack, even from a very close standpoint. In fact, early in the race a small group attempted a breakaway, and shortly after we could see the beginning of Roger Schneider solo escape. The Swiss giant kept the lead for about 20 km at a high pace made by short strokes, due to the soaked asphalt. Several times we even had him at the van’s side so I could videoed him from a few inches away. The TV motorbike was closely following him, at one point our vehicles were side by side with Roger in the middle: later that night, I could see myself on the telly cheering Roger from the van!
Twenty minutes into the race I was surprised to notice that the girls were yet nowhere to be seen: their pace was certainly faster this time; in fact their individual titles were still at stake on this last race of the season. After overtaking a couple of delayed girls, Roger went down in a slight turn due to a huge puddle, but he got up in a second. Shortly after we drew near the ladies head bunch; before catching it we saw two of them falling in a roundabout: it was Haritchelar and Samir. When we passed them they were desperately trying to get aboard the train again (they eventually succeeded).
At that point, the male’s bunch was closing in fast, but we had to move away because this was an area chocked full of difficult turns. I wonder how these skaters would have negotiated those bends on such soggy conditions. In fact there were many falls, but none was serious. I think I even saw Iten going down, but I’m not sure it was him. I was happy to see so many spectators cheering up the athletes, in spite of the ugly weather. The newspapers reported the following morning that there were no less than 150.000!
Anyway: every time we couldn’t see what was going on in the pack, we had a nice chat with Luigino about girls and good ‘ol times. He told me that his involvement in speedskating was purely by chance, as he was passing by the roman streets where the 1992 World Championship was taking place. These days he’s expanding his business in the custom-made cycling shoes market, once again pioneering in a specific sporting need.
About 34 km into the race, we noticed that 4 skaters joined Schneider: Iten, Presti, Naselli and the not-so-rookie anymore Peter Michael, WIC’s revelation this season. At 55’ I told Luigino that at that pace they would finish the race in 1 hour 10’: ultimately I was wrong for a minute. A bit later our van speeded up towards the finish line. I thoroughly enjoy this part: it’s a crazy, exhilarating run between two lines of people passing through red traffic lights, something like a cinematic car chase in the city centre. The grandstands along the finish line were bigger this year, and full of people, giving this stadium feeling to the end of the race that is quite unique. The inline-village also boasted a mega-screen on one side of the Brandenburg Gate, on which the crow could see the live TV images. Another novelty for this edition of the race: a VIP pavilion close to the finish line, offering free drinks and food, with televisions showing the race. Since I arrived too early for my finish-line pictures and videos, I had a beer with Aracu and Marotta while watching on the screen a spectacular aerial scene featuring the escapees. It looked so good, Tour de France my arse! There and then I found out that Nicolas Iten broke away from the others, when he was approaching the Gate, I raced to the media bridge over the finish line, and videoed the arrival. Iten was too happy to cross the line first, Schneider and Michael fought for second, but Massi was struggling to be straight on his feet! He was like a pig on an oiled tiled floor, nevertheless he managed to came close to the first three. This guy is awesome! Naselli gave up in the last 200 meters, but a 5º was a good result for this young gun after so much hype and no consistency. See the last moments of the race below, courtesy of RBB:

A minute after the main bunch arrives, and I’m positively surprised to observe that the sprint was won by my good friend Patrizio Triberio, whose season was not his best ever. I’m happy also to see that among the first comers lays Mr. Stefano Galliazzo, who is almost as old as I am, but his performance today secured him a 3º place in the individual ranking. Grand Master!
A couple of male groups after, it’s the girls’ bunch landing. About a dozen of them were detached from the rest; it came as a surprise to see a CadoMotus lady crossing the line first. Mr Diederik Hol >> was jumping on the side like a stoned kangaroo. I didn’t recognize the second: no wonder, as it was German junior new kid on the block, Sabine Berg. What a year for her! On the main bunch I saw clearly that Lardani was among the first, but Gomez was nowhere to be seen: another individual title for the Italian. Honestly, I would have much preferred to see Sandra getting the championship, in my opinion she deserved it more than Laura, as well as her Alessi team. But that’s the way sport is.
By then the cold was getting into my bones, so I headed back to the VIP tent, where I had a nice conversation with Mr Muller about girls, WIC’s future and international politics. This suave Swiss gentleman is humble enough to admit that he knows very little about our sport, but hopefully his political and sponsor connections will serve WIC’s purposes. The elite skaters tent was a smelly mess, so I stood outside congratulating and helping the guys. Naselli and Hol were in high moods; in contrast Joey had a bitter smile in his face while he said to me: “This ought to be one of my worst races”. Many racers were trembling without control, as they were soaked up and freezing, so a great deal of them went straight to the buses with their skates on. I got a seat behind Andrea Haritchelar and Kalon Dobbin. The kiwi champion assured me his girlfriend would easily beat me the next morning. Man! What a fawner!


We took a hot reviving shower, get properly dressed (at least some of us) ate a quick snack, then boarded the buses to the legendary end-of-season party. The venue changed this year, being located exactly to the other side of the city, so it took almost 45 minutes to arrive. The first impression wasn’t positive: the entrance was depressing; the place looked like an airplane hangar. But there were three curtained cubicles with couches where the race’s video was being projected: smashing! While we watched and analyzed the race, the place started to fill in with a large crowd… Unfortunately, some local rock band ruined the ambient with horrid standard “classics”, played at an insufferable volume. When finally the rockers did shut up, it was prizing time with Aracu and Marotta doing the honors. Thank the gods this year the ceremonies and speeches where shortened. The absences of Saggiorato and anybody from Rollerblade was noticeable in the general man’s podium, as well as the lack of a uniform for Nicole Begg’s team. Well, I can’t complain about it, actually. In fact, Miss Ghizlaine Samir wore a mini skirt so short that I was able to have a full panoramic view of her knickers when she walked past me and Bill Begg down the stage. Glorious!

From then on the party really took off. While the Spaniards and Italians started the action, I was busy with interviews, politics and public relations, having decided to take the first bus leaving at 1 am. Years go by and time waits for no one, you know? On the bus, we were taking the piss to Massi, since the piece of art he’s got for being the overall winner looked like a pterodactyl with long pointing tits.

You don't know what you missed, man!

Usually I get to sit besides an attractive woman on this bus, but this time I got Mr. Paul Di Giulio, MPC’s big boss. While I definitely prefer to have a girl at my side on the way back home, by all means this was almost as good as an experience. Mr. Di Giulio is a fascinating character (he is a former fighter pilot!), and we spent the whole trip to the hotel chatting about wheels, the media and skating in general. I wish I had more time with him, but it was 2 in the morning, so I went to bed wearing the carbon-shelled underpants that I bought that same day. It was better to be on the safe side, as a drunken Laure might had come home later on, and perhaps my long hair and lean looks could confuse him to the extent that… Aw, forget it. Don’t even want to think about it!
I can’t report about the veracity of some spiteful scenes featuring a few famous young skaters, as this time I was not witnessing. Sorry.

Sunday, interviews and more racing

As my Spanish team mates would leave early on that morning, I was awaken at 8. Nasty! Down at the restaurant we met again with Diederik Hol, who talked about the new boots he’s designing, something “unique, never seen before in the market”. Looking forward to that! Later on I was giving and returning hugs and kisses, or interviewing prominent people. It was sad to know that Raphael Pfulg will retire from the pro arena: “It’s something I have to do right now. If I feel the need to return, I will”, he said.

I also had a chat with Mr Sabatino Aracu about politics and girls. He introduced me to a lady saying this: “Here’s an ally. He does a lot for our sport, but unfortunately he’s got a big drawback: he likes women too much”. Mr. Aracu told me that they are currently reorganizing FIRS’ structure, as their plan is to convert it to a “really big and strong federation that all the affiliated should imitate and follow”. We’ll see about that, sir.

Shut up, or we'll send you our hitman!

The Race of the Year

By noon, the athletic marathon was over. Since almost everybody had left by then, Andrea and me choose it as the right moment for our private contest. Not even Kalon was there, I guess he was still recovering from the hangover.

The duel is on, now. The streets are empty. The air stands still, not even a fly disrupts it. Lightning breaks the black sky in two; the subsequent thunder ominously announces this titan’s struggle in which there are no rules: only one will survive.

There she comes, in slow-motion Andrea walks through a cloud of crows that fly away as she goes past them. On the other side, her adversary undresses his black cape and take his sunglasses away, displaying a chiselled muscular body under a green skinsuit, while one of those desert bush balls seen in cowboy movies rolls away.

There she comes!

The skaters stand in front of each other, they cross an assassin glance, a devilish grin: the temperature around them is 15 degrees higher than the surrounding environment. Now they’re at the starting line, assuming the correct position, tensing muscles, eyes fixed on the trajectory. A member of the hotel staff gives the starting signal with a napkin, there they go!

A hundred meters for people like them are burned in a less than 10 seconds burst, they cross the line in a spectacular hawk at the same time! A fotofinish was necessary, but not available. The historic moment is pictured to the right, since there was no photographer either.

Andrea in Athleticum red. The contender, in green.

With great sportsmanship we shook hands, and resolved to let it at a honourable draw, even if after a while Andrea declared that she had to respect my old age, to which I answered that being a natural born gentleman I would always follow the rule: ladies first.
This must be settled next year, unless a baby Kalon is in the oven…

M. Bresin ©

The Colombian Hematocrit Case
Homologated banked tracks