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Berlin '06: race report

Friday, Sept. 22th

9:00 am, Marriott Hotel – Since I was not able to train properly, I wouldn’t want to make a fool of myself as I did last year in this same race, so better stick to the journalistic side of things. I pick my credentials and go to my hotel.
11:00 am, Mercure Hotel, Siemensdam Str. – As there are more official teams competing this time, organizers need to use two hotels: the usual Holiday Inn Esplanade, where all important teams and personalities are lodging…. And a Mercure, where all those poor teams and snoops as yours truly are staying for the event. As it happens, aside from a so-called journalist, this time I’m also a so-called team manager of a sorry little Spanish team shaped by Mr Laure Sintes and the two Ruiz brothers (two more guys were not able to attend). The three would not arrive until later tonight; I’ll write about them afterwards.
4:30 pm, Berlin Sports Fair – A small sector of the huge fair is devoted to skating material. Although it’s difficult to walk around due to the large crowd, sales might have not been satisfactory, because prices are ludicrously steep. The Matters where up to 150 euros, we even see the 2007 models (not in the market yet), but we didn’t dare to enquire about the price as we almost expected to pay just for asking.
6:00 pm, Race presentation – Usual speeches, autograph signatures, spectacular videos, live music: the presentation went smooth but not as jam-packed as last year’s. To Mr Bill Begg we ask: Hey, how’s Cali this time of the year? His reply: “Hot and full of beautiful women”. There’s no way I’m going to miss next World’s edition, granted.

7:00 pm, Restaurant Brandenburg (Hall 24) – The technical meeting takes place here. First, Mr. Altherr tells us news regarding next season, like male teams of 4 skaters and female with 3. He goes on with a report about what was missed by those who failed to attend Suzhou’s race. Then, Mr. Heinz Schurtenberger (Chairman of GlobalSports) said that in spite of their merging with WIC’s organization, very little will change as the job was perfectly done up to now. He added that their immediate objective will be the support of growing markets like Germany and Asia.

Afterward, it’s the race director’s turn. Mr. Alexander Uphues gives a few remarks about the course, then points out that there is a 6000 € bonus for race record breaking (1 hour 8 seconds) and dynamic teams. Finally the main referee, a German lady, scares us all to death. No cheating here, punks. Or else.

Bosses speech

9:00 pm, same place – An unsophisticated dinner is offered to everybody. I have the pleasure of sitting among the MMC Salomon Team, which by now adopted me as some sort of pet. Massi is absent, the other guys joke about him. Saggio rubs Zangarini’s back in a tender and quite suspicious way, Romani gives a puzzled look at it.
After dinner I go to get my team’s packs of numbers and chips… to no avail.

WIC’s clerk suggests I should try at the main hall, where the other 8000 packs are. There, I’m not surprised to find only Laure’s pack, because the other two were registered in the elite division at the very last minute.
Later on I will realize that Laure was registered as a woman: it’s not the first time this happens to him, and it’s certainly due to his unusual name, because the guy doesn’t even have a feminine side (look at him >>)

Laure: mammouth not pictured

10:30 pm, Holiday Inn – A drink, some conversation… then everybody goes to bed because in a few hours a hard work’s day will start.
11:58 pm, Mercure hotel – Team arrives and wakes me up. They are in high spirits and eagerly to chat. I’m not, of course. Bloody rookies.


• Coach and sparring partner: the catalan Laure Sintes. A decent veteran skater, scientifically geared coach with an eye for technique. For him every race is the final of the Galactic Championships, and aims at beating his own personal mark here. Although he tends to race among women and wears queer's skinsuits, he’s a tough guy.
• Lead racer: Daniel Ruiz. Young, talented and bright. He’s so concentrated in his skating career that he does not handle appropriately the opposite sex, in spite of his good looks. He’s here to make an impression...
• Captain, bodyguard: Carlos Ruiz. A socialite, a gentleman, a playboy outside races. A blood thirsty, hardened gladiator on the field. The specular image of his younger brother, a perfect complement.
• Team manager: Yours truly. An ex-racer that still didn’t realized his "ex" condition, an erudite about female nature (skaters and non skaters).

Rapists combo: Caution, stay clear (manager not pictured)

Saturday, Sept. 23th

10:00 am, Berlin Sports Fair – After breakfast, the paupers team get back to the fair hoping to collect the missing chips and numbers. Fortunately all is OK now, so they can hurry up for the lunch served at the Holiday Inn.
1:00 pm, Holiday Inn – The crème-de-la-crème of international skating is there. One of our team mates goes frantic due to the arrival of Tamara Llorens: a quick slap in the neck put things right for the moment. Bill Begg comes to our table, while I’m introducing him the Spanish guys are totally in awe, like having a celestial revelation. Come on: the guy's not so handsome!

2:30 pm, Holiday Inn – Time to go to the starting point. Two buses left from the hotel; even though adrenalin is breathable in the air and a positive current cross the ambient, there are much less jokes and laughs as opposed as last year. There is a simple reason for this: not present are Patrizio Triberio, Matteo Polletti, Gianluca Garofalo, the Scavo brothers, Gary Lerga, the American racers…

Haha! You don't even race, prat!

In fact, some of the most prominent party animals the skating world has ever seen. Nevertheless, we still have aboard the MMC Salomon team (now complete with Massi). They supply the necessary amount of laughter, taking the micky on whoever risks passing near them.

2:50 pm, Starting point – As soon as they arrive, the skaters put on the gear and proceed to warm up. There’s a noticeable improvement this time around: double grand stands surround the arrival/departure line. I guess that roughly they can contain no less than 5000 people. I’m in mixed mode now: journalist and team manager. I hear Alessi giving instructions to his athletes. Rather obvious instructions, I must add.
4:00 pm, Starting point – The “fitness” 12 km race starts. I take Laure (who is not racing among the elite) and accommodate him in the first row of the adrenalin junkies like him. Some people laugh at his female dorsal number. I’m still amazed to see all these middle aged, grey haired, beer tummy executives wearing all kinds of protections with the most expensive skates (and the best wheels) available in the market. Thank God for them. My next task is to make sure they have my name in the head-of-race-car list. My intention is to film and take as much pictures as I can to the skaters.
4:25 pm, Starting point – I give my last piece of advice to my team (“race with your head, morons!”), take the last pictures of the starting groups, then run to the press car, where I’ll have the good company of Aurelie (Salomon’s team manager), Hoa (Athleticum’s team manager) and the special reporter from a big local paper, Mrs. Gaby Hauser.


The Race!

4:30 pm, Starting point – The women’s race commences, they disappear in an eye’s blink.
4:35 pm, Starting point – Three, two, one… Bang! Rollerblade’s team take the lead, our driver decides there and then that we will never be closer than 150 mts to the skaters during the whole race. Between the cloud of motorcycles and the stupid police van, most of the course I’ll be frustrated and pissed because it will be impossible to discern what’s going on. I take a mental note: if I want to properly cover a race, next time I better hitch a bike!
Aurelie hangs dangerously herself outside our van to take pictures; while Gaby gives us a guided tour of the city… in exchange we explain to her certain technical aspects.
First minute, team Fila is at the head, while the group takes form behind. Third minute, the peloton zig-zags in a couple of narrow bends, everybody tries to gain a better position. At five minutes, there is a noticeable acceleration and a small group of German and Swiss skaters try the first, weak escape. After six and a half minutes, a real breakaway is produced by ten men, but a minute later they’re neutralized. Things are quiet for a while until minute 12, when the group moves like a gigantic snake, because nobody wants to lead.

15 and a half minutes, another short breakaway made by 3 reckless athletes (a RB skater, a German and a non-identified one). About a minute later, the peloton eats, digests and ultimately defecates the 3 daring skaters. Twenty minutes on the race, we surpass the ladies group: Rollerblade plus Gegner and Begg are leading comfortably.

The men skate away as an unstoppable train, but another series of bends and counter-bends slow things a bit down. At 27 minutes, a real escape happens: Boucher, Caballero, Zangarini and the two kiwis from team Inline World decide it’s time to go. Mid race, the time is 30 minutes 41 seconds: the record will be hard to beat.
Inzbrückenplatz, the escapees are still a few blocks in front of the main pack. 38 minutes: a small group of 4 chasers get hold of the escapees, 60 seconds later the group is about to absorb all of them, but the original 6 runaways push the gas and leave again. Not for much: Zangarini is asked to take the lead but he excuses himself, on the grounds that his team is awaiting him. In fact, at 41 minutes the pack joins together once more in the old western part of the city. At 44, the group passes in front of the Congress Center, at this point nobody will try to risk anything else. It’s a too fast and difficult race to have so many tricks. Water post is at hand: with 15 minutes to the end, nobody gives a toss as they’re starting to study each other for the sprint. With less than 10 km to skate, the rolling human wave starts to gain speed. There are still hundreds of guys in there, it’s time to clean the field. Changes at the head of the peloton are swift and impossible to distinguish by now. We think that maybe the record will not be broken, but the finishing time will be very close to one hour sharp.
By the 46th minute, the constant acceleration left on the road only 3 big groups of about 30 skaters each, and I feel like speeding in a fireman’s truck. Reaching km 39, those guys skate at a pace suitable for a time trial.

Our driver decides to get us quickly to the arrival line. We all run to the bridge after it, where we will have a privileged view of the last meters of the race. I take the time to admire a couple of the very good looking volunteer ladies that will help the exhausted athletes… and the stands packed with people! It seems like being in a football stadium, such a great sight.

Anne-Marie: Clitorade dispenser

The peloton approaches now Brandenburg Gate. It poses a problem this year: the skaters must go through 4 of its columns, with a maximum span of 4 meters between them. Obviously, everybody would want to choose the central path, so we’re praying that none of them end their lives as a meat stamp. But at this stage the pace has such speed that the group is narrow enough to pass trough the columns without much problem. From the Gate to the finish line there’s 500 mts more or less: Guyader is the one who launches the final attack, but the MMC Salomon taxi follows him under a vigilant eye. The Frenchman places himself quite savvy, but I still don’t know why a second later he stumbles and flies viciously in the air. Now team Salomon, having positioned Saggiorato in the right spot, has an easy life: all they need to do is to spread themselves on the line. The only one having trouble in the final inches is Romani, compelled to stretch his short leg in front of the oversized Botero. A fraction of a second later the main pack arrives, and I’m quite happy to see that Dani is there. A good 67º place for a first timer spells mission accomplished.
Download the video of the arrival here >> [4.242 KB]

Now it’s the chicks' turn. Just after the Gate, Haritchelar gets off in order to avoid a cloud of inexperienced girls that risk a nasty fall at terminal velocity. Unfortunately that’s too early for the argentinian, a situation quickly exploited by Turchiarelli and other athletes. The winner is defined at the fotofinish: from my elevated point of view I really thought that Llorens was victorious this time (if I was behind the finish line, I wouldn’t certainly have made that mistake).
Download the video of the arrival here >> [4.530 KB]

Inside the female pack I’m able to see Carlos (1’10, a personal best). I would have done the same… I mean, glide with women, that is. Also Laure beats himself (1’15). I congratulate my team, then skate to the Marriott where the press conference will take place in a while.
Official results here >>

post race

Press conference

6:50, Marriott hotel – After anti-doping controls, winners are subjected to the press conference. Presti, the unquestionable leader, answers most of the questions in good English. Zanga also speaks well, his answers intelligent. On the other hand, Saggiorato does not speak English, nor Italian. He’s almost monosyllabic, saying all the time “everything nice”, “all OK”, “I’m happy”. To be honest, he might give the impression of suffering some kind of syndrome, but his natural personal appeal compensates his clumsiness in public. After a complicated question that required a lengthy answer from the other two, Saggio finally found some loquacity and says more that a couple of phrases… At which Massi would translate simply enough: “He said just the same as we did”. Everybody roared in lughter.

Quite a different business, the girl’s conference. Only Turchiarelli and Vaudan attend, because Gomez is still in the doping control. In contrast with the men’s show, this conference is as exciting as a mormon’s fight. These two girls obviously are not used to being in the limelight, so they put on a rather boring act. Luckily in less than 10 minutes it’s over, so we can all dive to the luxurious buffet and drinks offered by the organizers. Man, I love this job.

Girls: deadly boring

8:00 pm, Brandenburg Gate - We proceed to the awards ceremony at the Inline Village, where a big stage has been set up. At this time of the day, the crowd there is still impressively huge: hundreds of people cheer up the winners, and for sure they will be there until late that night, dancing and celebrating. But we have another party to attend to.

Sabine: see you at the party, dear?

The Party

10 pm, Axel Springer Pasage – As I stated before, this year we are missing some of the best “party animals”, so there’s little chance the gathering is as much fun as last year’s… Especially because this time over there is only one free drink for the skaters!
While I do my job, the Spaniards get together and start talking about technique and stuff: Carlos soon gets bored and aims his weapons to a well known Belgian skater. A sight to behold: Bill Begg properly attired in trousers and shirt causes quite an impression.
Awarding time comes soon: at the very first, Saggio is nowhere to be found, so Luca Presti has to take his place. We will never know what was he doing. Maia, the official kisser, looks like being edible. I ask her who should I kill to have one of those kisses: she answers by giving me one for free. Advantages of my position, I guess.

Maia: tasty     

The season’s honours are being given, and it’s a bit sad to witness what could be the last time for Botero and Briand up on the stage. Later, I have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Kai Menze, team manager of Creative Rolleblade, who seems to be a connoisseur of “mojitos”, and the legendary Mike Van Erp, head of the merry LondonSkaters posse. Hey! There was 70 of them racing this year, d’ you know? Mr Gavin Polloks is too busy with the ladies to answer my call. You're forgiven, Sir.

Miami Vice  El Presidente  What`s with the cow?  Mooo yourself! 
You talkin' to me?  You talkin' to me?  Not drunk yet  Always drunk 

All said and done, at 2:00 am most of the WIC circus clowns and wizards are boarding the last bus directed to the Holiday Inn. Tamara Llorens sits at Marc Christen’s side. I suppose the young Swiss has his charms, but she fails to resist my order to get up and sit with me at once. We start chatting amiably, but after a while I’m forced to interrupt her and ask my Spanish team mates to sod off, as they’re still amazed at such a display of savoir-faire from their own manager.
When we arrive, I kiss Tamara au revoir and inmediately after start shaking all that French crap from my head… I guess it’s Aurelie’s fault.

Sunday, Sept. 24th

10:30, Holiday Inn – My team leaves to the airport, but I still have some interviews to conduct. I salute stars like Briand, Contin, Dobbin (still rather drunk) whilst I’m watching Gebreselasie’s victory at the athletic marathon. By midday, I have a coffee with Coni Altherr, a kiss from Aurelie and another one from Andrea Harithchelar.
Yes, now I’m sure: these truly are advantages of my position.
Time to go. From Berlin, that’s all. Auf wiedersen nexte jähre!

Our plane home

Aurelie  Coni  Andrea 

Marcelo Bresin

Savona's Marathon
Transition: inline to ice (and back)