Colombians Claim NorthShore Skate

Julian Rivera lost a race he should’ve won in last year’s NorthShore Inline Marathon.

He redeemed himself Saturday morning.

Colombia’s top inline skater overtook Harry Vogel of Clinton Township, Mich., at the Harbor Drive finish line to claim the 14th NorthShore title in 59 minutes, 35.3 seconds for 26.2 miles.

It was the fastest winning time since Chad Hedrick’s blazing course and American-record 57:18 in 1998. Rivera, 24, led by five feet a year ago, but fell coming off the final turn around the bayside of the DECC. His skate caught a crack in the pavement and he fell face down, ultimately finishing 13th, less than a second behind winner Adam Miller.

A $1,000 winner’s paycheck was nice Saturday, but a $10,000 bonus for a course record, offered by skate manufacturer K2, was what the elite men were seeking.

“We all wanted that money and we made sure to get the best skaters out in front,” said Rivera, from Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellin [pop. 3 million]. “We were trying so hard and the pace was so fast.”

An ideal racing day — 50 degrees, sunshine and little wind — led to the course-record attempt. It pushed six racers home in under an hour, far better than 1998, when only Hedrick, Derek Downing and Keith Turner did so. Vogel, 26, was two-tenths of a second behind in 59:35.5, followed by Jorge Botero (59:35.6), Mauricio Sierra (59:35.9), Justin Stelly (59:36.6) and Luis Carlos Mejia (59:36.6). They averaged 26.4 mph and reached speeds of 33 mph.

The next wave of finishers was eight minutes back. There were 2,394 starters.

“We were going for that record from the start and we worked together until we fell off the pace. After that, it was every man for himself,” said Vogel, in his first NorthShore race. “I was relying on my top-end speed, but I might’ve gone [to the lead] a little too early.”

According to race observer Robert Burnson, editor and publisher of Inline Planet, the lead group never took a break through the first 24 miles, constantly pushing and never standing up.

“When we looked at the clock, and saw we were a minute behind record pace with two miles left, we knew we wouldn’t be fast enough but in my mind I was still thinking ‘I can win.’ I’m always thinking that,” said Rivera, who skates for Tru-Rev.

He avoided any problems coming up off I35 at Fifth Avenue West and then left, down behind the DECC. Rivera powered to the outside down the final stretch to earn his first victory in four NorthShore races. Since Hedrick’s record finish, the fastest time on the course had been France’s Baptiste Grandgirard in 1:01:48 in 2004.

The top Minnesotan was Daniel Frederick, 38, of Roseville, 16th in 1:09:30.7. The first Duluthian was Andrey Zhuikov, 47, coach of the Duluth Area Speedskating Club, 71st in 1:13:19.5.

Colombian wins women’s race

Teenager Isabel Bernier made it a sweep for Medellin skaters, holding off teammate Daniela Sandoval Vega for the elite women’s title in 1:22:09.6. Bernier, 16, a high school junior, was in her first NorthShore race, while Vega, 15, was making her United States debut, finishing in 1:22:10.7.

The Metric Way team traveled from Colombia on Thursday at a cost of about $3,000 per member.

“Our coach looked on the Internet for a race and saw that there was a big race here,” Bernier said. “We train a lot and we came here to win.

“This was a very good day to race and it was very beautiful with the lake, but the pace was very slow [for the women]. We only sprinted a few times.”

 The top nine women were just seven seconds apart in the tactical race with Sarah Hopkins, 28, of Burlington, Ontaro, third in 1:22:11 and Sophia Buckaloo, 20, of Stafford, Va., fourth in 1:22:12.

Bernier ranks No. 1 on her team and Vega second.

“[Bernier] was too far ahead and I didn’t really think I could catch her,” said Vega.

However, the elite open division, for a second straight year, didn’t hold the fastest women’s time. Kara Peterson, 39, of St. Paul, in the elite masters division, finished in 1:18:20.8.

Among those in the age-class race, 10 women finished in 1:20:20 or faster, led by Angie Taylor, 33, of Yorktown, Ind., in 1:17:17, followed by Martha Flynn-Kauth, 44, of St. Paul in 1:17:19 and Cheri Uelmen, 53, of Eau Claire, Wis., in 1:17:23.

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