Publow continues winning streak at Big Rideau International Speedskating Marathon

Story by Alexander Harper

In front of record crowds (1200+) Barry Publow continued his winning ways by beating a strong field at the 2nd annual Big Rideau International Marathon in Portland, Ontario. This event, featuring a 1 km oval, was tour stop number 7 of the Marathon Skating International (MSI) 11-race points series, and is slated to play host to the 2006 North American Marathon Championships.

Sunny skies and mild temperatures greeted the 70+ skaters for the 50km hallmark event. The field included the usual contenders led by Barry Publow, Adrian Loewen, and Canadian inline team members Aaron Arndt and Derik Beier. Also in the mix were Rob Kramer and Paul O’Blenes, both of whom have raced the Weisensee (the alternative Elfstedentocht) in Austria and Merein Van Bentham - son of Dutch speedskating legend and two-time (’85, ’86) Elfstedentocht winner Evert.

The initial pace was brisk, with early attacks and accelerations by Kramer, Publow and his teammates. By the 10km mark the field was down to about a dozen contenders. The only early break to stick was Publow as he skated solo off the front for 3 laps. Canadian Youri Juteau, Kramer, and Mexican-Canadian transplant Sergio Almeralla exchanged leads to bring the lead group back up. At the halfway mark Kramer and O’Blenes began to skate more aggressively, with O’Blenes jumping away from the field for 2 laps. There were numerous crashes as the ice began to form hidden ruts. Arndt went down twice, and with 6 km to go Stephane Tremblay hit the deck, forcing Publow into the snow bank and then crashing himself. The field accelerated, Publow chased hard for 500m to rejoin the field, and the real race was on.

With 2 km to go Arndt accelerated away from the lead group, and with no one willing to chase opened a 100m gap. At the bell lap Arndt still maintained a solid advantage. Sensing his chance at victory was slipping away, Van Bentham - who had shadowed Publow for most of the race – began to give chase. With 800m to go he pulled off the front, and when the skaters looked at each other to see who would take over the pursuit it was Publow who shot away from the field to go after second place. But with Publow hammering down the backstretch and Arndt fading from his long solo effort, Barry caught and passed Aaron just before the final turn. Down the home stretch Publow cruised over the line to take the win in a course record time of 1 h 39 min with Arndt just seconds behind. Adrian Loewen outsprinted Van Bentham for a hard-earned 3rd place, making it a 1-2-3 sweep for the teammates.

“Aaron’s move was perfectly executed”, said Publow. “There was a lot of hesitation to chase, and when Van Bentham stood up and everyone looked at each other I knew it was my chance to attack. I didn’t think I would catch Aaron, but I had so much momentum when I came up behind that I knew the only sensible thing to do was keep hammering. I never once looked back”.

With 4 races still remaining in the 11-event MSI point series Publow’s six wins and one second secure him the overall title (which takes the best 7 placements). “Winning is always a thrill, but I’m equally thrilled that Aaron and Adrian took second and third. Aaron worked hard for me today so my hat is off to him. I hope to return the effort once we get back on wheels this summer”.

The next event on the MSI circuit is the Marathon de la Rivière l'Assomption just East of Montreal, Quebec on February 5th (25km)N and 6th (50 km).