The allround skaters gathered this weekend at the outdoor rink in Baselga di Piné in the Italian Dolomites for the seventh of nine Essent ISU World Cup Speed Skating events . This event took place at a crucial time, just a week ahead of the ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships 2008 in Berlin (GER).
On Saturday, true to the spirit of outdoor racing, it was snowing. The snow even at one point turned into rain which added an additional challenge for the competitors. During the B-races in the morning, it was quite exciting and Jan Bloemen (NED) won the Men’s B-division in a good time of 6:35.43.
In the A-division 1500m ladies, the continuous snow did present a challenge for Anni Friesinger (GER) and Cindy Klassen (CAN), starting in the final pair. Friesinger started out well, with a beautiful first turn and a 26 flat opener, but after about 500m, lost ground and finished in ninth place. Kristina Groves from Canada won with 2.01.06. Czech Martina Sablikova, who has proven before to be a good outdoor skater, finished in second place with 2.02,93 and ahead of Canadian Christine Nesbitt (2.02,98). Nesbitt skated in pair 9, Groves in pair 8 and Sablikova in pair 7. Jorien Voorhuis in pair 6 finished with 2.03,10 in fourth place. Catherine Raney in pair 5 in fifth (2.03,16). Christine Nesbitt keeps the lead in the World Cup ranking with 490 points. Kristina Groves has improved her position with 450 points. They will have a show-off in Heerenveen (NED) to decide the final World Cup winner on this distance. Friesinger with 312 is still in third place. Anni Friesinger: "… Groves skated super, she deserved to win."
During the first four pairs in the 5000m men, in the first pair, Mark Ooijevaar had the fastest time of 6:49.76, but in the fourth pair times got close to 8 minutes and the referees decided to cancel the distance, which meant that there were no points given for the B-division race.
Because of Saturday’s weather , Sunday’s races started with the A-division as early as 9.30h. The weather cooperated nicely, it was dry and consistent all day.
In the 3000m ladies, Martina Sablikova skated in the last pair. She knew what she needed to do to secure the overall World Cup win already this weekend. German Claudia Pechstein had to defend her second place in the ranking, helped nonetheless by the fact that Hughes was third and had withdrawn for the day. With 160 points behind the leader Sablikova, there was little manoeuvrability. She skated a very decent race, starting with 2.0 and 2.7, 3.1, 3.6, faster than her countrywoman Katrin Mattscherodt who was at that point leading with 4:15.03. Pechstein took over the lead with 4.14,20.
Sablikova was light-footed on the ice. She was the only one who seemed to glide on the earlier 1500 distance where she finished second, now she managed to start with a series of four 32 laps, before finishing with 3.3, 3.3 and 3.2. 4.11,08 was not a track record, but it was certainly enough, not just to win here, but also to have a 180 point lead in the ranking, which was a good gap. The Czech skater Sablikova has 580 points. Pechstein has 400, Hughes 285.
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