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Skating marathon brings Van Meggelen and Bekkering to podium

Van Benthem boys best Canadians

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

SYLVAN LAKE, Alberta - Near-perfect weather conditions marked the successful first-ever ISU-sanctioned ‘alternative Elfstedentocht’ held on a lake near this central Alberta community. The 200-kilometres race was won by Dutch veteran marathon skater Rob van Meggelen. Danielle Bekkering made history as the first woman to cross the finish line.

The event organized by the Foothills Speed Skating Marathon Association drew dozens of Dutch top skaters to Alberta, among them the last Elfsteden-winner Henk Angenent. Many abandoned the 200K-race, which at times was skated at speeds of over 40 km/hour. Constant jockeying for the lead among skaters caused many to drop out along the way, including Angenent. An early exit as well came for Miel Roozendaal, this season’s unofficial world champion who had won the title a week earlier at the Calgary Olympic Oval.

Van Meggelen finished the 20 rounds of 10K in 5 hours and 33 minutes. The 40-year old A-rider from Amsterdam had won another ‘alternative Elfsteden” in Finland in 1999. At Sylvan Lake, he beat Casper Helling in the final sprint. Both had two minutes on third-place finisher Rene Ruitenberg. Bekkering skated to an 18th time overall (6.29,10), just ahead of the first two Canadian men to finish the marathon: Merein and Rof van Benthem, the sons of Sylvan Lakes organizer Evert van Benthem, a two-times Elfsteden winner and now an area resident.

Bekkering, who in the 200K-race had a commanding 40-minutes lead over second-place woman finisher Antoinette Voskuil, earlier had won the Open Canadian Marathon Championship. In that 50K-race, Bekkering had beat Voskuil on the finish line.

Henk Angenent won the men’s Open Canadian Marathon Championship, a 50K race, where the first 30 finishers were within 40 seconds of the winner. Merein van Benthem (who came in 34th) again was the best Canadian, although Frenchman Tristan Loy (at 22nd) was the best non-Dutch skater in the race. In the women’s race Calgary resident Marlies Galesloot finished third, coming in nine minutes behind Bekkering.

Dutch skaters also dominated the 200K-tour event held a day earlier, in which all of the other finishers - four out of a total of nineteen men and two women - were Dutch-Canadians. Sylvan Lake also was the scene of a 100-kilometres tour and race event.