|The 2005 Boston Marathon - The Wheelchair Races
by John Elliott
The 2005 Boston Marathon wheelchair division saw a repeat of the finishes of 2004. Ernst Van Dyk won his fifth consecutive title and Cheri Blauwet taking her second title in a row.
After a course and world-record performance in 2004 (with a large tailwind), Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa was the clear favorite to win the men's division. Having switched to training as his full-time job, Van Dyk is also in a class of his own in these events.
From the beginning, Van Dyk jumped to the front of the race and broke contact with all others. After the race, he would tell us that was his strategy - due to the headwind, he wanted to make sure that none of the other racers would be able to draft off of him - and his strategy was succesful. Van Dyk pushed off the front and none could catch him.
It appeared that past champion Franz Nietlispach, was working the same strategy as he passed through the first half of the marathon alone in second place. Behind him, Krige Schabort, Aaron Gordian, Michel Filteau and Alan Bergman were working together, sharing pulls at the front moving into the headwind.
At the 10K mark, Van Dyk was alone nearly a minute ahead of Nietlispach who was 1:20 ahead of the next group. By 15K (28:24), Van Dyk's lead had increased to nearly two minutes, while Nietlispach was one minute ahead of the rest. By 20K, Van Dyk was more than three minutes in the lead, but Schabort/Filteau/Bergman were gaining on Nietlispach who was only ten seconds ahead.
By 25K (48:44), Van Dyk was nearly four minutes ahead of the next racer - he really is in a class of his own. The race, then was among the rest. Having used the others to help catch Nietlispach, Schabort was now off the front and pulling away. Nietlispach having used up a great deal of energy going it alone into a headwind was just able to get behind Filteau's wheel to get some benefit of drafting, but at this point was in fifth place, and obviously more tired than the others.
Over the next miles, Van Dyk extended his lead, with Schabort affirming his second place finish. Nietlispach, with his great experience in this sport was able to move forward to regain his third place position.
At the finish, Ernst Van Dyk gained his fifth consecutive win (1:24:11), Krige Schbort was second in 1:30:03, Nietlispach had moved forward to third position in 1:30:34 and Alan Bergman finished fourth in 1:30:50. Michel Filteau rounded out the top five, finishing in 1:33:28.
Where was Christian Ripp? That was the question on our lips. Ripp, the 2002 runner-up and 2003 champion had to drop out of the 2004 race due to a flat tire. She was part of the official elite entry list, but did not show up at the start. Still no word (as of this writing) as to why...
Without Ripp, the race was going to be battled between Cheri Blauwet, 2004 champion; Sandra Graf, 2004 third-place finisher; and Diane Roy.
Unlike the men, when the race began, the three favorites worked together through nearly the halfway mark. By the half-marathon (51:08), Roy and Blauwet were together and Graf had been dropped and back ten seconds.
Through the 17 mile mark (1:08:40) Roy and Blauwet continued to work together, trading pulls at the front. Graf was falling back and barring a catastrophe for one of the other two, could not do no better than third place.
After mile 17, Blauwet made her surge and Roy was unable to move with her. Blauwet continued to gain distance over her competitors and eventually would finish in 1:47:45, more than three minutes ahead of Roy (1:50:53). Graf held on to easily take third place in 1:51:46.