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That's right- 97 tough miles of skating from S.F to Santa Cruz

BY NANCY GAY                                                                                                                     Mercury News Staff Writer

 ANYONE IN the Bay Area who blades seriously - beyond the comfortable flat, nicely paved environs of sidewalks and parking lots - has heard of full~on, hard-core group distance skates like the venerable "Friday Night Skate" through the hilly, rutted streets of pot-holed San Francisco.

A mere 10- or 20-mile skate, though, just isn't enough for some folks. "Boring," sniffed East Bay skater Dan Filner, who is among those enthusiasts who has turned his attention to long-distance "road skates."

One of the longest and most intimidating of those races takes place Saturday, a marathon for in-line skating and a real test of the skaters' ability to negotiate steeps and bends.

The third-annual Bridge to Boardwalk Roll -a sweeping, grueling jaunt from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge through the San Mateo coastline to the Santa Cruz boardwalk - is a 97-mile race that presents the ultimate skating challenge for Bay Area skaters. Come to think of it, it could be the toughest race in the country.

"I like to think so," laughed race organizer David Miles, 39, a longtime skater from San Francisco who has spent the past 15 years promoting skate events throughout the Bay Area. "No actually, other than a few really steep hills, it's not that bad."

Truth is, a novice who regularLy panic-stops - typically, on :heir rear - probably has no business trying this race. With three hills dubbed "Headache," 'Misery" and "Heartache" waiting to demonstrate Newton's Law of Gravity, there wouldn't be enough padding in the world to protect your behind.

Then agaln, if you can handle the drops in your neighborhood parking garage or can hang with the group that does the "Friday Night Skate," you might up for the challenge.

Take a look at some of the specifics of the course and judge for yourself.

At 6 am., the pack - an estimated 90 racers - will cruise though a casual prologue from a parking lot under Golden Gate Bridge, up Ralston Avenue to Lincoln Boulevard, through the Park Presidio area and down to Ocean Beach, where the race actually begins.

Stage One sees the racers prrceed down the Great Highway to Skyline Drive (Hwy 35), then through Daly City, Colma, San Bruno and Millbrae on El Camino Real to Burlingame. After a stop and go (SAG) break, they will negotiate steep Trousdale Avenue to Hillcrest Avenue, then proceed southbound to Black Mountain Road, site of the second SAG station. A hard right takes the racers onto Crystal Springs Road, where hey will merge onto Highway 92. Tbe pack will exit mile later at Canada Road and follow it southbound to Olive Hill Road, site of he third SAG stop.

     BRIDGE TO BOARDWALK ROLL

WHAT: 97-mile road skating race from Golden Gate Bridge to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

WHEN: Saturday 6 a.m. start from the parking lot under Golden Gate Bridge.

RULES: All skaters must wear full protective gear, including helmets

throughout the race. Racers will be protected from traffic, but most obey traffic laws at all times.

CLASSES: Pro Class will compete for cash prizes. Citizen Class will com-pete for product prizes. The top five male and top eight female Pro Class racers will win cash. Product prizes will be awarded to the top three skaters in six age categories for both male and female skaters in the Citizen Class. All skaters will receive a T-shirt and a water bottle. A barbecue will be held at the finish.

U BACK AND FORTH: CORA provides transportation back to San Francisco.

ENTRY FEE: For the 50K, $15 for CORA members, $20 for non-members; for the entire race, $30 for CORA members and $40 for non-members. Add $5 for race-day entries. For Information, call (415)752-1967

Stage Two takes the pack over Cahill Ridge and down to the ocean, westbound along Olive Hill Road to Albion Avenue and a right on Manuella Avenue. From there, the racers turn right on Manuella Avenue, then turn right at Kings Mountain Road for a steep climb to Skyline (Highway 35). From there, they will turn onto Highway 84, the "Skylonda" intersection, where there will be a SAG station. The racers then follow Highway 84 down the 12-mile downhill section through La Honda and San Gregorio to Highway 1, where the pack will turn left and head southbound.

Stage Three simply follows Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, with SAG stops every 10 miles along the way. At Davenport, the racers have 11 miles to the fInish, near the Coconut Grove at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The winning time last year was six hours, 30 minutes, 22 seconds, by Dan Burger of Berkeley. The women's winner, Anna Stubbs, finished 8:06.44. Other racers tend to roll in between nine and 10 hours after they begin.

Miles, who also puts on the popular 50K "Napa to Calistoga" race along the Silverado Trail four times a year, is president of the California Outdoor Roller-skating Association, or CORA. As a courtesy to CORA members who didn't feel they had the energy to complete the entire race, Miles has added a "Bridge to Boardwalk Roll" 50K race, in which participants would finish at Cainada Road near Olive Hill Road at Woodside.

He devotes his life to the sport, earning a living as a skating instructor for the San Francisco Learning Annex and through private lessons.

SF-SC95Dan.jpg (45085 bytes)Defending Bridge to Boardwalk Roll ohampi~b Dan Burger's winning time in last year's race was 6 hours, 30 minutes and 22 seconds

People call me the "Godfather Skating,' "Miles said, "because I'm always trying to promote the sport. And this is the kind of race that can help promote the;sport because it's really unique.

The distance - and the course itself - see to that. The other race in the country that compete in terms of length is 85-mile "Athens to Atlanta" roadskate skate in Georgia.

Many of Miles' converts taking the plunge.

"This will be my first Bridge to Boardwalk, but I've done the Napa to Calistoga race before" said Dan Filner, 25, a self-descrbed skate addict who has cut back his hours as a computer programmer so he can log as much skate time as possible.

His forays into distance skating were practical in origin: "My car finally died, and I thought about all the money I could save repairs, gas, registration, licence stuff like that, by just skating everywhere I need to go," said Filner, a Cal grad who has only been skating about 3 years. "I think I first figured out I could a race like this when I realized could use my skates to get around anywhere."

As for the hills, Filner shruged them off. "Skaters who live in the Bay Area are used to handling hills - we're proud of it" he said. "If you get some skaters from Iowa or Ohio, then they not going to like it."

The Bridge to Boardwalk Roll Filner sald, is a perfect race for a group, which is why he is looking forward to the experience.

"Because of the length, is not the kind of race where you want to skate by yourself. You need a group of people, especially to help cut down the wind resistance," he sald. "That's the best part about skating is enjoying with your friends."