3 years ago we introduced the Marchese Record clap blade. A revolutionairy ice blade, immediately and succesfully used by Bob de Jong, who took an Olympic medal on them one year later. Soon after, skaters from all over began winning their first World Cup and World championship victories on Records. No matter how you look at it, Marchese Records came off the line blazing fast, and haven’t slowed down since. Let’s take a look at these thress, amazingly fast past three years and see where we’ve been, and where we’re going next!
A Revolutionary Skate is Born
Famous boot maker Paul Marchese and Cádo Motus worked years developing the concept of the Marchese Record skate. In 2009, the skate was introduced to some of the top ice speed skaters in the world. It was quickly recognized as an exciting innovation. Just what was it that made it such a special skate among some of the most talented athletes in the sport?
One simple word: innovation. But to understand the breakthrough achieved with the Marchese Record, you need to know the prior standard that was shattered in the innovation process...
Manufacturers of traditional blades fold their tube around the runner. The runner is locked within the flanges, either welded or glued. This has a massive impact on the behaviour of the skate. In short: the steel is folded into a tube. It’s a study in contradictions: first you want your steel to deform, but then you never want it to loose its shape again. It’s like wanting Michel Mulder to win a 500 meter today and a 200 kilometer race tomorrow, it’s just not going to happen!
Besides, the welds also create extra tension in the blades. Invisible to the eye, but noticeable when bending your blades. One clue is that often the blade reacts strangly when pressing in your bending device.
But above all, this production method forces you to find the right balance between stiffness and flexibility in three very distinct ways: Stiffnes needs to be in the tube, the flange, and the blade. This is almost impossibel to do within the engineering constraints of the old design, and makes it very hard to find your optimum bend. Most skaters settle for a regular setup with an average rocker and bend and just decide to get used to it. With the Marchese Record, you can now consider this all constraints of the past...
.. It’s like wanting Michel Mulder to win a 500 meter today and a 200 kilometer race tomorrow ..
The Marchese Record makes all of this a lot less complicated. With a new welding technique, the blade is directly fastened on the tube. No flange needed. The tube needs no deformation anymore, but is a one piece (Reynolds™) drawn steel. The result is the tube is stronger (not necessarily stiffer) and solid. Once bent, it retains its bend. The only component you really have to consider, in order to find the optimum balance between stiffness and flecibility is the runner. Cádo Motus offers Record blades with different blade height, blade thickness or special shapes like tapered blades. The job is exponentially easier with the Marchese Record.
The Marchese Record blade is a bimetal with a backing steel similar to spring steel. This is the part of the blade that gives you the smooth glide. The PM steel edge is extremely hard so its edges retain their sharpness as long as possible. It’s the hardest PM out of all blades (67-68HRC) and is really what’s responsible for that superior glide.
But all of this technical talk aside, what was it that skaters are saying about it? Or, maybe more to the point, how are they skating on it?
When the Record is introduced to market in 2009, it drew massive attention. With Trevor Marsicano and Bob de Jong as big promotors, the Record was at the podium of World Cups, World championships and Olympic Games. One could not ask for a stronger debut!
Bob de Jong recharged his career with the Record blades. In Vancouver he won a bronze medal, and in the following years he went on to take three World titles in 2011 and 2012.
Bob says, “I can keep going.I always feel pressure in my pushes, especially when I become tired. I feel very relaxed in the straights, while I can keep pushing it in the corners.”
A statement repeated by many skaters. The pressure on the ice is evenly distributed throughout their stroke. This means the timing of your push becomes less decisive. Think about that statement. This blade actually enhances your performance at a critical point in time, when you’re losing your form – when you’re tired. Anything you can do to retain or even regain control over your muscles when your near exhaustion is a distinct and decisive competitive advantage.
When Dutch marathon champion Mariska Huisman converted to the Marchese Record, she began to wins almost everything she competed in. In 2011 she took her first wins in mass-start World Cup races and also at the natural ice races in Austria (Weissensee). There, she’s now unbeatable.
“I heard (skaters) talking about how much pressure you can build up with this skate,” Mariska said. She went on, “First I was afraid it would be too much, however I feel very relaxed during the race. And if I need to step up, I can hit it hard!”
And Canadian Ivanie Blondin stormed the World Cup circuit this year, with a win in the team pursuit. The 22-year-old Blondin comes from shorttrack, and has come to rely on the feel of being in control that The Marchese Record has given him, ever since. “Something I never succeeded in on Maple blades,” Ivaine said. “I love the grip in the corners.”
But is the Marchese Record right for everyone?
Of course not. This is perhaps the most precise sprot in the world, is it not? While it’s absolutely true that many top skaters have tested the blades and become even more very succesfull using them, it’s also true that some skated on the blades for a while and then returned to the blades they were more accustomed to. That’s all part of the sport, isn’t it? That’s how things go. There is no perfect blade that matches everyone’s style, form and specifications.
Nonetheless, the list of successful implementations is beyond impressive: Bob de Jong was convinced from the very start. Just like Mariska Huisman and Ivanie Blondin. Look too at Holland’s most decorated marathon skater of all time, Jan Maarten Heideman. These are light-heeled skaters with a power saving technique, able to push it when necessary with sharp accelarations. For them, The Marchese Record is an invaluable piece of equipment.
Ice upstarts Benjamin Macé and Bart Swings learned ice skating on Record blades. Jonathan Kuck is an example of a skater that used them, but then returned to his old blades. First Kuck found what he was looking for, but switched back because he wasn’t spending enough time on the ice getting used to the new set-up. As a multi-discipline skater who is combining shorttrack and longtrack, he’s also a full-time student, and spends less time on the ice because of his study. He noted that when he was on the Marchese Record blades, he really liked how he could always rely on the Record’s stability and predictable behaviour.
But therein lies a secret, and for us, it’s worth telling you up-front: to really profit from the Record, you need to configure your chassis like a Formula1 driver. Some people consider this a drawback too. It’s like anything worthwhile, it requires time investment and thoughtful planning and configuration. How much stiffness are you looking for and where? The whole new skating experience makes you have to start from scratch, with finding your optimum bending and rockering. This needs time and trust. If you’re looking to take your stride to the next level, you need to invest wisely to see maximum return.
.. you need to configure your chassis like a Formula1 driver ..
The winter season is not the time to make the change. Think about it, it’s the height of the racing calendar, with World Cup and championship races following eachother weekend after weekend. Timing is off and that impacts how much you can invest in the feel. Feel requires trust, and trust is something fragile. Skaters hold on to their ‘feeling’, but it’s something you need to turn off when you’re testing equipment. New blades means adjustments in your senses, coordination, and your movement pattern. You cant afford to change these things in-season, period.
A lot of skaters and coaches don’t dare to take the risk in the training season, but it’s the right time to make the change, and it’s regrettable when skaters miss the opportunity to make equipment upgrades. In long term you can win a lot by investing in your skating equipment, and doing it in the training season is the opportune time to invest in yourself.
We know that renewal and reinvention are slow processes. Consider this, the clap skate was first tested in the 1980’s, but put aside for more than 10 years before top skaters made the switch in the 90’s. It was funny to see some skaters even return to their fixed blades, believing myths about strong skaters destroying the hinge or sprinters being slower in their first 100 meter. While some skaters may not have had that magic feeling their first few times out, it’s easy to see now that the technology has been widely embraced and become the new mainstream. Really, where would the sport be today without this innovation? Today, it’s a reality that World records have been broken on clap skates, even the 100 meter.
.. It was funny to see some skaters even return to their fixed blades ..
Where does this leave us? For you, it’s understanding what makes the Marchese Record stand apart from it’s competitors. The difference between the Marchese Record and the top models of Maple and Viking is not as big as the switch to clap blades, but it’s basically the same. It requires an open mind, repeated conformation and an adjustment in you moving pattern. Do this. Make the investment in yourself and your stride. Try the Marchese Record, and once you do, you’ll join the ranks of other top skaters and become addicted forever.