From ring side during round one, to the witty Press conference quips from Ludger Beerbaum, Taylor Land gives us her detailed perspective on the first round of the World Cup Finals in Lyon France.
"Any lingering belief I had in the stereotype of overly serious, stoney-faced Germans is completely gone now! "
For Judge My Ride and Style My Ride
So Jessie finally made it to Lyon! Her flight was an hour or so late, but she made it through security with a ridiculously oversized suitcase and managed to get a cab to my hotel. We couldn't get into our new digs (an apartment Jessie and our new Irish friends- Michael, Allen, and Carmel- found for us to rent for the weekend) until 4:00 pm, so we left our bags at the front desk of the Comfort Inn and went on a tram adventure to get lunch. After a lovely lunch (full of French miscommunications and lots of hand motions), we spent at least an hour stocking up with food at the grocery store and hauled all our purchases back to the hotel with great difficulty.
Unfortunately, our transportation issues continued into the afternoon when Michael and Carmel spent several hours driving around and around the Saint-Priest area in search of the Comfort Inn. They finally found us at about 8:15, fifteen minutes after the first leg of the World Cup had started. We drove speedily to the apartment to drop off our bags and pick up Allen, who was taking a quick afternoon siesta, and headed to the Eurexpo to catch the end of the class. Luckily, most of the American riders had late draws in the order of go, and we made it up to the arena just as Beezie Madden was about to walk in. Unluckily, Jessie and the others hadn't been to the Eurexpo yet, so none of them had press passes and the security guards wouldn't let them into the stands to watch! Poor Jessie, Michael, Allen, and Carmel were stuck watching on the TV screen in the warm-up area while I went into the stands to get the first-hand spectator experience.
The arena looked really amazing! It was big, bright, and filled with people- completely transformed from its relatively dull and quiet state during the CSI 2* class yesterday. The course started with an oxer near the center of the ring, and a bending six strides to a vertical across the length of the ring. Jump 3 was a roll back on a vertical set right against the rail, six strides into 4ab, which was a wide triple bar and a bit of a forward two strides to an oxer. Number 5 was the Longines vertical, which came up quickly after 4ab, and number 6 was was quite an airy aqua blue oxer with a liverpool under it. The bending line from 5 to 6 was very open to interpretation, and most people opted for an inside track in seven strides while others put a larger curve in the line and did eight. Both proved to be successful options, but the liverpool was a difficult jump and a lot of people also had it down. Jump 7 was a vertical, six strides from the liverpool on an inside track and completing an "S" curve between jumps 5, 6, and 7. After this, the riders only had a quick second to breath at the end of the ring before finding jump 8, a wide purple oxer right off the corner, which led into a steady four-stride line to a vertical, and an immediate curving six strides to a hefty oxer. After this, the riders had to turn inside the Longines vertical and roll very tightly back on 12abc, a vertical-vertical-oxer triple that caused a great many issues. With the tight turn in, the steady two-strides between A and B, and the stretch for the one-stride to C, a lot of horses had one or both of the verticals down in front. Others couldn't quite find enough scope and power coming out and had the back rail of C down behind. After the triple, only two jumps remained... 13 was a swift bending six to an oxer set against the rail, and the course ended with number 14, a relatively plain vertical set in a sweeping 180 degree turn.
When the JMR crew got up to the ring, Patrice Delaveau and his mount Lacrimoso HDC had just gone clear in a time of 63.67 seconds, snagging the lead from Ludger Beerbaum and Chaman (65.54). I ran frantically into the stands (without my fellow bloggers, unfortunately...) just in time to watch Beezie Madden and Simon trot in to thunderous applauds. As the defending champion of the World Cup title in Gothenburg, Sweden last year, Beezie is surely putting a lot of pressure on herself to perform well this weekend. Simon jumped wonderfully and Beezie rode really well, but she placed him a little too deep at jump 8 and he couldn't quite make it over the back rail. The pair crossed the timers in a speedy 64.55, giving them a total time of 68.55 with the four seconds added. Pius Schwizer went next with Quidam Du Vivier, taking the lead in 63.37, a time that held out for the rest of the class, earning the win for Switzerland! The final standings of the American riders were Beezie and Simon in 12th, Leslie Burr-Howard and Tic Tac in 14th, McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z in 15th, Kent Farrington and Blue Angel in 18th, Charlie Jacobs and Flaming Star in 21st, Katie Dinan and Nougat du Vallet in 24th, Charlie Jayne and Chill R Z in 27th, Ashlee Bond Clarke in 28th, Lucy Davis and Barron in 31st, Saer Coulter and Springtime in 32nd, and Jenni Martin-McAllister and Casseur de Prix in 35th. A total of 40 horse/rider combos competed in this first leg, and the start order for the second leg will be the reverse order of placing in this class.
After Pius and the other top six riders received their awards and made several victory laps around the arena (Ludger Beerbaum's horse even celebrated with a massive victory rear, nearly striking an FEI executive across the face!) everyone convened in the press office for a conference with Pius, Patrice, Ludger, and the course designer, Frank Rothenberger. I felt very official sitting next to journalists and photographers from various foreign equestrian publications! The whole conference was a bit confusing because Pius is Swiss, Patrice is French, and Ludger and Frank are German. The only person who was fluent in all of the languages (besides the translators, of course) was Ludger, and he took advantage of the opportunity to have a few laughs, jokingly calling the course "terrible!" and responding to a question about potentially winning the final with, "Yes, I can imagine winning... but I can also imagine the weekend getting much worse!" Ludger definitely kept a comedic vibe going in the conference, and any lingering belief I had in the stereotype of overly serious, stoney-faced Germans is completely gone now! Translators and journalists and riders and FEI officials were all repeating themselves and misunderstanding each other and just generally hitting a lot of communication barriers. It was a little overwhelming but very funny! Overall, the riders were happy with both their horses performances and the 1.50 meter speed course Mr. Rothenberger set, agreeing that it was a Table A-style track with Table C judging. Amazingly, Frank said he designed it hoping for 12-15 clear rounds and he got exactly 14! He predicted 8-10 clears for the Grand Prix-style 1.60 meter second leg on Saturday night, so we'll see if he gets it right again! As Patrice said, "It's only the first day. You can't predict what will happen!" Pius agreed, and Ludger said that anyone in the top 20 after day one has a shot of winning the final. This news bodes well for team USA... hopefully they can step up their game in round 2!