A rollercoaster ride in Holland ended on a high for Great Britain on Friday, with Joe Clee leading his country to victory in the €200,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup CSI5*, presented by Longines, at CHIO Rotterdam.
It can now be said that Great Britain is well on a roll, as this latest win makes it three Nations Cup podiums, in three countries, that the United Kingdom has claimed within the last four weeks (La Baule, May 15, and Rome, May 22). Led by Chef d’Equipe Di Lampard, who is enjoying a banner first year as team chef, the team of Joe Clee, Michael Whitaker, Ben Maher and Jessica Mendoza rallied back in Round 2 to snatch victory from France and steamroll the Round 1 leaders from Germany.
“We came here determined, and I came here with a strong squad, and the riders are fantastic. It makes my job very easy,” Lampard said. “It already is [a great year], with three wins already it is fantastic. We hope to keep the rest of the momentum going now, through the rest of the season.”
More so than in a standalone grand prix, the gravity of a Nations Cup can be read in the faces of the riders and their coaches. With Germany well in the lead after three clear scores in Round 1, the German riders let a hint of confidence sneak into their expressions, while Great Britain was thin lipped as they dropped in the standings after clear rounds became hard to come by. Clee, who was aboard the 11-year-old bay stallion Utamaro D Ecaussinies (Diament de Semilly x Ludwig Criel), had to work for his clear rounds.
“It wasn’t easy!” said Clee, pitcured at top. “My horse was really on form and the course was quite difficult in the first round already, but I felt that he was trying his best.”
But even Clee, who was one of just three riders to guide their horses to double clear rounds in the two-round competition, took care not to celebrate too soon. His performance had to be supported by strong rounds from his teammates, as alone, they in no way guaranteed a win.
Germany fell to 4th place after only Daniel Deusser and Cornet D’Amour were able to notch a second clear round. The hometown team of Holland writ disappointment as rail after rail fell among their riders’ tracks; they finished in 5th.Patrice Delaveau of France earned the third double clear record of the day with the talented Lacrimoso 3 HDC, helping France earn valuable Nations Cup points to keep them at the top of the overall Nations Cup series standings. And Great Britain narrowed in on the win after Mendoza and Maher jumped clear.
What it did come down to in the end was the ride by Jerome Hurel of France. Last to go in the French rotation, just four faults separated France and Great Britain when his turn came up. If he rode clear, France would win. His teammates stood anxiously at the rail to watch, but an airy vertical that rode six bending strides after the water was Hurel’s undoing, and France had to settle for 2nd place while Great Britain celebrated.
Course designer Louis Konickx put together a technical track that made up for in difficulty what it may have lacked in height. A tight time allowed caught many riders out, as did the approach to several combinations. But with no real bogey fence to speak of, rails fell throughout the track.
“In Rotterdam there are always strong teams, and very good riders with a lot of experience, so you know you don’t underestimate it,” Konickx said. “It was a difficult course, it was not big but it was big enough, so I’m satisfied with the result.”
The 2015 Europe Division 1 Nations Cup Jumping Series is now at its midway point, and while Great Britain is enjoying their string of wins for now, the overall standings sheet tells a different story. Seven of the 10 Division 1 nations will qualify for September’s Nation’s Cup Final in Barcelona. That gives the three bottom nations, which now include Germany, just three more chances to climb up the list. And Great Britain, which lies 5th, has earned a comfortable position that they need now only to maintain.
See full results from the €200,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup CSI5*, presented by Longines, at this link.