Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Czech Republic: European Championship - Most - Article and photos

by Leonard Liesens

14 September 2013

Sensationalistic story? We all know how much it costs to set-up an endurance championship and how difficult it is to get regular sponsoring. Criticizing the Most championship comes to criticize the organizer. But did he not declare – of course he was pushed by repeated questions from the Belgian Chef d’Equipe- “They pay, so they have the right to receive a special treatment”. Let’s just figure a Grand Prix of showjumping where the obstacles would be lowered by humhm 10cm when the son of the Prince of Wales enters the show ring. Exaggerated… Think about!

Let’s start with the good points, because there were a lot at this championship. The venue of the Most racetrack is superb. A velvet grass which didn’t –surprisingly- killed the mental of the horses as they had to cover one and a half lap of the racetrack at the start of every loop.
Then the vetgate. Perfect. The Veterinarian Committee played its role to perfection. Sympathetic and correct in their judgment.

The grooming area was also of a good level, but only after that the stewards changed the setting by designing corridors to access to the vet-in. Otherwise that would have been a mess. It’s a pity there were not enough stewards for policing and refraining the stables from the Gulf from doing wrong things.

The opening ceremony was fine, except that hundreds of people had to wait one hour, guess why, because Mr the Sheikh of Bahrain was late trying his horse. :?ù#@’ »

The trail was not bad. Of course there were some hazardous places but tell me a place where there aren’t any. Endurance is and should remain an equestrian discipline in open areas with all kind of natural hazards. The rider has always the responsibility to read the trail and slow down if it’s necessary. What was unfortunate was to repeat two times two loops (the yellow of 30km and the green of 19km). Many would love getting the 36km loop (the most technical) as first and second. Anyway… It was the same –at least something- for everybody.

The Chefs d’équipe meetings. Ouch… Did they prepare something or was it just improvisation? There should be computer shops in Most to get a beamer. That would have been soooo easy. Good Lord.

The technical delegate… Come on… Of course, she tried her best taking into account the pressure from the main sponsor. During the litany of speaking all names of riders and horses – go figure, pronouncing Arabian names and Arabian horses names- I thought about the 11th of November celebration. Circulate a printed list, please !

What about the ‘verbal warning’ awarded to Pierre Arnould. What else did he do more than just asking for the complete and strict enforcement of the FEI regulation : equality for all teams, a final list of definite entries, same parking for every team, same grooming space for everyone, alphabetic order of bibs numbers. Indeed the guy has a strong voice and english is not his native language. And if you don’t get a satisfactorily answer, you have to ask again. On top of that, why repeating a second time this global warning ? To get the community of European chefs d’equipe to applause, maybe. Are we heading to a Group of Toulouse Revival ?

Crewing points. Aie… Good that the first point of each loop was cancelled – actually the organizer promised to staff this point with stewards, but we didn’t see anything. On other points, it was a mess –I don’t find a stronger word. We saw some crew members almost fighting. We know it’s not easy but with the sponsoring money, developments could have been possible.
The award ceremony. Can’t say anything. Nobody was informed about which riders (podium, top ten, all) would be awarded. So we went home. Too bad to see a championship deserted before its happy end. Disappointed people didn’t want seeing again the celebration of the open champions. Are we becoming nationalists?

The grooming area. Burlesque. The number and size of water tanks has to be limited. Also the number of grooms. Tarbes (WEC YR) and Sartilly (WEG preride) gave the good example. Why not following? Why not just showing a yellow card at transgression of the rules? It was even decided that the tents should be open an the four sides, to allow stewards to control what's going on inside. Oh yeah, almost forgetting the mess of water bottles and caps all the way along the trail. Europeans grooms waiting for their riders were so pissed that they collected the bottles at every crew point. They should have been paid for the service! You remember the old promotion of endurance : symbiosis between horse and rider, ecological way to discover a region, to complete is to win, fair-play among the sport community... Poor sport.

Back to the sport… Jaume Punti is a big champion. Congrats. He was riding an exceptional horse. He is a great rider and trainer. Despite the stress of the competition and the tension toward the UAE people (his employer), Jaume is the guy who salutes people, asks about you, and gives news about his family. Bravo.

France did a good job, ‘as usual’ would we say. They did nevertheless jockey for position like champions, all the time in the second group whom size reduced loop after loop. What would have been the outcome if JF Francès had believed a little bit more in his chances to catch up with Punti ? He had almost closed the 8min gap. And at the finish it was obvious that Punti’s horse was cantering in slow motion.
Belgium. Our troops first crossed the Berezina then went home (pfft… how the hell translating ‘morne plaine’ referring to Waterloo and getting understood). Pierre Arnould easily admits that his riders tried to follow the front runners, but the horses didn’t cope with this high pace. It’s difficult to gain 2 km/h on his personal record.
Spain won team silver thanks to the well-controlled pace chosen by the four other riders, with the exception of Jaume Punti of course. And what to say about Italy who cruised grouped all the way ? Of course they took profit of the others breaking down. That’s part of the game. Bravissimo.

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