The Samsung Super League Nations Cups are being viewed by several countries as a sounding ground for Olympic selection, and there was no shortage of quality competition as riders battled it out over Olaf Petersen’s fearsome track, which rode well in the end despite initial concerns.
There was little surprise that Germany should end the first leg of the Samsung Super League series victorious, although the manner in which they did it was perhaps somewhat unorthodox.
Ludger Beerbaum had retired Goldfever (pictured) in the first round, following three clears from compatriots Markus Ehning, Christian Ahlmann and Marco Kutscher. But the second round didn’t go quite according to plan, and although Marco Kutscher led the way with a spectacular second clear on Montender, faults for both Markus Ehning and Christian Ahlmann forced Ludger Beerbaum to get back into the driving seat. A well-timed, faultless round confirmed Germany’s position at the top of the tables with a total of four faults.
The hosts were not far behind, and although they went into the second round on a zero score, but After various mistakes by the first three riders to go, Michel Hecart responded well to the pressure, leaving all the fences intact to produce a double clear, but the Frenchmen’s cumulative score of 12 faults couldn’t quite match that of the German’s.
The USA, who were enjoying their first trip to the Nations Cup, started off in model style, collecting just eight faults in the first round as Peter Wylde and Kimberley Frey made minor mistakes. But their challenge disintegrated in the second round, and they dropped into fifth place behind Britain. Belgium moved up into third place, 14 points behind France, only Ludo Philippaerts eventually getting the hand of the track to jump clear in the second round.
Nick Skelton produced a world class performance and only the third double clear of the series on Arko, and Robert Smith, Michael Whitaker and Scott Smith provided adequate support to gain Britain a creditable fourth.
All remains to play for in this series, and although Olympic selectors will have averted their eyes after the fourth round in Rotterdam in mid-June, final leader board positions won’t be decided until the final in Barcelona in September.