Uniondale N.Y.—April 28
It came down to the last rider, but Team Europe edged out the U.S. riders at the inaugural Riders Masters Cup of New York, the feature Saturday night class at the Longines Masters of New York at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The new competition format debuted at the Longines Masters of Paris and pitted five U.S. riders directly against five European riders in a two-round head-to-head competition. In the first round, over a standard Table A 1.45-meter track, the winning rider earned 1 point for his or her team. If both competitors accrued no faults over fences, the faster rider scored the point.
After Round 1 Team USA had some work to do, with Beezie Madden (Con Taggio) as the only rider who put a point on the board.
The stakes went up as the points doubled in Round 2—a speed round—and U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland’s crew started to make up some ground, with Georgina Bloomberg (Paola) and Madden (Jiva) winning their head-to-head competitions against their opponents.
By the last match-up—McLain Ward (HH Gigi’s Girl) versus Dutchman Harrie Smolders (Cas 2)—the stakes were high, as the winner would determine the team’s outcome. While Ward left all the rails in the cups, Smolders turned on the afterburners to outrun him while staying clear to clinch the win for Team Europe.
The novel format was praised as easy to understand by those in attendance, with crowds on their feet to cheer for their favorites—even if the hometown team lost.
“Strategically, I think the second round happened exactly the way we wanted,” said Ridland. “We clawed our way back. That’s what sport is about.
“We went down to the wire in Paris; we went down to the wire again tonight,” he continued. “That final duel was really one for the ages. We put up one hell of a fight and a great second half comeback. I think everybody got their money’s worth tonight. We’ll be back again.”
The Europeans, led by Chef d’Equipe Philippe Guerdat, won the competition at the Longines Masters of Paris as well, and were thrilled to take home the $15,000 check, and—perhaps more importantly—bragging rights. There was plenty of patriotism on display, with locals waving American flags and visitors hoisting European Union ones.
“We knew USA would be strong tonight because like Robert said, after Paris they wanted to be back home,” said Guerdat. “I think it’s more difficult to win outside, but I have a team who are all champions and the best in the world in the moment and a young rider who is in the World Cup Finals. It would be difficult to get a better team than this in Europe.”
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