Hot on the heels of a fantastic Henley Royal Regatta is the “other” iconic rowing event of every July, the Lucerne world Cup on the “Lake of the Gods”. This regatta is loved by all the athletes as it usually provides almost perfect racing conditions. It also provides the final stage to assess form before the World Championships in Aiguebelette in early September.
In Varese Mahe Drysdale made an impressive debut to his 2015 international season with a good win over Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez. Drysdale raced in his usual profile, starting steadily (he was only 5th at 500m) and gradually reeling in the field with relentless power rather than any spectacular fireworks. In the lead up to the final in Varese all the talk was of the potential showdown between Drysdale and Croatia’s Damir Martin. When it came to it the Croatian sculled a very odd race, blasting off the start and then trailing off at half way, eventually coming in last. I’d be very surprised if the Croatian raced a similar profile in Lucerne.
Since his win in Varese, Drysdale has been keeping himself busy with wins at both the Holland Bekker and also his 5th Diamond Sculls title at Henley.
One of the most impressive performances in the single at Varese was from Stansilau Shcharbachenia of Belarus. He blasted off the start opening up a clear water lead over the rest of the field before being reeled in by Drysdale and, just before the line. Fournier Rodriguez. It was a brave attempt to catch Drysdale napping but it didn’t quite pay-off.
Lucerne 2014 was British sculler Alan Campbell’s nadir. He finished 14th, his worst ever performance in a single scull and then suffered the ignominy of being dropped from the team. He has fought his way back to regain his seat and made his return in Varese finishing an encouraging 5th. He had been due to race Drysdale at Henley but withdrew to concentrate on Lucerne. An A-final finish is a necessity to be honest and a medal would be a fantastic step forward for the Tideway Scullers man.
The reigning world champion, Ondrej Synek has not had the best of starts to his 2015 season. Beaten by Martin at the Europeans he missed the podium entirely at Varese (his worst performance since Lucerne 2009). It remains to be seen if this was a blip or the beginning of a decline for the Czech.
Unfortunately Olaf Tufte was forced to withdraw from Varese. At the European’s he produced a very encouraging performance to take the bronze (his first medal since the 2nd World Cup in 2010). A medal in Lucerne might be a bit too much to expect from the Norwegian but an A-Final finish will be good progress on his comeback trail.
4th at last year’s World Championships was Lithuanian Mindaugas Griskonis. He was a somewhat disappointing 6th at the European’s and didn’t race in Varese so it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on at Lucerne.
My picks…it’s hard to look beyond Mahe for the win, he’s in fantastic form. I’ll plump for Martin to get his race right and take 2nd with Synek picking up the bronze.
Lucerne marks the first appearance this season of the mighty Kiwi pair, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond. They stand astride this event like a mighty Colossus and are starting their 7th unbeaten season – that’s 56 consecutive race wins at Olympic, World and World Cup level. They decided to stay at home whilst the rest of the Kiwi squad raced at Varese, preferring to train and spend more time with their families (I guess a 56 race winning streak buys you a certain amount of latitude from the team managers). The question in this event is no longer who will win, but who will come 2nd. The British, Foad and Langridge are the leading contenders. They are the reigning European Champions and the current world silver medallists. The time they set in Amsterdam last year made them the fastest ever British pair and they are coming off a win in the Silver Goblets at Henley last weekend. They will expect to cement their position as the no.2 pair in the world and will be relishing the chance of going up against the Kiwis. It was a British pair after all that came close to toppling the Kiwis when Hodge and Reed fell short by just 3/10th of a second way back in 2010.
The French, Chardin & Mortelette will be looking to get revenge on the British for the defeat at the Europeans. The showdown between the British and the French Olympic silver medallists should be quite a battle.
Also looking to muscle in on the medal battle are the exciting new Dutch pairing of Roel Braas and Mitchel Steenman. Braas has been struggling in the M1X earlier in the season and the move to the pair looks to have re-invigorated him. They won in Varese beating a good Italian pair of Abagnale and Abbagnale by over a second. The Italians are also racing in Lucerne and they are joined by a second Italian pair, Domenico Montrone and the legendary Niccolo Mornati. Mornati is making his first international appearance since finishing 4th at the 2012 Olympics.
3rd in Varese were the Aussies, Jack Hargreaves and Nicholas Wheatley a couple of seconds behind the Italians. With the arrival of the Kiwis and the return of the British and French, they may find it tough to event make the final in Lucerne.
Naturally I expect the Kiwis to win but behind them it’ll be the usual bunfight. I’m going for a GB silver and the Dutch to pip the French for bronze.
One of the most anticipated match-up at Varese failed to materialise. I was really looking forward to seeing the incredible Croatians take on the new German double of Hacker and Krueger. Unfortunately Hacker withdrew due to illness so we didn’t get to see the world record holders take on the European champions. In their absence it was a comfortable win for the Sinkovic brothers who were never troubled and crossed the line 6 seconds to the good over the Australians. The Croatians have the look of a crew that could dominate event, like Murray and Bond are doing in the M2-. They are a joy to watch and are some of the smoothest scullers I’ve ever seen. It’ll be fun to watch the Germans take them on but I don’t think they will get within a length.
The Kiwis have a strong tradition in this event but their new double of Chris Harris and Robbie Manson withdrew from Varese so they are still a little bit of an unknown quantity.
Other crews I expect to be challenging for the lesser medals are the Varese bronze medallists, Romano Battisti and Francesco Fossi of Italy and also the 2013 World Champion Norwegians, Kjetil Borch and Nils Jakob Hoff. A quick word on the British, Collins and Walton. They have been on the wrong side of several narrow semi-finals and are due a change of luck. They are coming off the back of a good win at Henley and if they can put together some consistent performances they could well be challenging for the podium.
My picks. The Croatians to take a comfortable win with the Germans in silver and the Italians to pip the Aussies for bronze.
One of the notable absentees from Lucerne are the Americans (save for some small boats). The US were impressive winners of this event in Varese ahead of the Italian no.1 boat of Di Costanzo, Castaldo, Lodo and Vicino. Also missing from Lucerne are the Canadians who took the bronze in Varese. With those two medal winning crews absent it should make it quite an open, competitive field. The British were winners at the Europeans and 5th in Varese. Last weekend they had a good win at Henley beating the new South African 4 and the European silver medallists from Greece. The Australians are also traditionally very strong in this boat class. Their crew of Hill, Lloyd, Lockwood and Turrin were 4th in Varese and will be expecting to take at least one step up in Lucerne.
My picks…I think it’ll be a close battle between the British and the Italians for the gold with Italy getting their noses in front with the Aussies taking the bronze
This was shaping up to be a great contest between the European champions from Russia and the winners from Varese Great Britain. Unfortunately the British have withdrawn after Graeme Thomas contracted a cold after the crews win at Henley. It’s a pity as I fancied the British to take the Russians. They Brits had changed the crew from Poznan with Angus Groom replacing Jack Beaumont (who in turn was subbing in for the injured Charlie Cousins). In the absence of the British it’s the Russian’s to lose really. In the absence of the British it’ll be the Germans who will mount the biggest challenge to the Russians. They were 2nd at Varese following a 6th place in Poznan. Also watch out for the Australians (5th in Varese) and the Poles (4th at both the European’s and Varese World Cup) I’m also looking forward to seeing the young Swiss quad, the U23 World Champions were a bit off the pace in Varese managing 6th in the A-Final. I expect that they will be quicker than that at their home World Cup and could be pushing for the medals. It’ll also be good to see what progress the Kiwis have made in the last few weeks as a 9th place at Varese is not, I believe, a true reflection of their potential.
My picks..Russia for the win with Germany 2nd and the Aussies to pip the Poles.
GB v Germany, round 4, and its 2-1 to GB so far. The British have brought in Stan Louloudis now he has finished his studies at Oxford. They raced the new Australian 8 at Henley (The Ashes-on-the-water)and dispatched them quite comfortably (I was particularly impressed with the way the British finished, rating 34 to the Australians 38 but holding them off with a clear water lead). In the final at Henley the British demolished the Germans, beating them by nearly 3 lengths. It was the Germans 2nd successive loss to the British and the manner of the defeat at Henley must be giving coach Ralf Holtmeyer some sleepless nights. The question will be can the British make it three in a row. No-one expects the margin to be the same as it was at Henley (match racing can sometimes throw-up greater disparity between crews). But the momentum is with the British and they will be riding a wave of confidence heading into Lucerne.
If any other country muscles ahead of either the British or Germans it’ll be a major shock. As mentioned above, the Australians were outclassed by the British at Henley. The French had an absolute nightmare at Varese getting knocked out of the semis by the German U23’s. The Polish have been the most consistent of all the “other” challengers with a 4th place at the Europeans and a 5th in Varese. The Dutch were a bit disappointing in 6th at Poznan but they are likely to be a bigger threat in Lucerne, they have some very talented oarsmen onboard and have a great tradition in this boat. One of the most exciting crews to watch are the young Kiwis. The U23 world Champions made their season’s debut in Varese and were one spot off the medals just half a second off the USA.
My picks…The British are on the up and I pick them to make it three in a row against the Germans. The interesting battle will be for the bronze between the French, Poles, Dutch and Kiwis. I’m going for a Kiwi bronze.
Just three crews, GB, Germany and Iatly. The British, Callum McBrierty and Matt Tarrant (coxed by Henry Fieldman) raced as the 2nd GB M2- at Varese and finished 6th. Tarrant was in the GB M8 that won the world championships last year.
The German boat has Bjoern Birkner and Paul Schroeter from the M4- that finished 5th at the 1st World Cup and the Italians have U23 World Champion Cesare Gabbia and Andrea Tranquilla who finished 7th in the M2+ at last year’s worlds.
I would expect a 1,2,3 of GB, ITA, GER
25 scullers. A big field but for my money it’s going to come down to a 2-horse race. Crow v Knapkova. Lucerne will be the first time these two have met this season. Crow absolutely obliterated the field at Varese winning by over 9 seconds. Knapkova hasn’t had it so easy this season. She was the winner at the Europeans but was then beaten by Karsten at the 2nd World Cup. My expectations are that Crow will be too strong for the Olympic Champion and will win by clear water.
Behind these two it should be a good battle for the bronze. Gevvie Stone of the USA won her first senior international medal at Varese finishing 2nd to Crow. Magdalena Lobnig of Austria is an incredibly consistent sculler having made the A-Final every time she’s raced in the past couple of years. It’s also exciting to see Denmark’s Olympic medallist Fie Udby Erichsen returning to form and race fitness. Also watch out for Ireland’s Sanita Puspure (4th in the Worlds last year) and the highly experienced Julia Levina. The 42 year old Russian is making her season’s debut following an A-Final placing in Amsterdam last year. Silver medallists at the Europeans was the Swiss sculler, Jeannine Gmelin. GB have been playing musical chairs in the W4X and in Lucerne it’s Beth Rodford’s turn to race the single. She’s a highly experienced crew-boat sculler, but this will be her first international race in the single. An A-Final finish would be a hell of an achievement.
My picks….Crow by a good distance ahead of Knapkova with Lobnig some way back in bronze
Glover and Stanning are the crew to beat in this event, but so far nobodies been able to do that in 32 races. They will start as favourites again in Lucerne and I fully expect them to continue their winning ways. In Varese it was the Americans who pushed them the hardest, but in their absence it’s likely to be the young Kiwis, Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler who will lead the chasing pack. 3rd in Varese they are once again doubling-up in the W8 which, in my view, robs them of any chance of beating the British. The GB crew are too powerful to be challenged when you’ve had at least one if not 2 or 3 extra races in your legs as is likely for the Kiwis.
The Dutch were 2nd at the Europeans but neither of that crew is racing this event at Lucerne, both Elisabeth Hogerwerf and Olivia van Rooijen have moved into the W8. In their place the Dutch are boating two crews with the no.1 boat being Kirsten Wielaard and Jose Van Veen.
The Canadians are planning on doubling up in the 8 (although I have my doubts whether they will) They have two boats, both out of the W8, CAN1 is Jennifer Martin and Cristy Nurse with CAN2 being Lisa Roman and Susanne Grainger. If they do race both events they could be real challengers for the medals in the pair, but as with the Kiwis you can’t afford to give a crew like the British the advantage of fresh legs.
My picks…GB for a comfortable win with the Kiwis battling with the two Canadian pairs (if they race) for the silver and bronze. NZ take silver with CAN1 in bronze.
The Kiwis and the US had an epic battle in Varese with Eve Macfarlane and Zoe Stevenson coming out on top by just 14/100th of a second. With the USA not appearing in Lucerne the main threat to the New Zealanders is likely to come from the new British double of Katherine Grainger and Vicky Thornley. In their first season together the British have been getting better and better, medallists at both the Europeans and the 2nd World Cup. They are beginning to show the sort of speed that can get among the major medals. They beat the Poles for the first time in Varese and also the 2014 bronze medallists from Australia. Their showdown with the Kiwis will be really interesting to watch.
Behind these two the Australians will be big challengers for a medal as will the Belarussians Ekaterina Karsten and Yuliya Bichyk who may have missed the A-Final in Varese but have such potential that if they get it right they could be up there on the podium. Also watch out for the Germans, Marieke Adams and Juila Lier, A-Finalists in Varese, and the Greeks, Sofia Asoumanaki and Aikatarini Nikolaidou 7th at the Europeans.
My picks…..I think the Kiwis will still be the class of the field but I reckon the British will be closing the gap and chased hard by the Poles in third.
Germany continue to dominate this event this season and now have a settled unit and are so far unbeaten this season with wins in Bled, Poznan and Varese. As it stands I can’t see any of the competition in Lucerne stopping the Germans continuing their successful run. But, behind them it’s going to be very interesting. In Varese it were the Poles who finished runners-up to the Germans. But, in Poznan it was the Dutch who got closest to the Germans, just over half a second behind. The Australians and New Zealanders both made the A-Final although the Kiwis ended up out the back. The British are a bit of an enigma, on their day they can put up a good challenge for a medal. But a lack of consistency means they don’t often get the chance. In Varese they missed the A-Final but then had a good win in the B-Final. At least with only 6 boats in the event the British will be in that A-Final and just need to produce the goods once.
My picks…Germany for the easy win with the Dutch in 2nd and the Aussies to get the better of the Poles with the British in close attendance with the Kiwis bringing up the rear.
It is a bit of a disappointing entry in terms of numbers however. There’s some good quality but it’s always disappointing to see an Olympic class event that has a straight final. I’m beginning to wonder whether its days are numbered and it should be replaced in the Olympic programme by the W4-?
The dominant force in this event, the USA, are giving Lucerne a miss. In their absence it’s going to be a great opportunity for the Canadians to take a gold. They have been the perennial runners-up to the US but without them they will be starting as favourites. The British had a great regatta in Varese giving both the US and the Canadians a good run for their money. But, the British raced the Canadians at Henley and were outclassed suffering a heavy defeat. If the British can improve their consistency (how often do I say that about British women’s crews??) they can give the Canadians a scare. The other nation that have a great tradition in this event are the Romanians. They have the majority of the crew that finished 4th at the Worlds last year and took bronze at the Europeans. The Dutch were runners-up to the Russians in Poznan and it’s going to be a great battle for the minor placings behind the Canadians.
My picks…Canada gold, Romania silver and the British just ahead of the Dutch
That’s it for tonight, I’ll add the lightweight events tomorrow.