Team World Champion Jur Vrieling opened up his indoor season by winning the first leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Western European League in Oslo on Sunday. The sympathetic Dutch rider had partnered up with VDL Zirocco Blue N.O.P. (Mr. Blue x Voltaire) for the World Cup kick off, and left behind him seasoned combinations like Marco Kutscher with Cornet's Cristallo (Cornet Obolensky x Pilot) in second and Steve Guerdat with Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II) in third after a very fast and exciting jump-off.
Compared to yesterday's Grand Prix, it was a much more demanding track that waited for the forty riders in the class. Uliano Vezzani had put up thirteen fences that included a triple combination at 5abc with an oxer-vertical-oxer and also a vertical-oxer combination at 8ab. Faults spread out, but regularly appeared in the treble and the double as well as on the narrow oxer at nine.
In the end nine riders went clear to move on to the jump-off that turned in to a very fast affair. Opened by Vrieling's compatriot Bart Bles and the lovely Lord Sandro Ddh (Lordanos x Sandro), who had posted the first clear in round one – the target was set high as the two went clear again over the shortened track with a time of 37.10 seconds. Sweden's Douglas Lindelöw was next in riding Casello (Casall x Carolus I), but could not catch up with Bles – slotting in behind him.
Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum rode another phenomenal round on Fibonacci (For Feeling x Corland) that really showed his quality and scope. Although using quite some time in the air causing the crowds to gasp for air, the lovely white nine year old gelding was fast and took over the lead in a time of 36.89 seconds.
Michaels-Beerbaum was quickly overtaken by next-to-go Steve Guerdat though. Aboard his Olympic Champion Nino des Buissonnets, Steve took some breath taking turns – with a close-as-close-can-come turn to the penultimate vertical before he cleared the final Longines oxer to cross the finish line on 35.22 seconds and take over the lead. It looked hard to beat Steve, and as the Swiss rider is known to be one of the fastest in the world on Nino – there was doubt that his time would be possible to catch.
But, as next to go in the ring Jur Vrieling did the seemingly impossible. Taking advantage of the ten year old stallion's huge canter, the Dutch rider rode for his life – and when he crossed the finish line Jur had shaved off one second on Steve's time and could hardly believe what he saw when he looked up on the screen to discover he had taken over the lead.
None of the remaining four riders could catch Jur, although Marco Kutscher did his very best coming in as last to go on Cornet's Cristallo. It was the tiniest of margins that would separate Jur and Marco. The German rider rode a fabulous round, but added a stride to the last fence and finished 0.07 seconds behind Jur and with that pushing into second ahead of Steve in third, Meredith in fourth and Bart in fifth – causing wild celebrations in Camp Vrieling as this was Jur's very first World Cup win in what was VDL Zirocco Blue N.O.P.'s debut in the prestigious series.
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