Coming in as last to go Maikel van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Verdi took home the win in the Longines Grand Prix in Lyon on Sunday evening after a spectacular performance. Aboard the 11 year old Quidam de Revel-stallion, Maikel produced two fantastic clear rounds – with a jump-off so fast the roof in Lyon nearly blew off as the crowds went wild in appreciation of the great sport on display. “This win was something special for me,” Maikel said following his win. "Here are all the best riders and horses in the world – and the jump-offs were very fast this weekend. That’s what we saw today as well!”
With thirteen clears proceeding on to a race against the clock – it was set for a perfect second round. But before the class got that far there was plenty of action, as quite a few riders had trouble around the course – and it was especially the Longines triple combination at 7ab and c that caused headache for the riders. Worst was it for reigning European Champion Roger-Yves Bost who had a really bad fall on Colombo van den Blauwaert (Nabab de Reve x Skippy II) at the b and c element – and left the ring on foot with a bleeding and beat-up nose. Luck did not favor Kevin Staut either, who fell off at the vertical at fence three.
The jump-off was no surprise extremely fast, as every class at the amazing show in Lyon has been. Malin Baryard-Johnsson opened up on H&M Tornesch (Lux Z x Libero H), with a steady and clear round – which in the end was good enough for fourth at a time of 40.79. Then Patrice Delaveau had a stop at the penultimate vertical, and Marco Kutscher one down – before Sergio Alvarez Moya took the lead on Carlo 273 (Contender x Cascavelle) following a lovely round where he stopped the clock on 38.60 after racing down the final stretch to the last Longines oxer. Rodrigo Pessoa and Eiken Sato were next, and both fast – Rodrigo the fastest in the class – but on the expense on one down. Ali bin Khaled Al Thani followed, and produced a good clear to end fifth on Cantaro 32 (Corrado x Libero H).
Among the final six riders only two produced clears – Rolf-Göran Bengtsson on Casall Ask (Caretino x Lavall I) and last to go Maikel van der Vleuten. Rolf’s round looked hard to match, the Swedish rider had super turns all the way and left his breaks by the in-gate as he went flat out on the final stretch to the last fence – stopping the clock on 38.04 to take the lead. Then it was time for Maikel, who did a super line from one to two and then turned perfect to the penultimate vertical before he set VDL Groep Verdi in top gear to the last – shaving off 0.77 seconds on Rolf’s time. “I had to give everything today; I had a plan and I must say it worked out very well. On every stride I had control – and could go for the first distance every time,” Maikel concluded after his win.
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