(Photo: Stefano Grasso/LGCT).
By Longines Global Champions Tour
Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and VDL Groep Verdi won the Longines Global Champions Tour of Madrid Grand Prix in spectacular style this evening with three beautiful clear rounds in front of packed stands. Second place went to Marcus Ehning (GER) and Plot Blue, the only other combination to complete three faultless rounds. Third was fan-favourite Gerco Schröder (NED) and Glock’s London, who are returning to competition like they have never been away.
The intense high-quality sport seen today sets the scene for an electrifying contest between the titans of show jumping over the next few rounds, as the tour moves to Hamburg and the ground-breaking event in Shanghai in early June. Millions have watched Madrid on TV and online, and over 20,000 spectators have flocked to the stunning venue during the show.
Similar to the first round, Santiago Varela’s second round took no prisoners from the eleven clears that went through as part of the Top 18. There were clears from a few of the fastest four-faulters – Ben Maher (GBR) and Cella, Doda de Miranda (BRA) and AD Uutje, and Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP) and Carlo. As first, it looked as though there would be no double clears, as another tight time allowed and a technical, twisty course saw Gerco Shröder (NED) and Glock’s London and pick up an excrutiating time fault, as did Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) and Ego van Orti.
But recently crowned Dutch Champion, van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Verdi made the tricky course look easy and the experienced combination of Marcus Ehning and Plot Blue put in a characteristicly spotless round to give a two-horse jump-off.
As the sun sank behind the trees at the beautiful Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, Marcus Ehning was first to go in the deciding round, path finder in the final sweeping course, with a few potential tight turn-backs – Marcus chose care over speed to go clear. With pole position of last to go, van der Vleuten could see exactly where he needed to make up time and executed a stunning performance, taking the Gold medal position to rapturous applause.
Jan Tops – President and Founder of Longines Global Champions Tour
Charles Villoz – Vice President of Sales Longines International
Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) – LGCT of Madrid Grand Prix Gold medal
Marcus Ehning (GER) – LGCT of Madrid Grand Prix Silver medal
Gerco Schröder (NED) – LGCT of Madrid Grand Prix Bronze medal
Maikel van der Vleuten:
“I knew it was not going to be easy. It is not so easy to ride a jump-off against Marcus, he has so much experience and he had a very good jump-off, but my horse gave me the feeling today that I could go for it. The jump-off went the way I planned and it was enough to win today. I was lucky I was last to go – I knew where I could win – the second to last turn-back to the oxer I could let him go to the last fence and win the time.”
“I hope that Plot Blue can keep like this – I am very happy for today. I think the difference in the jump-off is just that I am much older than Maikel, the horse also, but I took a lot of risk in the jump-off. I missed a bit the second to last turn, but with my horse I was very happy. I really like this jump-off with two or three riders for this kind of money, there was a lot of pressure in the second round for the time, but in the end I think with these two riders it was a very good jump-off for the people. Maikel did a great job. My horse has a lot of experience and me too. I started fence one and two very good, I missed some time between three and four – I had a great jump-off, but not a perfect one. I knew there was space for Maikel to beat me, but I had three clear rounds with a 17 year-old horse and I am very happy about it.”
“Yes – LGCT is what the equestrian world needed. The Tour changed a lot in the sport over the years – it’s not just the Tour, also other orgasnisers and other events put more money in the sport now and I think it’s getting closer to the level of other kinds of sports. The LGCT venues are incredible, there are so many I could name, I think it was a real step forward for the sport.”
“I am very happy that I can ride again with London, first of all I am very thankful to family Glock. The last show was in Deember for London, but today he felt fantastic. For sure, I would have liked to do the jump-off against these two, they were very fast, but I am happy for today.”
“It was very exciting. Maikel had the luck of the draw. He knew exactly what he had to do. He won the Dutch Championship and did well in the World Cup Final, to do well against a rider like Marcus is never easy. He kept his head and finished well. To win an LGCT Grand Prix is very special. If you don’t bring your top horses to these kinds of events, it’s very difficult to be in the prizes – the riders know this. We have had great organisation here, the weather on our side, and great sport. Every year we are improving, we are getting more fans all over the world, more people watching live-steaming and TV, and the numbers are increasing. Because of LGCT, other events are getting better and better, so the whole sport in general is improving, and that is why we are doing this. When you know you have the right money on the right day, you don’t have to over-use your horses.”
“In the end, it was a very tense moment. It is a fantastic venue, I look forward to coming back next year. Congratulations to the cavaliers, they did a great job. In the end it was very close.”