Maikel van der Vleuten_Dana Blue Maikel van der Vleuten_Dana Blue

This afternoon the HUBSIDE JUMPING in Grimaud’s CSI 4* Grand Prix played host to what could be called the cream of the discipline: 45 competitors, among the best riders in the world, Olympic champions, European champions, show jumping legends and the two best riders in the current World rankings. It’s true that after three months of sport being at a complete standstill, the riders were keen to go back to the showgrounds, and all of them are aware that there will not be many shows to go to this year. The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten riding Dana Blue was victorious on the course designed by Andrea Colombo, the Italian course designer, ahead of Belgium’s Jos Verlooy and Italy’s Emilio Biocchi. Simon Delestre, the best French rider was fourth with Berlux Z.

A star-studded start list

“The riders are all seething”, joked France’s Patrice Delaveau, with regards to his win (and the competition), yesterday, in a CSI 4* class. It should be acknowledged that the best European riders didn’t come to the Hubside Jumping in Grimaud to go through the motions...

The Italian course designer, Andrea Colombo, carefully designed the courses, taking full account of the exceptional situation. “It is different to design a course after a break like this lasting several months. This week the number of clear rounds wasn’t very important for me: as the competition was getting underway again, I preferred to see horses that jumped well, rather than horses that were successful whatever the cost. The safety and the regularity of the horses are even more essential in the course designer’s work as we recover from this period,” he explained. Indeed, the sixteen clears after the first round, i.e. slightly more than a third of the competitors, illustrated the desire to give the horses the time to find their bearings again in the ring, and offered the hope of a top-flight jump-off! Stars such as the Olympic champions, France’s Pénélope Leprévost and Kevin Staut, the World number two and the European individual champion, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs, the current World team gold medallist and the 2008 Olympic team gold medallist, America’s Laura Kraut, the 2014 World team gold medallist, the Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten and the current European team gold medallist, Belgium’s Jos Verlooy, were in the ring for this second round.

And the winner was…the rider who was last to go in the jump-off!

Evelina Tovek had the first double clear, with a time to beat of 28.50 seconds, which seemed... achievable. France’s Edward Levy with his Selle Français Sirius Black, was next into the ring. He also had a perfect round and managed to go faster. Italy’s Roberto Previtali was also double clear but didn’t manage to improve on Levy’s time.

Then Brazil’s Yuri Mansur went into the lead ahead of the young French rider. Then another French rider bettered his performance: Simon Delestre with Berlux Z, who had an amazing time. Unfortunately for the rider from Lorrain, Belgium’s Jos Verlooy, whose fellow countrywoman Gudrun Patteet had already won the CSI2* Grand Prix this morning, continued to improve on the time to beat. Was the European team gold medallist unbeatable? Neither Austria’s Max Kuhner, nor Italy’s Emilio Bicocchi, nor Ireland’s Mark McAuley, and not even Normandy’s Pénélope Leprévost and Kevin Staut, who were all double clear, managed to unseat the Belgian rider.

We had to wait until the last jump-off rider’s round, the Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten, with Dana Blue, to have the winner of this first 4-star Grand Prix in Europe for so many months! In the end the Dutch rider finished ahead of Belgium’s Verlooy with Igor and Italy’s Bicocchi, with Evita Sg Z. “It was a fabulous jump-off !,” cried out van der Vleuten. And I must admit that all week the jumpoffs have been great to ride! On Friday, I was already qualified for the jump-off of a big class with Dana Blue, but I made a mistake in a turn because I was over confident. So today I really wanted to ride well for my mare who really deserves this. She is naturally very fast and all she needs is to be ridden well. It’s my first time competing at the HUBSIDE JUMPING and I’m delighted! The facilities are great, they are very spacious, there are lots of places where you can train in the shade, the ring is huge and it’s always very sunny. I am really pleased that I’m staying for two more weeks, and that I’ll be taking part in the CSI5* show in July.”

Full results here.
See Maikel van der Vleuten’s round here.

Image copyright of Grand Prix TV: MAIKEL VAN DER VLEUTEN with Dana Blue

Press release