Under bright blue skies in the ancient city of Rome, Olivier Robert secured his second win of the season as he rocketed to the top in the power-packed Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Italy with the fast and furious Vangog du Mas Garnier.
Last week’s champion Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Indiana once again secured their place on the podium as they flew into second place with a foot-perfect clear just seven-tenths of a second slower than Robert.
As Robert and Bayard-Johnsson are already qualified for the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix, it was today’s bronze medalist Bryan Balsiger who took the golden ticket to the GC Prague Playoffs with Twentytwo des Biches.
A beaming Oliver Robert explained after his win: “It is just unbelievable, I didn’t think I could ride this weekend in Rome so to win with Vangog is just fantastic. I took some risks in the jump-off but today was my day. It’s a fantastic season, I have never won a big Grand Prix with him before. I have had the best 10 days for my first time in Rome, it is just fantastic.”
For the first time in Longines Global Champions Tour history with just two stages of the 2021 season to go Ben Maher and Olivier Robert are joint leaders on 228 points, dramatically knocking Edwina Tops-Alexander off top spot. Tops-Alexander now sits six points behind on 222 points. Peder Fredricson is still in the race on 220 points as he has one more LGCT Grand Prix score to count while all the other contenders already have the maximum of eight so need to improve on their score to change points.
In front of a full house, Uliano Vezzani’s tough first-round track triggered multiple faults and retirements from a string of top riders, with just combinations coming forward to tackle the rollercoaster jump-off.
First to go in the supercharged jump-off was Maikel van der Vleuten with 11 year old Beauville Z. Not only fighting for the win van der Vleuten was battling it out with Balsiger for the prestigious golden ticket to LGCT Super Grand Prix. With father Eric van der Vlueten watching on from the sidelines Maikel soared over the first with ease. They kicked on, took smooth and tight turns and produced a clear putting the pressure on the rest of the field in 42.55 seconds.
In his debut, Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix Bryan Balsiger looked focused and determined. Setting off with an open canter he was half a second up on Maikel’s time at the split time, a check to last meant he got a little deep and the pole rolled but stayed up stopping the clock a fraction faster in 42.27 seconds to win his ticket to the groundbreaking GC Prague Playoffs.
Olympic champion Ben Maher opted to ride his LGCT Grand Prix of Paris winner Ginger-Blue. With leading the championship set in his sights Maher put full trust in Ginger Blue and galloped around the stunning arena in Circus Maximus. An agonising pole fell coming out of the Longines combination knocking his chances of the win and leaving it a long wait to find out where he sits in the championship.
The bar was set high but Olivier Robert and Vangog du Mas Garnier were not intimidated. Making use of his long stride and taking all the risks he got a flyer midway through the course propelling him ahead and into the lead as the time clocked 40.62 seconds
Final rider was last week’s winning combination of Malin Baryard-Johnsson and the incredible H&M Indiana. Aiming for the double – the pair were full speed ahead from before the first fence but even at full gas they couldn’t match the pace of the flying Frenchman handing him the victory as they stopped the clock in 41.31 seconds.
With just two stages left in the dramatic 2021 season, the race has stepped up to a whole new level. The Longines Global Champions Tour heads to Šamorín for a doubleheader and the Final stage of the year to crown the champion of champions from 15 – 17 & 21 – 23 October.
How the Championship could change in round 14:
- Ben Maher would have to be 19th or better to improve his score
- Oliver Robert would have to be 13th or better to improve his score
- Edwina Tops-Alexander would have to be 21st or better to improve her score
- Peder Fredricson only has 7 scores at the moment so will improve his score
- History could be made as Tops-Alexander and Maher could be the first to win a third LGCT season Championship