It was one of those moments that most riders would have looked back on and shaken their head at, thinking ‘that was where I lost it.’
But most riders are not Christian Ahlmann, and when the formidable German picked up a rail in Round 1 of the €320,000 Longines Global Champions CSI5* Tour Grand Prix of Madrid on Saturday, May 21st, he didn’t miss a single beat.
On those four faults his qualification for Round 2 hung in the balance, but more importantly, as the 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour overall series leader, Ahlmann knew that for him, every ranking point mattered. All this was in his head as he smoothly headed towards the final three fences on course aboard Taloubet, towards a line that had been a trouble spot for most of the order. A triple bar rode from a bend around an unused oxer on course toward a tall, yellow 1.60m vertical, followed in six strides by the final oxer in Round 1. The yellow vertical had been the bogey fence of the afternoon, coming down many times.
Knowing that even fractions of a seconds saved could mean the difference in his placing and have an effect on his series lead, Ahlmann saw a turn that no other rider had attempted, and with his amazing stallion Taloubet, pulled it off as easily as if it were an equitation round, jumping to the right side of the triple bar to make an inside track to the vertical.
“On the turn to the triple bar I saw it, and I thought ok, I have to take the risk now, and take the short way to the second last vertical,” Ahlmann said. “Ok I was really lucky to make it, it was just in and I could climb a little bit in the second round.”
Ahlmann meant that he was just inside the top 18 to return for Round 2 on the power of that time saved, and he proceeded to guide Taloubet, a 16 year old Belgian bred stallion (Galoubet A x Polydor), to a clear in Round 2, making for a climb up the final placings to finish the grand prix in 12th place.
Stronghold on the Series
Ahlmann is the only rider in the 2016 LGCT series to have earned points in every one of the six stages that have unfolded so far. That’s a massive achievement considering the participation at each LGCT stage of most of the Longines FEI ranked Top 50 riders in the world.
With a total of 186 points, Ahlmann sits 73 points ahead of Great Britain’s John Whitaker, who is 2nd in the series rankings.
Harrie Smolders of The Netherlands and Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani of Qatar are tied for 3rd place on an equal 103 points.
This could all change of course, as there is plenty of room in the nine LGCT series still to come for points to be won and lost before this November’s series finale in Doha, Qatar. With each stage offering an average of 200,000 in prize money in the grand prix alone, as well as valuable FEI world ranking points that run separately from the LGCT series race, the Global Tour is rich in incentive for the top show jumpers in the world to continue bringing their A game to these glamorous and thrilling stages around the world.
The seventh stage of the 2016 LGCT begins on May 26th in Chantilly, France.
View the complete updated 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour Series Rankings at this link.