This afternoon, in the event's flagship class, and to finish off a truly magical weekend of sport, the scenario proved to be ideal. Yes, magical is the word that comes to mind and it applies equally to Christophe Ameeuw, the creator of the Longines Masters of Paris, and to Simon Delestre, second in this Longines Grand Prix. All the ingredients were there for an exceptional evening shared between the competitors and the spectators.
"For starters, explained Simon Delestre, the initial course was very difficult. While walking the course, we were convinced that only about ten riders would get through to the jump-off. In actual fact sixteen qualified, but this was only because all the very best riders were here today." The resulting jump-off had the spectators on the edge of their seats. Luc Musette had designed a fabulous course, with plenty of room for galloping and some spectacular options. The fact that there were so many in the jump-off pressured the riders into taking more risks.
Billy Twomey, who found himself in the leader's armchair very quickly, predicted: "There are lots of very fast riders to come. I'd be very surprised if I stayed in the lead all the way. But I'd really appreciate it if the spectators would cross their fingers for me!" But with all the fair-play in the world, he had little chance that the spectators would oblige, especially considering the amount of French riders that were to follow. The favourite competitors had mixed results. As the public followed all of the riders in the jump-off, the atmosphere in the grandstand intensified as the spectators switched from holding their breath, letting out groans of disappointment and cheering excitedly.
After Pénélope Leprévost and Flora de Mariposa both knocked a fence down, the hope of a French victory was down to Simon Delestre and Patrice Delaveau. Precision and speed allowed Simon and Hermès Ryan, recent bronze medallists at the European championships, to go round clear with the best time, but... "I went as fast as I could, without going too far", explained the rider from Lorrain after his round. Last to go in the jump-off, with a French victory already secured, Patrice Delaveau had no choice. If he wanted to do better with Lacrimose 3 HDC, he would have to give it his all. He started of very fast, against the advice of his trainers Jean-Maurice Bonneau and Philippe Guerdat, and rode the first line with one stride less. "This gave me an extra second, which I then just had to keep it. But I was lucky."
Lacrimoso, who didn't have much time to recover in between his first round and the jump-off, was a bit tired and rattled a few of the poles, as if to add a bit of musical suspense to the atmosphere. "But since he is a true genius, he gave it his all – and all the fences stayed up.” The Marseillaise rang out once more in the grandstands, as thousands of spectators sang together. The French have had a brilliant weekend with the victories of Kevin Staut in the Prix Institut Esthederm, Simon Delestre last night in the Gucci Gold Cup and Patrice Delaveau in the MIASUKI Trophy and the Longines Grand Prix.
The Longines Masters intercontinental series obviously suits the defending vice-world champion: he has won four out of the five main classes of the first edition in Hong Kong in 2013, as well as the Prix Emirates and the Gucci Gold Cup at Los Angleles this year. Will he be the first to claim the bonus of 500,000 euros promised for the Longines Grand Prix two-in-a-row winner, or who knows, even the Super bonus of 1,000,000 euros for the rider who manages to clinch three in a row?