Spaniard Miguel Vila Ubach made history yesterday when he was crowned king of endurance at the Aachen 2006 World Equestrian Games.

A damp but lively crowd cheered the triumphant rider, on the grey Arab Hungares as he cantered alone into the main stadium at Aachen, minutes before second and third-placed French riders Virginie Atger and Elodie Le Labourier appeared together. He had taken the lead a few kilometres before the finish.

The 32-year-old rider was part of the silver-medal winning Spanish endurance team at the Hague (1994) but this was the first time the country has taken gold.

“I knew we were good but I don’t believe I’m here today,” Miguel declared at the press conference that followed his arrival. “I was a European Champion back in 1999 and I’ve been dreaming for another title ever since but I’d never have thought it would be this one.”

Miguel Ubach celebrates his victory. Picture Kit Houghton

The French won team gold, with Switzerland taking silver and Portugal, bronze.

TeamGB came in 12th with two riders, with Christine Yeoman completing in 17th place in 10hr 7min at an average speed of 15.90kmph.

Pouring rain had done little for the spirits of both competitors and spectators during the last loop, a 27km excursion through Aachen cross-country course and along a riverbank.

The rain set in as competitors trickled in to vetgate five, at Aachen’s stadium two, and British hopes dissolved. After a strong start, with Tricia Hirst and Vlacq Khamul in the leading pack for vetgates one and two, Sally Hall was eliminated at vetgate two, when Bob’s Your Uncle was spun lame. Then at vetgate four, Linda Hams’s chesnut, HS Hidden Challenge, failed on metabolics. Then at vetgate five, Tricia Hirst’s Vlacq Khamul was eliminated on metabolics.

Only around half of the overall 159 riders from 42 nations completed the ride.

Individual Results (first 10 riders)
1. Miguel Vila Ubach (ESP) / Hungares – 9:12:27
2. Viriginie Atger (FRA) / Kangoo d’Aurabelle – 9:16:13
3. Elodie Le Labourier (FRA) / Sangho’Limousian – 9:16:14
4. Jaume Punti Dachs (ESP) / Elvis HB – 9:22:07
5. Philippe Benoit (FRA) / Akim du Boulve – 9:24:30
6. Joao Raposo (POR) / Sultao – 9:24:31
7. Valerie Ceunik (BEL) / Kouros des Iviers – 9:27:39
8. Shane Gray Dougan (NZL) / Vigar Riffal – 9:30:38
9. Sultan Ahmad Sultan bin Sulayem (UAE) – 9:30:42
10. Pascale Dietsh (FRA) / Hifrane du Barthas – 9:30:44

Team Results (first 3 teams)
1. France – total riding time 28:11:27
2. Switzerland – 29:57:20
3. Portugal – 30:38:32

Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound for in-depth reports on all the action in Aachen