Cloud leaves eventer Oliver Townend with marathon trip
Townend secured victory at Badminton last May
British eventing star Oliver Townend is determined not to let Europe's air travel chaos deny him a defining career win and potential £230,000 payday.
With no flights from the UK because of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud, he remains confident that he can keep his Rolex Grand Slam dream alive.
After wins at Badminton and Burghley, he hopes to earn success at this weekend's Kentucky three-day event.
"My entire career has been building up to a moment like this," he said.
The Yorkshireman, who left his Shropshire base on Sunday ahead of the Kentucky event, has already spent £1,600 on a taxi and plans to take a flight from Spain to the United States.
With flights stranded in the UK and abroad due to the volcanic ash cloud rising from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, Townend caught a train to London, where he boarded a Paris-bound Eurostar.
After arriving in the French capital, he took a taxi to Madrid - a 14-hour journey - with the aim of boarding a US-bound holiday charter flight late on Monday, before then trying to get from Miami to Lexington, some 1,000 miles north through Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
"I got to Paris and I knew that I had to persuade someone to drive me to Madrid," stated Townend.
"I just thought 'Yorkshire's not that different to French', so I grabbed a bloke and explained that I had to get to Madrid - I am determined to get to Kentucky.
"I am not going to let it slip away just because of a volcano in Iceland. I want to be there to represent Britain and this is the biggest moment of my career so far and the biggest event of the year."
Townend's horses for the Kentucky event, which starts on Thursday, arrived there last week.
Despite his trials, he remains upbeat, saying: "To be honest, I am trying to see it as an adventure - this is where the Yorkshire grit kicks in.
"A lot of other people are going through far worse because of this situation but my attitude is that I have a job to do and I'm going to do my best to make sure that I am there when the competition starts.
In total Townend will have travelled over 6338 miles on arrival in Kentucky
"I am in the back of a taxi speeding across the Pyrenees and on Thursday, I will be on my horse in Kentucky. It doesn't get much more exciting than this."
Townend faces another challenge when he finally arrives in the US. "Like everyone else, I am here waiting for a plane out of Europe," he said. "This has to have been the most bizarre 24 hours of my sporting life.
"It is like a movie script, which is ironic because the only flight I can get out of here is a Spanish charter to Miami and Disneyworld.
"I have now got to find a way to get from Miami to Lexington, Kentucky - and of course that is where the story really begins."
The Rolex Grand Slam is one of equestrian sport's most coveted prizes, and has only been achieved once before, by Pippa Funnell in 2003.
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