Taking flight in London, the Berlin Eagles powered by Fundis were the first of the teams on 0 faults to go clear and held the top spot for the remainder of the class. Christian Kukuk and Philipp Weishaupt showed why they belonged at the top of the podium today with two impressive clear rounds and crucially closing the gap to Stockholm Hearts. Last year’s GCL of London winners, Shanghai Swans of Christian Ahlmann and Max Kühner had to settle for second today while New York Empire rounded off the podium in style with Harry Charles and Jodie Hall McAteer.
The 11th leg of the Championship saw top sport come down to the wire in Great Britain's capital city. Just a stone’s throw from the River Thames and under bright blue skies, fans packed into the covered grandstands, waving British flags patriotically as well as London Knights emblems with local spectators rooting for their home team.
Escorted by the Chelsea Pensioners in their traditional Scarlets the Berlin Eagles proudly took the top step of the podium today. Today’s result means the Stockholm Hearts stay in the lead on 214 points but Berlin Eagles sneak up on 207 points making the battle for top spot extremely exciting. Shanghai Swans sit on 182 points while the Prague Lions now climb into fourth place with 180 points in their bag as they look to qualify in the top four for the GCL Super Cup at the GC Prague Playoffs.
With the stage set for round two of the GCL of London 1.55m speed class, an atmosphere which could be cut with a knife saw the best riders in the world take their place in the spectacular arena in the home of the iconic Chelsea Pensioners in at the impressive Royal Chelsea Hospital, London.
Now just 7 points behind the Stokholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses, the Berlin Eagles now see victory of the overall season championship within reach. Christian Kukuk explained how important this was for the team: "We are very happy, when we came here to London we were very positive and we expected a good result, and we have both our best horses here, but in the end, you never know and anything can happen. We had quite a good mix between saving the time to leave the poles up, and having a good enough time to put the rest a little bit under pressure. That is why in the end why we saw here and there a mistake".
Teammate Philipp Weishaupt smiled: "It is something very special here, I love London and to come here and jump in this very unique place with that view makes it very special, and to win here, a special day for us."
A challenging course designed by Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani, riders were challenged by a triple combination with a short corner by the arena entrance into a related line of a steady four down past the Royal Chelsea Hospital. The penultimate fence, a delicate vertical positioned in front of the Global Champions Lounge, left spectators holding their breath and had riders challenged right until the final moment.
League leaders Stockholm Hearts power by H&M We Love Horses couldn’t redeem themselves from yesterday’s high score finishing way down the leader board and letting the other teams close the gap in the intense race to the Finals.
Home team London Knights have always done well on their home ground but it wasn’t to be today even though it was a clear from Abdel Said, an unlucky one down from Mike Kawai brought their team total up to 16 faults for them to finish mid-order.
Berlin Eagles were the only team to finish on a clean sheet after two rounds in London this weekend. They put the pressure on the teams to come forcing them to make mistakes as Christian Kukuk on Mumbai and Philipp Weishaupt with Coby delivered flawless smooth clears to finished the weekend on 0 faults.
The uber-consistent Shanghai Swans did exactly what was needed of them to collect a strong number of points in the closing stages of the season. Christian Ahlmann and Solid Gold Z set off at pace and kept all the fences up to hand the baton to Max Kühner and Eic Coriolis Des Isles. The pair had one down but their fast time kept them in contention for the podium.
Aiming for their highest finish this season Miami Celtics only had three teams to follow them. Crowd favourites Michael G Duffy aboard Clitschko posted a stunning clear just inside the time allowed and produced his first double clear for the team this year. Fellow teammate Jessica Springsteen put the pedal to the metal and posted a quicker ride aboard Hungry Heart but collected just 4 faults, leaving the team in 4th place.
With two to go, New York Empire powered by Lugano Diamonds cantered into the arena determined and focused. Led today by two young British stars, Jodie Hall Mcateer and Harry Charles held the hopes of the crowd on their shoulders. Jodie aboard her impressive Salt’N Peppa showed the crowd what they are made of leaving all rails standing with 76.29 on the clock. Followed by Harry Charles on Stardust the pair set off at pace but knocked a single rail in the tricky triple combination across the centre of the arena. Fortunately, the team were quick enough for a podium position in 3rd place with just one team left to go and producing the youngest podium finish ever for New York Empire.
Last to go, the Paris Panthers had the crowd on the edge of their seats and guessing as to whether they could post the same success as yesterday. Ioli Mytilneo aboard Levis de Muze and Gregory Wathelet both collecting one rail each leaving them in 6th position and off the podium today.
So it was the Berlin Eagles who delivered a show stopping GCL London under intense pressure reigning supreme at the historic and picturesque Royal Hospital Chelsea, and taking advantage of the Stockholm Hearts unusual high score weekend.
My vision is clear. Only the best for the best.