Sitting in 4th place with no option to make 3rd but the risk to drop out of the Top 4, Simon Delestre, Michael Pender and Gerrit Nieberg travelled to the Saudi capital for the last stage of the season, and the season Final. An 11.5-point difference on the table over Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses should be sufficient, with one more event on the calendar and precious Prague afterwards.
For St. Tropez Pirates a spot in the GCL Super Cup Semi Final meant one step closer to the Final of the GCL Super Cup, which they had never reached before. For a top team that even fought the great London Knights outfit for the GCL Championship in 2019, the hiatus is a real blemish, but avoiding the GCL Super Cup Quarter Final this year would drastically increase their chances to break their maiden.
In Riyadh, the draw was favourable for the Pirates as they were 14th to go and could therefore anticipate on the result of Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses, who were 11th to go. The team with Olivier Philippaerts and Peder Fredricson didn’t give up without a fight, producing a very fast double clear, a result that would stay on top of the board for the rest of Round 1.
Though Pender and HHS Calais had shown plenty of their speed by winning the previous year’s Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Riyadh, they opted for a steady clear making it nearly impossible for Delestre to make up for the lost time.
Yet Delestre isn’t the man to hold back and take a quiet spin, so in his traditional upbeat approach he stopped the clock in an impressive time, however the risk meant a single rail down. With the slower time of Pender, St Tropez were the third fastest team on four penalties after Round 1, but with six other teams having jumped double clear, the Pirates were sitting in 9th with their opponents holding the lead.
At that point Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses would make up enough ground and points to overtake the Pirates for 4th place. With one round still to be jumped in the season, Hearts decided to take of Olivier Philippaerts who, as an individual, would come out of Round 2 with no less 12 penalties. Malin Baryard-Johnson and H&M Indiana would be their replacement. Pirates on the other hand did not bring in Gerrit Nieberg yet stuck to their Round 1 line up. Nieberg would produce an individual 8 penalty round.
But nobody had even thought about what was to happen next. Michael Pender’s round with Calais completely fell apart on 12 penalties and Simon Delestre’s 4 faults brought the Pirates total to 20 and 4th place slipped through the Pirates fingers like loose sand. The only thing that could save them, simply put, were rail from the Hearts and all other teams. And they got exactly that. Plenty of teams ranked behind the St Tropez Pirates and when Peder Fredricson dropped 2 fences, there was a sprinkle of hope that a true fairytale was created in Riyadh.
However, the hope did not last long as Malin Baryard-Johnson finished the job on a clear, secured their 4th places and dropped the Pirates in 5th. In a dramatic turn of events St Tropez had their lead of 11.5 points swapped for a 2.5-point deficit and a ticket for the Quarter Final.
A major blow for a team that so desperately wants to make the final of the Super Cup for the first time.