Olivier Philippaerts and mid-season signing Douglas Lindelöw kept cool heads under extreme pressure to win their first GCL event of the season in spectacular style. The battle for the 2021 Championship has intensified with Shanghai Swans dramatically closing the gap to overall ranking leaders Valkenswaard United.
Berlin Eagles dynamic duo of Philipp Weishaupt and Christian Kukuk powered into second place while the on from Paris Panthers pairing of Penelope Leprevost and Harrie Smolders took the final spot on the podium today.
In a dramatic tightening at the top, Valkenswaard United hold on to the lead with 209 points. Just behind are the Shanghai Swans with 196 points while the Paris Panthers have leapfrogged into third place on 185 points. The London Knights slide into the top fourth on 175 points while the Monaco Aces fall to fifth place two points behind them.
Philippaerts smiled: “In my opinion, I think this is the best grass arena I have seen in Europe so far. There have been so many shows here this year but the facilities and the footing is still amazing so I really think it's a fantastic job. We have had a slow start to the season for us but the last few shows we have had some decent results and hopefully, now we can start to move up the ranks a bit.”
Lindelöw added: “I am delighted with both my rounds, a small mistake today but luckily I had Olivier to save me. For sure the pressure was on today but it was also a tough course, very delicate and quite technical.
Under blue skies Uliano Vezzani designed a challenging, high octane track, with plenty for the riders to think about. The most troublesome line was the double of verticals set against the big grandstand. There was a festival atmosphere in Valkenswaard at Tops International Arena as spectators enjoyed the village, with a dedicated kids play area and were able to watch top sport from the comfort of the covered grandstand and SkyBoxes.
St Tropez Pirates
St Tropez Pirates kept the same line up however Daniel Deusser swapped onto a new face on the League Bingo Ste Hermelle. First to go Olivier Robert and Vangog du Mas Garnier flew around the track - surviving a lucky rub before one fell and four was added to their total. Doing damage control Deusser came home with a flawless clear and the Pirates stayed on 20 faults at the bottom end of the order.
Madrid In Motion
It all fell apart for Madrid In Motion today as Eduardo Alvarez Aznar picked up another 12 faults with Legend before Marlon Módolo Zanotelli who was making his debut on the team had two down on Diarca PS bringing their tally up to 32 faults to finish last.
Sergio Alvarez Moya brought out his top horse Alamo to tackle today’s challenge. The punchy black gelding showing his pure class and clearing the fences with ease until he got a little too deep and a fence came crashing down to add 4 to the score board. Coming in off the bench for the Prague Lions Marc Houtzager and Sterrehof's Calimero also picked up 4 faults with the team finishing on 19 faults and just outside the top 10.
Both Cannes Stars opted to make a horse change, and Abdel Saïd brought out Jumpy van de Hermitage today. They gave a masterful performance bringing home the clear for the team to keep them on their score of 8. However, Sameh El Dahan and WKD Aimez Moi had a fence coming out of the combination and left out a stride to the last which caused that to come crashing down and the Stars finished on 16 faults.
Young talent Evelina Tovek brought Winnetou de la Hamente Z back for round two looking to redeem their one down yesterday. Today wasn’t their day and it was another 8 faults to add to the score. The team made the strategic change to swap Frank Shuttert for Henrik von Eckermann riding Glamour Girl. Unfortunately it didn’t pay off as the pair went flat out and lost their back end in the double of verticals bringing the total up to 20 faults.
The Miami Celtics brought out their U25 rider Andrzej Oplatek with his beautiful grey Stakkatan for the second round of action. But their hearts sank as they took out two fences, the Celtics falling to a score of 16 and out of contention for the podium today. Johnny Pals and Charley entered the arena knowing only a clear could keep them picking up decent ranking points. They delivered the clear and would finish mid field.
An interesting tactic from the Hamburg Giants as they chose to make no horse or rider changes and first fielded team anchor Bart Bles and Kriskras DV. It was an unusual result for the pair with three down to add 12 faults to their total. Suus Kuyten and Alfa Jordan then had 13 faults to bring the team to 30 overall and down the bottom of the placings.
Last week's winning combination of Christian Ahlmann and Max Kühner were out in full force today with top horsepower. Ahlmann was shaking his head as he crossed the finish line on Solid Gold Z with four faults on the board as the first part of the double fell. Max Kühner and Vancouver Dreams put their foot on the accelerator during the first part of the course. Their fast approach caused two fences to fall and they immediately had a large score of 16 faults but in a fast time.
Current ranking leaders United kept their formidable rider line-up in Edwina Tops-Alexander and Marcus Ehning both riding the same horses as yesterday with the team clearly in the hunt to extend their overall Championship lead. Riding Fellow Castlefield, Edwina looked on track for a flawless clear until the fence coming out of the combination fell and they were suddenly out of reach for the win. The drama continued when Marcus Ehning and A la Carte NRW knocked the wide blue oxer on the far side of the arena as well as the gappy bicycle upright bringing the team score dramatically up to 16 and finishing 8th overall.
High in the overall rankings but on the back foot today the Monaco Aces needed to take careful caution to produce the all important double clear. Julien Epaillard was not going as fast today on Solero MS taking every fence in their stride. An unlucky rub at the wide blue oxer on the far side of the arena meant the pressure was on teammate Verlooy. Making a strategic horse change to Luciano van het Geinsteinde, Jos Verlooy bounced into the double of verticals and had one down added to the spooky bicycle jump falling - leaving the team on a total of 12 faults.
There was heart ache for Yuri Mansur and Vitiki as the final fence fell after a super clear round up until that point. It proved a costly 4 faults to add to their score of 1 carried over from yesterday before passing the reins to Bassem. Once again Bassem Mohammed and Gunder picked up a crucial time fault but this time added to a fence caused the Falcons to finish with 10 faults and round off the top 5 in Valkenswaard.
First of the teams on an overnight score of zero, Philipp Weishaupt kept Coby for today’s competition but it would prove to be a costly round as a fence fell leaving it in the hands of Christian Kukuk to save. Riding Mumbai, Kukuk went for a steady clear rather than risk it on time, they delivered and kept the team on 4 faults.
First to go for the on form Paris Panthers was leading French lady Penelope Leprevost with Verite Une Prince and they took on the course with determination. There was agony as she had one down mid course putting the pressure on Harrie Smolders and Monaco. They were also unlucky with the lightest of touches but the pair were speedy and the Panthers finished the fasted on 8 faults to claim the final spot on the podium.
Aiming for their first win of the season Douglas Lindelöw and Cheldon kept a steady and flowing rhythm throughout but a gut wrenching late fault saw him shaking his head as the stop clocked with 4 faults on the board. Olivier Philippaerts and Le Blue Diamond v't Ruytershof taking extra care they produced the goods, finishing clear and keeping the Knights on their score of 4 faults.
New York Empire
Two of the fastest riders on the circuit Spencer Smith and Denis Lynch joined forces again for the second round of action at GCL Valkenswaard. First to go Spencer opted to ride the consistent mare Quibelle owned by team owner and rider Georgina Bloomberg. They had an unlucky pole and left teammate Denis having to go clear and fast for the win. But Lynch and GC Chopin's Bushi cracked under pressure having two down and couldn’t convert the pole position to a win today finishing with 8 faults and just off the podium in fourth place.
The Championship now heads to Hamburg, Germany from 26 - 29 August.