Prague Lions’ Pieter Devos and Niels Bruynseels pulled out an oscar-winning performance in tonight’s GCL Cannes, converting their pole position into a second win of the season and catapulting up to second in the overall championship race on the French Riviera.
Tonight’s GCL Cannes presented by Constance Hotels was a blockbuster, with drama right down to the final fence as Lions rose to the win. Shanghai Swans Christian Ahlmann and Max Kühner managed to hold onto second, with the formidable duo of Eric and Maikel van der Vleuten teaming up for Madrid In Motion - and delivering to take third.
The drama meant there was a major shuffle in the overall rankings, as teams fight to stay in the top four and fast track their way through to the GCL Super Cup Semi-Final at the GC Prague Playoffs. Holding onto their lead are the Berlin Eagles, now on 133 points, however, Prague Lions have jumped up to second place with just a two point difference, sitting on 131 overall. Stockholm Hearts drop to third with 128 but look dangerously close to being overtaken by Madrid In Motion, sitting on 126 points overall.
Pieter Devos praised the Prague Lions' teamwork and tactics: “We did a fantastic job here by managing our team very well. The first day Brian rode very well and then today we brought Niels in with a very fresh horse and of course a very good rider so I think we did good tactics to stand here on top of the podium.”
Bruynseels spoke to GCTV about their win today: “I knew I had to go clear so at least I knew what I had to do. My horse is in very good shape and I trusted in him today. We are only halfway in the season but we are very happy with the performance of the whole team.”
As fans packed the grandstands in Cannes, and VIPs walked the red carpet, the sun began its slow descent over La Croisette - lengthening shadows across the arena and giving the horses plenty to look at.
Uliano Vezzani’s course afforded no mistakes, with any lack of rhythm and balance repaid with fences falling everywhere. The technical track was extremely delicate with no team managing to jump a double clear today.
One team to rise were New York Empire - the team carrying through a score of 16 from Round 1. A rub for Scott Brash and Hello Mr President put them onto 20 in total, but a brilliantly quick clear from Spencer Smith kept them there and helped them climb 5 places overnight.
Scandinavian Vikings made a strategic change, bringing Henrik von Eckermann in to compete alongside Yuri Mansur, but it wasn’t enough after a clear from King Edward, an unusual 12 for Mansur meant the team would drop down the order.
There was disappointment for the London Knights and Hamburg Giants, with both teams dropping down the order after uncharacteristically big scores from Mike Kawai and Jur Vrieling.
Paris Panthers pulled out the big guns, with Harrie Smolders and Ben Maher bringing out top rides Monaco and Faltic HB once again for the second round. A late pole fell for Smolders picking up four faults but a clear for Maher this time put the team on a total of 11 faults and finished just outside the top 5 picking up much-needed championship points.
Ranking leaders Berlin Eagles made no changes to their team but one down each from Christian Kukuk and Eoin McMahon meant the duo would finish off the podium today and fighting to stay on top of the Championship.
Despite a clear from Nicola Philippaerts and Moya v. Bisschop, the Stockholm Hearts had to settle for fourth place overall after a slow four fault round from Olivier Philippaerts and H&M Legend of Love meant they were one of the slowest teams on 8 faults overall.
2019 GCL Cannes winning father and son duo of Eric and Maikel van der Vleuten were inches away from back to back wins in front of team owner Marta Ortega. A fault mid-course for Eric and Dreamland added heaps of pressure to his son. Riding his Olympic Bronze medalist mount Beauville Z he stopped the clock in a super-fast time with 0 faults on the board guaranteeing them a podium today.
Shanghai Swans were the last of the teams to enter on a score of 4 faults and made just a single horse change to their line-up. Christian Ahlmann was first to go with Solid Gold Z, despite the pressure the German delivered, bringing home a clear for his team and keeping them in sight of a win. An early pole for Max Kühner and Up Too Jacco Blue heaped the pressure on their remaining round but it was a fast time to slide ahead of the Hearts and wait to see if it was a win or second place.
Final team to go, Prague Lions had all the pressure on their shoulders - another double clear would guarantee them the win. Pieter Devos entered the ring as first to go with Claire Z, they had an unlucky pole meaning it all came down to Niels Bruynseels with Delux van T & L. They delivered the goods and crossed the finish clear to clinch the win and power the Lions up the rankings.
GCL now heads to the Swedish capital of Stockholm from 17 - 19 June where it will be a battle of the best at the mid way stage of the season and crucially the last event before the mid-season transfers.