Monaco Aces claimed their first GCL victory in the intense team battle of 2019 after a cliffhanger fourth leg of the series in the dynamic city of Shanghai.
Team Monaco Aces – Julien Epaillard and Jerome Guery. Photo by Stefano Grasso/GCL
A strong performance by Paris Panthers propelled them up the ranking leader board, but Shanghai Swans retain the top position after four events with an 11-point lead from second place St Tropez Pirates and Monaco Aces five points behind in third.
Strategic play by Monaco Aces, switching their squad line up on Day Two, paid off with Jerome Guery and on fire Julien Epaillard sealing the win. There was elation in the team camp after their dramatic victory and Julien said: “It was super today. It was a lot of pressure which is very bad for the heart!”
Jerome also admitted the pressure was intense on the whole team, including Marlon Monolo Zanotelli on Day One, and said: “We had to fight today. Julien was amazing and I fought for the victory.”
Valkenswaard United suffered a shock elimination in the roller coaster competition and some of the top teams clocked up significant penalties around Uliano Vezzani’s masterful course. A huge Massimo Dutti oxer demanded full power early on in the course, while a delicate Longines plank set off a sweeping turn which caught out many of the most experienced athletes. A tough triple combination, set alongside the main grandstand, was the bogey fence of the day, causing troubles for many of the world’s best.
Fans were again on the edge of their seats as the GCL contest got underway and it was to be a story of jubilation and heartache.
Team Doha Falcons – Mike Kawai (JPN) on Kahlua. Photo by Stefano Grasso/GCL
Jur Vrieling and Davall were the pathfinders for the Doha Falcons, and with a heavy score of 25 from yesterday’s competition, the team had everything to do. But another pole added to their woes, before Mike Kawai and Kahula added another 12 faults to their tally putting them on 41 overall.
First to go for the team Constant van Paesschen and Verdi Treize delivered a foot-perfect clear, the chestnut stallion gleaming in the sunlight as they came home on a zero score. Teammate Roger-Yves Bost and Sunshine du Phare gave it their best shot, but the triple combination caught them out, picking up 8 faults to put the team on a score of 28.
Team Chantilly Pegasus – Roger Yves Bost (FRA) on Sunshine du Phare. Photo by Stefano Grasso/GCL
Home city team Shanghai Swans fielded anchorman Daniel Deusser first with stallion Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z, but the horse became a little strong and the Longines plank tumbled, adding another four to their score. Pius Schwizer and Living the Dream were hoping to keep a clean sheet, but the double of verticals came down, and it all unravelled quickly with the team finishing on a score of 29 as the Pegasus team moved up a space.
Team Berlin Eagles – Christian Kukuk (GER) on Colestus. Photo by Stefano Grasso/GCL
Christian Kukuk and the impressive grey stallion Colestus put in a formidable round for the team, a fast clear on the board to help their scoring. Watched on by third member Lorenzo de Luca, teammate Philipp Weishaupt and Che Fantastica were a slower moving combination, but clearly had a steady clear in mind for the Eagles today. Yet the first part of the LGCT double came down, adding another four to their score and putting them on 16 overall.
The Longines vertical tumbled early on for Christian Ahlmann and Atomic Z, but that was just the start of trouble for the team as a tally of 22 faults for the duo added to their score of 12 from yesterday. Leopold van Asten and VDL Groep Zidane rattled the Massimo Dutti oxer, but it stayed up, as did the Longines vertical. But the first part of the triple combination came down, adding another four faults to their score to put them on a score of 38.
Abdel Saïd and Jumpy van de Hermitage were tight in the second part of the double set down the long side of the VIP hospitality, the crowd groaning as they picked up another four faults for the Stars. Karel Cox and Evert flowed around the arena, hitting their stride perfectly with confidence. It was a flyer of a round, keeping the team on a score of 16 but crucially a full five seconds ahead of rivals Berlin Eagles.
Madrid in Motion
With a team score of eight, Madrid in Motion had a real shot of being at the sharp end of the grid with a good performance today. But all parts of the triple combination fell for Cindy van der Straten and Urban de Rohan, putting the team on a score of 20 and dropping them behind the Stars and Eagles. Mark McAuley and Vivaldi du Theil received a round of applause from captivated fans for their efforts over the triple, but the penultimate fence – a plank set towards the in-gate – tumbled, putting the score down to 24 overall.
Team Miami Celtics – Jessica Springsteen (USA) on RMF Zecilie. Photo by Stefano Grasso/GCL
The Celtics – who won two weeks ago in Miami Beach – made a strategic swap today to bring in Jessica Springsteen with RMF Zecile. Jessica took a wider turn to the tricky Longines plank, and it paid off, the pair leaving it up as they flew over it on the perfect stride. But the first part of the final combination came down, as Shane Breen took up the reins with Ipswich van de Wolfsakker. Watched on by team manager Helena Stormanns and teammate William Whitaker, Shane and Ipswich put in a confident and sharp round. But they were drawn in too deep to the red and white oxer and their hopes fell as the first part of the final combination tumbled too, putting the team on 20 overall.
St Tropez Pirates
Eight faults for Olivier Robert and Eros put the Pirates on the back foot, but a stunning clear from the on-form anchorman Pieter Devos and Apart kept the team on 12 faults and within touching distance of the leaders.
First of the teams on a zero score to take centre stage today, the Panthers, fielded their formidable duo of Darragh Kenny and Gregory Wathelet., First to go Darragh pulled out an impressive clear with the big striding Classic Dream, passing the baton to teammate Gregory who selected to ride Iron Man van de Padenborre for this crucial round. A steady clear was the strategy for the Panthers today, and Gregory delivered a smooth round – guiding Iron Man carefully around the challenging course. But the first oxer in the penultimate combination came down, putting the team on four, and with a slow time. Now they endured an anxious wait to see how the rest of the field would do.
Team Hamburg Giants – Titouan Schumacher (FRA) on Atome Z. Photo by Stefano Grasso/GCL
Bart Bles and Israel v.d. Dennehoeve produced a steady round for the Giants, another team who clearly wanted to defend their zero score advantage from yesterday’s competition. They delivered the clear, but the single time fault collected could prove costly. U25 rider Titouan Schumacher brought out Atome Z, the fiery mare keen and enthusiastic over the fences. But it proved too much, landing too close to the second part of the LGCT double and meaning they couldn’t clear it. The triple came down too, as did the penultimate plank, putting the team on 13 and behind the St Tropez Pirates.
The experienced partnership of Marc Houtzager and Sterrehof’s Calimero gave everything for a clear, Calimero turning himself inside out to clear the triple combination. But the penultimate plank fell, putting the team on score and level with the Panthers. Niels Bruynseels looked determined with Delux van T&L, knowing only a fast clear could keep them ahead of the Panthers. But the very same plank fell, putting the team on eight and dropping them down the order.
Anticipation mounted as Valkenswaard United riders Alberto Zorzi and Marcus Ehning entered the arena. First to go Alberto and Ulane de Coquerie rattled the Longines vertical, and the crowd groaned as the Longines plank fell. But a dramatic stop at the start of the triple combination had everyone on the edge of their seat, before a second refusal meant the team would be eliminated – a shock result for the top contenders.
Team Valkenswaard United – Alberto Zorzi (ITA) on Ulane de Coquerie. Photo by Stefano Grasso/GCL
Final team to go the Aces knew that a double clear would win them the competition, but a fast four faults could also keep them in the lead. Naturally quick rider Julien Eapillard took up the reins with Vituose Champeix – they looked in trouble heading into the triple combination, but the pair cleared it much to gasps of delight from the crowd.
Team Monaco Aces – Julien Epaillard (FRA) on Virtuose Champeix. Photo by Stefano Grasso/GCL
Their spectacular and well measured clear put all the pressure on the shoulders of teammate Jerome Guery who took up the mantle with the eye-catching Garfield de Tiji Des Templiers. A rattle of the GC Prague Playoffs first fence had nerves jangling, but they cleared the challenging triple beautifully. Another rub at the SPD Bank caught everyone’s breath, and there were was a groan of dismay as the plank fell. But they finished inside the time of the Panthers, keeping their lead and winning the GCL Shanghai leg of the Championship.