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Tactics, teams and transfers: GCL moves up a gear for final part of debut season

Image: 2016 GCL teams

With the 10 day transfer window closed, several team rosters have been reshuffled as tension mounts in the final critical stages of the inaugural Global Champions League season.

It’s all to play for in the unfolding team championship with a chance at the lion’s share of the €4,500,000 end of season bonus prize money. Tacticians have turned their attention to the four crucial final legs and also to the 2017 season as they aim to optimise their rider line-up with more high profile athletes looking to be part of the League.

One of the biggest names to join GCL will be British Olympic athlete Michael Whitaker, who becomes an integral member of Antwerp Diamonds. So far Antwerp Diamonds have been one of the most consistently successful teams in the League and the only team to win their home event. The GCL ranking has Antwerp Diamonds second only to ranking leaders Valkenswaard United, featuring Michael’s brother John Whitaker. Talking about joining a GCL team, Michael said: “I’m really looking forward to competing in the Global Champions League. It’s been great to watch it grow and build on the success so far. I’m really happy to be joining a top team like Antwerp Diamonds. It’s going to be interesting going up against John (Whitaker) for the first time in a team competition like this, it’s unique and why it’s a great concept and important for the future of the sport. For sure I’ll be fighting to win with my team mates. I can’t wait to get started.”

It’s set to be an exhilarating contest as Antwerp Diamonds bid to overtake Valkenswaard United in the home stretch with only 5.5 points separating the two top teams. Following the 10-day transfer window Olympic Bronze Medallist Kamal Bahamdan will join the Paris Jets team and New Zealand show jumper Samantha McIntosh will make the Shanghai Swans the only all-female team. All eyes will be on the revised combinations to see how quickly they bond and what assets each horse and rider will bring to the team dynamic.

This weekend one of the most hotly-contested rounds of the Global Champions League will unfold in Valkenswaard on Sunday afternoon. Current ranking leaders Valkenswaard United will go all out to extend their lead on home territory in front of an enthusiastic Dutch crowd. But with Antwerp Diamonds, Monaco Aces and Rome Gladiators snapping at their heels, the 12th leg of the Championship is set to bring new drama to the already exciting season.

There has been an eclectic mix of podiums so far, with riders from all corners of the globe delighting fans and proving world-class teams exist beyond nations. Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, Scott Brash, Gregory Wathelet, Maikel van der Vleuten, Edwina Tops-Alexander, Kent Farrington, Laura Renwick, Laura Kraut, Marco Kutscher, Roger-Yves Bost and Lauren Hough are just a few of the top show jumping names tasting League success. As every point counts, each leg is crucial, and the two riders each team fields per event are under pressure to perform to the maximum.

Already a host of next generation talent has had the opportunity to shine, with U25 riders playing a crucial part in the League concept. Gonzalo Anon Suarez of Madrid in Motion helped the team take the win in Chantilly after a phenomenal round in challenging conditions, Andreas Kreuzer and David Will of the Cascais Charms beat some of the best, including Olympic medallists, to stand on the top step in Shanghai. Kevin Jochems has been on the podium twice out of the four times he’s competed for the Cannes Stars, and Jessica Springsteen, Emily Moffitt, Alexandra Thornton, Philip Houston and Nicola Philippaerts have all performed brilliantly at various locations around the world for their respective teams.

Horses too have taken centre stage, with familiar and new names propelled into the spotlight. Bokai, Harrie Smolders’ stunning grey gelding has been one of the most consistent horses on the League so far, jumping every round he’s competed in clear and earning himself the position of being one of the most valuable assets in the competition this season. Antwerp Diamonds’ teammate Audrey Coulter’s Alex has also caught the eye of many, proving well suited to this ever-evolving class and contributing to Audrey being on the podium six times out of the eight events she’s competed on. Bertram Allen saved his LGCT Grand Prix of Paris winning horse Romanov for the Hamburg win, and Rolf-Goran Bengtsson’s impressive stallion Clarimo ASK has become a regular face on the League events.

The Global Champions League of Valkenswaard will take place this Sunday 7th August at 15:30 local time. For all the information, head to www.globalchampionsleague.com

To see the full team listings, please click here.

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