Photo: GCL / Stefano Grasso
As the highly anticipated Global Champions League season prepares to get underway the full team rider list for Mexico City can today be revealed. With each of the 18 teams selecting two riders for the first round of the GCL, Thursday's class will be the first opportunity for teams to test the strength and depth of their field, as the 15-leg Championship kicks off in style.
Previous GCL Mexico City winners the Shanghai Swans will be fielding heavy-weight duo World Number 1 Daniel Deusser (GER) and Roger-Yves Bost (FRA). The new pairing will unite for the first time in the thrilling team format and on paper look to be a formidable force to be reckoned with this season. Home team Mexico Amigos will be looking for strong support, as Christian Ahlmann (GER) makes his debut for the team alongside Norwegian rider Geir Gulliksen (NOR). Also keen to make a strong start will be the Hamburg Diamonds, with 2016 star striker Harrie Smolders (NED) joining forces with Eric Lamaze (CAN) for another world-class pairing sure to impress with their experience and talent.
The stunning Campo Marte will host the first round of action for the GCL, with riders taking to a stunning grass arena for the first round of a team Championship that spans the globe in 15 unique locations. Refreshed team kit, team music and world class sport will combine to make the competition a high octane sporting thriller, with fans treated to top sport and entertainment. The new Global Champions League trophy has also been revealed today, a stunning design by Nino Bauti who is also the creator of the Mexican Formula One trophy and Longines Global Champions Tour of México creation, amongst others. The trophy was manufactured by hand in tinted glass in the ateliers of Nouvel Studio in Mexico City. Featuring a marble base, it is also engraved by hand with equestrian symbols. The designer chose circular and round shapes to represent the self discipline of the participants, describing it as "the circle is the beginning and the end, the most pure example of perfection."
Hoping to lift the new trophy again at the end of the season will be reigning Champions Valkenswaard United, who have retained Bertram Allen (IRL) for another year running. The phenomenal talent returns alongside Alberto Zorzi (ITA) for the first event in Mexico City. Another experienced rider who will be looking for a strong showing is Miami Glory’s Scott Brash (GBR) who teams up with U25 star Paris Sellon (USA) for the first time. Top French rider Simon Delestre (FRA) will make his debut on the League for the St Tropez Pirates, joining forces with Belgian star Jérôme Guéry (BEL) for the first time, while Marco Kutscher (GER) returns for the Cannes Stars, this time pairing up with top Swiss rider Jane Richard-Philips (SUI) as they look to better the team’s silver medal in Mexico City from 2016.
With the new format meaning that teams will be able to change horses and riders between the two rounds, the pressure will be on the riders to see which will be the best combination for the overall event. Riders will be combining faults and time, with the quickest clear in pole position for Saturday’s final, which takes place at 13:00 local time. Viewers around the world will be able to tune in via the GCL TV live stream, featuring a build up to the first round and exclusive behind the scenes content.
While some combinations are uniting for the first time, others will return to compete alongside former teammates and friends. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and Leopold van Asten (NED) made the switch to join team Madrid in Motion this year, with the pair already an intimidating combination throughout last year’s championship. Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani (QAT) and Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) also return to join forces once more, with the pair knowing each other inside out and looking play their friendship to their advantage for Doha Fursan Qatar. Paris Panthers combination of Jack Hardin Towell (USA) and Jennifer Gates (USA) will unite to compete in the picturesque grass arena, with Jack making the move from Rome Gladiators in 2016 to join the dynamic Panthers.
Young talents Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) and Martin Fuchs (SUI) will be in action for the Chantilly Pegasus, looking to fend off the challenges of Rome Gladiators who this weekend will field Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and Abdel Saïd (EGY). Pieter Devos (SUI) makes his debut alongside experienced League rider Pilar Lucrecia Cordon (ESP) for the Monaco Aces, and David Will (GER) returns to the Cascais Charms alongside Carlos Lopez (COL).
New team London Knights will be fielding the only local rider in Mexico City, with Enrique Gonzalez (MEX) teaming up with Eduardo Menezes (BRA), and Moscow Bears will see Michael Kearins (IRL) and Mathilda Karlsson (SWE) make their debut on the GCL circuit. Top Belgian rider Gregory Wathelet (BEL) returns to the series, this time with the Vienna Eagles, and is joined by compatriot and new League rider Niels Bruynseels (BEL), while Max Kühner (AUT) and Anna Kellnerova (CZE) make their debut with the Berlin Lions.