John Whitaker and Bertram Allen team up to win in Doha.

They may have finished sixth in the final competition in Doha, but the score was sufficient and the amazing partnership of experience and youth – the legendary John Whitaker and fresh-faced Bertram Allen – topped the 2016 Global Champions League by a slender 2.5 points.

Throughout the 15 leg, 7.5million Euro series, the team of Valkenswaard United – John Whitaker, Bertram Allen, under-25 member Emily Moffitt and Eduardo Menezes – have remained consistently at the top of the leader-board with four wins to their credit – three down to the formidable partnership of John and Bertram. And the pairing of John and Bertram secured the lion’s share of the 4.5million euro bonus in a dramatic competition under floodlights in Doha.

And it was down to the wire in the close-run, nail-biting competition. After the first round only two teams were left in contention of the overall title, John and Bertram just scraping into the second round in eighth spot with four faults apiece. Their closest rivals Harrie Smolders and Jos Verlooy for the the Antwerp Diamonds scored four and clear. And three teams were all on a zero score at the halfway stage, including the Rome Gladiators Laura Renwick (Bintang) and Laura Kraut (Zeremonie). It was all to play for.

The Paris Jets Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Clarimo ASK) and Nicola Philippaerts (H&M Zilverstar) and Cannes Stars Roger Yves Bost (Qoud’Coeur de la Loge) and Marco Kutscher (Clenur) kept up the relentless pressure with zero scores to take first and second places in this leg. Laura Kraut provided another clear, but miscommunication between Laura Renwick and Bintang dropped the Rome Gladiators down, although the seventh place points put them fourth overall behind third-placed Monaco Aces.

But all eyes were on Valkenswaard United, and John in his inimitable, cool-headed style returned a clear round on Ornellaia.

Antwerp Diamonds under-25 rider Jos picked up four faults in round two on Caracas to put the two teams on equal footing – it was down to a knife edge with the last two riders. But an uncharacteristic stop by Romanov upset Bertram’s rhythm, and the pair concluded on 12 faults, putting Valkenswaard United on a total of 20.

Under rocketing pressure, Harrie had to jump a quick clear over the challenging 1.50/1.55m track to be in with a chance of winning the overall title and set out determinedly. But it was not to be, top stallion Emerald rolled the penultimate rail to put his team third and hand the championship title to Valkenswaard United.

"I think it has worked really well. We tried to help each other out today. I was really disappointed with my fence down and that put pressure on Bertram to get a fast clear to keep us up there. We only just made the second round. I jumped clear and I thought: ‘we are in with a shot’ again. I’m very relieved to win, we have had a great season. Bertram had the speed when we needed it. That’s what it is all about," said John.

“Its’ been a brilliant but long season, we were battling it out the whole year. If you’re not consistent and fully revved up and concentrate, you have a bad result and that can compromise the end of the season,” said Bertram.

Photos © LGCT/Stefano Grasso