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John Whitaker and Gilles Thomas win the GCL of Madrid for Valkenswaard United

Saturday, 18 May 2024
CSI5* LGCT Madrid 2024

Photo © GCL. "I couldn’t be happier to win, but to win with John is something I will remember forever," Gilles Thomas said after the two topped the GCL of Madrid. Photo © GCL.


Edited press release from Global Champions League 



Taking their first win since the GCL of Hamburg in 2022, Valkenswaard United stole the victory in the GCL of Madrid presented by Marqués de Riscal out of the grasp of the home team Madrid in Motion.

With none other than 68-year-old John Whitaker at the helm, young gun Gilles Thomas was riding alongside the living legend to take the win after leading from start to finish. An age difference of 42 years separates the two teammates who entered the ring in both round one and two with one aim – crucial championship points. Thomas’ Ermitage Kalone (Catoki x Kannan) and Whitaker's Equine America Unick du Francport (Zandor x Helios de la Cour II) were the chosen mounts for both rounds – being one of only two teams unchanged between the two rounds – ultimately leaving the arena with just seven faults on the score-sheet.

A thrilled Gilles Thomas, standing alongside teammate John Whitaker, spoke to GCTV of how much the win means, saying: "I couldn’t be happier to win, but to win with John is something I will remember forever. Our team is made up of legends such as Marcus Ehning and Edwina Tops-Alexander, so it is a real privilege to be part of Valkenswaard United".

John Whitaker smiled from ear to ear as he explained: "I’m really proud of Gilles today. He didn’t need any help from me, he rode class. This win means a lot for the team and really puts us back in the Championship race. I always enjoy the show here in Madrid – it is a fantastic grass arena. Our team manager Jan Tops joked to us saying ‘about time’ we were back on top of the podium and after my disappointment in Doha this means a lot to us."

Photo © GCL. Gilles Thomas and Ermitage Kalone. Photo © GCL.

The crowd was electric as hometown hero Eduardo Alvarez Aznar entered the arena for Madrid in Motion aboard his 19-year-old Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot (L'Arc de Triomphe x Apache d'Adriers). With this event a true homecoming for Aznar, he said: "I am from Madrid and I grew up riding in this club." Aznar expertly navigated the course with his long-time partner Rokfeller on home turf, and delivered a clear round for the crowds in Madrid to secure the first podium of the season for Madrid in Motion.

Placing third, disappointment was palpable amongst the Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland-camp. Christian Kukuk explained that while they had made the move up on the overall GCL championship standings, the team had hoped for more. He went on to explain that Riesenbeck International will be on the hunt for points in the coming stages as the GCL heads to the south of France. He explained: "I am excited for St Tropez and Cannes to come. I hope we can move up in the standings again at these shows." 

Although it wasn’t their day today, Cannes Stars powered by Iron Dames still lead the overall GCL standings on 87 points. The last two stages have completely reset the GCL season, with 10 of the 14 teams just ten points off the lead.





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