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Finals Day – Leucate – Here are the updates

EVENT COMPLETE! – SCROLL DOWN FOR HEAT STORIES AND LATEST UPDATES FROM EARLIER TODAY

Thursday 25th April: Finals day!
Report: Jim Gaunt / Photos: Svetlana Romantsova

Useful links:

Click here to go to the event live heat page!
Click here for yesterday’s heat stories
Scroll down for the day one highlight video and then to the bottom for the final highlight video

First update, 9am: Very windy here at Port Leucate, over 30 knots already. Riders going to have to ride to the conditions and show their interpretation of technicality, amplitude, power… surely kite loops are going to be pulled out today alongside some brutal handle-passes!

Yesterday's Action Highlights

Conditions: Wind between 32 – 41 knots! Averaging 35, cross onshore from the right. Boom. 

MEN’S SEMI-FINAL 01 (Started 09.30 local time)
M Chabloz / A Racca / A Pastor / V Rodriguez

So windy! Too windy for freestyle? Maxime landed a mobe 5 on a 7m. Guess not. Class. He rides the Levante winds a lot!
These are riders having to adapt so much. Valentin Rodriguez stuck a back mobe on his 7m, impressing the judges.
Even getting upwind today was an art. So much strength needed for passes and it looked like the whole ocean was moving sideways.
Chabloz went round a front roll, looked for the pass to blind but impossible.
Pastor kite loop!! Big… but not epic. Looking ideal to pull these today though… and he travelled so far!
Rodriguez – 315, nicely powered and good kite position on his six metre. The 16 year-old was showing lots of grit and superb adaptability. 
Chabloz: 313. These guys are making it work for freestyle, somehow!

Head of GKA Jorgen Vogt entered the media room and exclaimed, “Simply perfect!” (He loves strong winds, and he loves big airs, lol).

Despite the harsh conditions, after three tricks there were more consistent heat scores logged than yesterday. Racca was struggling at that stage though, with only a raley landed, but he’s probably not so used to such strong conditions at home in Mexico.
Rodriguez led after 3 tricks over Pastor. The Colombian had 3 from 3. First crash for him on 4th trick, stacking a front mobe.
In fact all riders crashed on 4th tricks except Racca, who landed a big kite loop! He got a 3.5 for that; a mid range score, but useful.
Maxime Chabloz opted go down the kite loop route on his 5th trick, but we’ll need to see some rotations thrown with these loops in order for the judges to hand out higher scores.
Rodriguez was still leading Pastor after 4 tricks.
Rodriguez’ second attempt on slim 5… landed! 5.87 in the bag.
Racca was up soon after with a nice kite low 315.
Chabloz’ slim 5 earned 5.4 and he overtook Pastor with one trick to go.
Rodriguez decided it was kite loop time on his last trick, but it made no difference.  The heat was done and dusted with him having led throughout.

Result: Rodriguez 19.97 / Chabloz 18.86 – those two through to the finals! Pastor and Racca 12.87 and 9.5 respectively.

See the tricks score card: click here

10.15am Quarter final 2 abandoned while conditions settle and livestream crew reassembled after trashed gear! 

11.50am – Men’s Semi Final 02 kicked off. 

SEMI-FINAL 02
L Whaley / C Mario / G Coccoluto / S Teixeira

Carlos Mario improved massively in his quarter final yesterday after probably his worst first heat start in history in round two. He was managing these mega difficult conditions well – 6.43 for a slim and 7.67 for a heart attack. No compromise freestyle for the champion! He butt checked a front blind, getting just 4 points but completed a clean hat trick of moves in his first three attempts, giving 18.1 total. He was cooking nicely.
Liam Whaley was lying in second after three tricks thanks to nailing a front blind mobe that scored 6.97, and 5.77 for a back mobe. His second trick was a crash but he had 12.74 after 3 tricks.
Gianmaria Coccoluto’s trick list included a front blind mobe and a back mobe and then a crash for the Italian, but he was holding ground in third at the halfway stage; ahead of Brazilian Teixiera who crashed his third and then his fourth trick.

We hadn’t seen any kite loops after three tricks – these riders were sticking hard to dedicated freestyle tricks. Would the second half of the heat open up?

Right on cue, Liam Whaley, King of the Air podium finisher launched the first kite loop combination seen in either semi-final – 6.57 score – highest scoring kite loop seen yet over the last two days.
Bebe knocked out a hinterberger 5 – he was freestyling as if it wasn’t howling!
A front to blind from Set on his fifth trick was only his third scoring trick. It was looking bleak for the Brazilian who has claimed several tour podiums in the last few seasons.
What a clever trick from Coccoluto – a crow mobe 5 which looked very good off a kicker on the inside. Very difficult, especially in these conditions, and got a very valuable 6.67. Liam Whaley answered back with his own, getting 5.8 which propelled him from third to first, but Carlos was still to take his fifth trick…
It was a three way fight for the top two.
Carlos Mario was riding a 7 metre RPM. Have you ever seen him ride such a small kite? A 315 for his fifth trick evened out the attempts and he was back in front. A 3.5 score for that 315 moved him back in front; a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.

Remember: we’re looking for 4 highest scoring tricks from 7 attempts today.

Would you want to unhook in these conditions? Erm… well, you’d end up a looong way downwind for sure. These guys were using their strength well.
Coccoluto’s sixth trick was an impressive hinterberger frontside 5. He stayed in third though after one more trick than Liam, but Liam then crashed! How costly would that be?
Set Teixeira struggled this heat and managed just a back roll on his last attempt, and was confirmed in fourth with the other riders still to take their last trick.
Coccoluto banged out a backmobe 5 with a very promising score of 6.47, which would put Liam under pressure to qualify for the final. Coccoluto moved into second and then came Whaley… who only landed a back mobe, which wasn’t enough!
Carlos Mario had won the heat even without his seventh and final trick attempt. So he threw a crowd pleaser – a mega loop! Good job. He landed all 7 of his tricks; ominous for everyone else given the conditions!

Result: Mario 27.83 / Coccoluto: 25.94 – they go through to join Valentin Rodriguez and Maxime Chabloz in the final. Liam Whaley would be gutted to not to have made it, but the Spaniard didn’t manage to land some tricks that he normally does in his sleep. Set Teixeira – usually top class – wasn’t in the game really in this heat.

The competition was abandoned again after the heat and scheduled to re-start again around 1.15pm local time (GMT -2). Livestream technicalities… 

Update at 13.20pm. Livestream was live again with Gemma doing nice interviews with the finalists. It was officially HOWLING by then! We were getting serious buffeting up in the judges’ tower. Baguette fillings were flying around the room! 

 

MEN’S FINAL – 13.20 pm
M Chabloz / C Mario / V Rodriguez / G Coccoluto

Conditions: 35 knots

Here’s an important fact: The judges had extended the trick allowance time from one minute to 90 seconds for the final, considering the tremendously difficult conditions. Each rider took it in turns, one trick at a time. They’d complete 7 tricks each with their top 4 tricks counting.

Text book back mobe 5 from Chabloz was the opener from the current Junior World Champ.
Coccoluto the Italian was stoked to have made the final, pushing out Liam Whaley in the semis, and he laid out a nice front blind mobe for his first trick. He seems to really enjoy those off the kickers on the inside. They’re super hard though in these gnarly 30 – 35 knot winds.
Mario led the way after one trick each: with a 6.9 for a slim. Solid.
Coccoluto’s second trick was a back mobe 5; a beautifully smooth rotation and safe landing, maintaining momentum throughout. He went ahead of Chabloz after two tricks each with that 6.27 scoring back mobe trick family manoeuvre.
Valentin Rodriguez is the new comer that everyone’s talking about and he too nailed a back mobe 5. Somehow maintaining control of a 6m kite – which he’d apparently had to borrow.
Carlos stepped things up with an 8.17 for a heart attack. That was a big score for that trick – but the conditions were making these guys’ standard tricks a big deal to land.
Looking at the livestream it seemed so grim on the screen. Believe it or not, there were actually some blue skies here in southern France.
Rodriguez was up next for trick number three – a slim 5 got a 5.87. But it was Coccoluto who was playing his cards best with three scoring tricks from three and was ahead approaching the heat’s halfway stage. Carlos Mario meanwhile was sat on two crashes from four tricks. 

Chabloz was first in the order of trick attempts and he smoked an incredible heart attack on trick four. Carlos Mario had already landed one for an 8.17. Chabloz wasn’t quite as well rewarded for his: 7.27.

Oh no, was Valentin Rodriguez starting to feel the pressure? He had two crashes from four attempts. The young teen had been almost faultless so far in the event. 16 years-old, the Columbian found himself rooted to the bottom of the heat after four tricks each, but was still somehow still within just 5 points of first place.
Chabloz was up first again for trick 5 and became the first rider to attempt a double pass. In these winds that would have been a huuuuge score.
He didn’t make it. 
Coccoluto’s early heat momentum was slipping; both fourth and fifth attempts were crashes.
With Rodriguez having also crashed his fourth trick, Carlos Mario explored another avenue, sending a kite loop with a late back roll. He competed in the King of the Air for the first time this year and, although only scored a 3.77 for that kite loop, it was a banker as other riders didn’t seem to be going for those.

Mario briefly moved ahead with that, but Chabloz took first postion back with a massive 8.43 for a backside 315. He’d had one more trick attempt than Carlos, though. So it was one more trick for Chabloz to come, but still two more for Mario. Yikes!

Meanwhile it looked like Coccoluto and Rodriguez had run out of gas: five crashes in six trick attempts between them. Rodriguez only made a simple rotation on his sixth and penultimate trick attempt. So – it would be a podium shootout for those two riders on the last trick.

First business however; Carlos Mario had his sixth trick to come. He needed a 6.83 to move ahead of leader Chabloz. His back mobe 5 only got a 6.53. Ooooh.
Chabloz made an error and crashed his last trick, though! Nooo, what a time to fail. Obvious pressure with Mario marauding behind and still to attempt his seventh trick.
Coccoluto went next, nailing a backside 313, earning a 4.2 score, which wasn’t enough to move him to second on his last trick.
Suddenly, we were down to two riders left to take their seventh (last) tricks. First came Rodriguez who looking for a way to get off the bottom of the podium. He landed a hintermobe 5. He needed a 6.25 to move into third. And he did it! Go Colombia. Stoked for the youngster who almost couldn’t come to the event through lack of funds!

Carlos was the last rider to go, looking to steal first from Chabloz; he needed 4.07… and landed a front to blind. Not a banger trick, so it would be tight on the maths. He got a 4.87 AND ROBBED Chabloz of his first win. CRUEL for the Swiss rider, but that’s the power and class of Bebe the destroyer.

Maxime had the highest scoring trick in the final, an 8.43 for his sixth trick – a backside 315, but it still wasn’t quite enough. He lost the final by just 0.81! 

Men’s Final Result: Mario 26.47 / Chabloz 25.66 / Rodriguez 20.2 / Coccoluto 19.94

WOMEN’S FINAL
P Van Iersel / M Sol / F Bagnoli / C Leon

Conditions at 2pm: Still 30+ knots and cross-onshore. Pumping. 

The women’s semis had been an emotional affair yesterday, and the first round of tricks in this final brought about some concern for all riders too as the best trick was a 1.07 scoring back roll, from Spaniard Claudia Leon! Time to re-set the gauge and get your hands dirty ladies.
Like yesterday it looked like a battle to land: stick one and it would make a big difference.
Mikaili Sol had a big scare yesterday and almost didn’t make the final. The Brazilian moved ahead with a 1.3 scoring front roll. Blimey.
Up next Pippa van Iersel landed an S-bend for the highest score after two tricks – a 2.23 for that. Improvement at least. Surely we’d see Pippa bring out a kite loop soon – she’s a specialist. Let’s see… send it please Pippa.
Bagnoli got in the game with a score on her second trick. Just a 1.33 front roll but it nudged Sol into third, but Sol was up next for her third attempt… 
She crashed again! What were we seeing? The World Champion’s poor flow continued from yesterday. It’s a surprise to see her struggle in these conditions, having watched her win the GKA Air Games in big winds in Germany last year.
Van Iersel led the way by a small margin after two tricks, sitting on just 2.23 overall. It was still anyone’s to take.
Bagnoli suddenly steamed ahead with a relatively big score of 6.53 for a blind judge. Mikaili still only had a 1.3 for a front roll… a big test of character now for her if she was going to win.
With such low scoring tricks, would we see a kite loop produce more serious points? Pippa van Iersel sent one on trick four. She flew out of camera view, pulled on her left hand, kite looped, but just couldn’t quite get the landing gear down and stacked it.

She’s brought this heat to life!” exclaimed Lewis on the livestream.

Mikaili then crashed on her fourth trick AGAIN! (Actually, she had landed a backside 313 nicely, but the kite hit the sand. How costly??!!). After four tricks the champion was last and would need to land every other trick, or she’d only have three tricks counting instead of four in her overall total.
Dutch rider Van Iersel crashed a blind judge attempt and was pushed into third by Claudia Leon, who snuck into second.
Sol, in desperate need of something, took some advice from coach Fabio… we watched… and were surprised to see that she only went for a very steady S-bend. She looked unsure if it had been a good idea to play safe, throwing her hand up to the sky, but as the scores flicked up, she had moved to second! A minor recovery, but she was still 5.67 off Bagnoli in first with two tricks to go.
Pippa van Iersel’s heat was falling apart after trick five with a total of four crashes in this final. If only she’d landed that kite loop! She was propping up the table.

Bagnoli, leader of the heat, came in left foot forward… and landed a slim! Outrageous in these conditions. She was rewarded with an 8.6! Sol’s highest score at that point was a 2.17 for the S-bend. The Italian got hollers and hoots from the beach on her way in!

At that stage Sol couldn’t take first with one trick, she needed two big tricks and Bagnoli to score poorly on her last.

Mikaili then only landed a front roll on her sixth (penultimate) trick. Incredible! We’d just watched her swap up a kite size, so thought she would surely go for a kite loop. It’s been a real shocker in terms of performance for the Champion; both yesterday and today. Bagnoli was first on 17.73, Sol was second on 3.54! Bagnoli still had two tricks left, Sol just one. Amazing.

Sol was actually the lowest seeded rider after the semi final scores and had to watch the other riders complete their sixth tricks. Claudia Leon managed to squeeze out a back to toe (after a big kite mare line tangle on the beach) and pushed the Brazilian down to third.

When Van Iersel went for her sixth trick she was still last position, but mathematically she was the only rider with any hope of catching Bagnoli as she still had two tricks left. Lewis built the tension on the livestream, recognising the moment. She took off; went into a back roll but only managed to convert that into a toeside landing rather than a pass! That wouldn’t be enough and Bagnoli was then uncatchable with one trick left each. Congrats to the Italian with her first win!

So, fighting out second, third and fourth: Sol went up first for her last trick… (remember she won every one of her heats in every event last year!) Whaaaat?! A heat attack and a 9.3 score! Superb from the Brazilian, but too late to threaten Bagnoli in first who was home and hosed. Why couldn’t Sol find that earlier? Insane step up in level.

Leon then got a blind judge 6.59 and pushed van Iersel onto fourth. Could the Dutch rider rescue a podium on her last trick? Things hadn’t really gone well for her since the kite loop crash. She needed a 6 to finish third and 8.15 to move second. She tacked out, struggled for a flat patch of water and took off way out back. Coming in from a blind judge, she made the pass but caught an edge … and that was that! It meant Claudia Leon was stoked to make the podium as van Iersel finished in fourth.

Women’s Final Result: Bagnoli 17.73 / Sol 12.84 / Leon 10.69 / van Iersel 4.7

SUMMARY:

HEAVY WINDS, OCCASIONAL MEGA LOOPS AND STRONG COMMITMENT FOR PURE FREESTYLE PREVAILED AT PORT LEUCATE

What a result from the first Freestyle event of the season! A big surprise having moved from La Franqui yesterday to the kickers and open beach at Port Leucate. Big winds, big performance and perhaps a big surprise with Francesca Bagnoli from Italy taking her first win, while champion Mikaili Sol only managed to rescue second place with her last trick in the women’s. And it WAS a rescue. The Brazilian is beatable – something we doubted and tees up the rest of the season beautifully!

In the men’s, Carlos Mario showed the mark of a champion and also staged his own comeback, stopping Maxime Chabloz from claiming his first event win, but all bets are on the Swiss rider breaking his top-step duck this season. A valiant Valentin Rodriguez, just 16 from Colombia, took third. In many ways, he was the big news of this event on the men’s side. 

Leucate was scheduled to be a pure freestyle event in this mixed event series. 30+ knot conditions saw some riders voluntarily throwing big kite loops… so out mouths are watered for more big aerial antics when we get to round two in Gran Canaria in June, which is scheduled to be run in a mixed freestyle / big air format. Bring it on!

Find all event information, including the livestream video archive, heat ladders and more HERE. 

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