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Tour leaders' quest for crowns in Canaries

by Ian MacKinnon 16 Jun 12:15 PDT 9-13 July 2024
Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Cup Gran Canaria © Samuel Cárdenas

Eagerly-awaited final stop of Big Air kite world title race debuts on Canaries island renowned for its huge winds.

The leaders in the race for the Big Air world titles, the Netherlands' duo of Jamie Overbeek and Pippa van Iersel, are set to push to land the coveted crowns at the tour's final stop on Gran Canaria, Spain.

The Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Cup Gran Canaria is to debut at the notoriously windy spot of Salinas de Tenefé for the second and closing call, where the world champions in the twin-tip discipline will be crowned.

Overbeek and Van Iersel top the Big Air world rankings thanks to their stunning wins in the opening round at the GKA Lords of Tram event in Barcarès, France, in April. It was 18-year-old Overbeek's first major victory, and Van Iersel made her mark with a comeback win after being out with injury for two years.

Both have been training hard in Tarifa, southern Spain, in the big Levante winds where the small, left-foot forward kickers at Balneario provide good conditions to prepare for the all-important battles in Salinas de Tenefé.

'Be the best'

But in Salinas de Tenefé the potential for big kickers generated by the wind swell, choppy take-offs and landings, and gusty winds may prove demanding for the athletes. In July the wind typically blows at more than 30 knots, and can top 50 knots.

Van Iersel is unfazed and relishes the challenge of such conditions. "What I really want to be able to do is to be the best in any sort of conditions," she said. "I think if you are the best rider in the world, you need to be able to be good in waves, in chop, in gusty winds, in light winds, you need to train everything."

On her return from injury at Lords of Tram, Van Iersel saw off stiff challenges from rivals like Sweden's Nathalie Lambrecht, who took the second podium spot and earlier in the competition landed the highest scoring trick.

Lambrecht is still seeded number one going into Tenefé as the positions are based on a combination of last year's rankings and the Lords of Tram finish, leaving Van Iersel seeded number 11 in the starting line-up of 12 women.

Looking to bounce back

The Netherlands' Zara Hoogenraad took the third podium spot in Barcarès, but her Double Kite-loops were the biggest seen in the women's competition and mark her out as a real contender for the crown.

Among the 24 men who will battle in Gran Canaria, reigning and two-times Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Champion Andrea Principi (ITA) will be looking to bounce back after his disappointing fifth place in Barcarès, where he was knocked out in the semi-finals. With two stops on the Big Air tour, Principi will have his work cut out if he is to successfully defend his crown for a third time.

The four-man Lords of Tram final saw Spain's Jeremy Burlando take second, with home favourite Edgar Ulrich (FRA) in third, marking a shake-up of the Big Air order and complementing Overbeek's victory.

Former Red Bull King of the Air winner, Lorenzo Casati (ESP), took fourth to show that he is still very much in the mix. Like Burlando, Casati calls the Canaries his second home, giving both an edge. In France, Brazil's Josué San reached the semi-finals with some of the most exciting riding of the competition and will be a force to be reckoned with in Salinas de Tenefé.

Cohan van Dijk (NED) is also set to return after being out injured for five months and will be hungry to show his back to his best. A host of others, like Giel Vlugt (NED), and South Africans Josh Gillitt and Jason van der Spuy, are also capable of causing big upsets. Join us here to see who will be crowned Big Air world champions.

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