With fans flocking to get his autograph, a beaming Pieter said: “It is an unbelievable show here. We went last, which is always a good position to go, and it was a fast jump-off with a big ring with long galloping lines. I felt [Claire was] fast in Doha, and I thought I’d try let her go - I’m really together with her now.
"The crowd give you absolutely everything. There’s almost no other show like this in the world, people screaming my name, from the very beginning you can feel the energy, it’s incredible."
The penultimate day of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Mexico City came to a close with many of the top names in showjumping battling it out to win the Banorte Trophy. With €146,000 in the prize pot, all were aiming to land on top of the podium.
Course designer Javier Trenor’s 1.55m track was a tough test for the world’s best, with time allowed of 90s tight enough, given the huge expansive grass arena.
The course featured flowing lines with plenty for the riders to think about, including a few challenging distances. The track featured a wide GNP Seguros oxer early on, a bright red and white Banorte triple combination, and a full height Longines oxer to finish.
Gregory Wathelet explained, "For this course you need to concentrate from the beginning, its tough and not built like any of the other courses this week.” But it transpired that the time allowed would not be a huge problem allowing the riders to relax slightly between jumps, however it was all guns blazing in the jump-off.
The footing in this arena is some of the best in the world, and Jos Verlooy praised the ground; “It doesn’t get better that what is here, no matter where you jump in the class the going is perfect."
It looked tough out there, but Mathilda Karlsson (SRI) was the first to deliver a clear with Chopin VA, punching the air in delight and patting her horse happily after they crossed the finish line. She was soon joined by Italian speed merchant Alberto Zorzi (ITA) and Danique, and Swedish star Peder Fredricson (SWE) with his relatively new mount Zacramento.
Beezie Madden (USA) claimed a spot in the jump-off with her famous horse Coach and Jerome Guery became the second Belgian to go through on Quel Homme de Hus.
Scott Brash (GBR) was on track to try make it two wins in one day however Hello Senator just rolled the last fence denying him a place in the jump-off. A masterclass from Daniel Deusser (GER) landed him in the running for a strong result followed directly by Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) on Que Bueno de Hus Z.
The 11th and final clear in the first round was produced by last to go Pieter Devos (BEL) and Claire Z - the duo always a danger against the clock.
As the shadows lengthened across the arena, nine would return to try their luck for the win.
Mathilda Karlsson (SRI) was first to go, with the young rider aiming for the double clear. She flew around the fences, Chopin VA soaring over the jumps, leaving plenty of air to finish in 44.51s - Mathilda beaming with happiness as she waved to her supporters on the kiss n cry.
Next up Alberto Zorzi (ITA) had focus and intent written all over his face as he took a final look around the arena. Setting off at a bouncing canter, the pair built momentum with every jump, and were tight on the roll back to the GNP liverpool. But it came undone at the Banorte double of verticals, the pair missing a stride and crashing into the first part of the combination, ruling them out of contention.
Cool customer Peder Fredricson (SWE) and Zacramento travelled to the first two fences and took an easy three strides to the roll back. They galloped to the last, but took over the lead effortlessly - powering to 41.89s and setting a new time to beat.
Neils Bruynseels (BEL) looked quick from the off with Utamaro D Ecaussines, but a turn too wide to the Banorte double of verticals kept them behind Peder in 42.41s.
America rider Beezie Madden ate up the ground with Coach’s large stride, perfecting their turn to the penultimate fence to shave fractions off Peder’s time to finish in 41.47s and taking over the lead.
Young talent Emil Hallundbaek (DEN) picked up the pace with the grey Luchino, but they took the turn to the Longines oxer a touch wider, and despite a heartfelt gallop to the last they crossed the line in 42.54s.
Jerome Guery (BEL) and Quel Homme de Hus bounced off the foot-perfect grass arena, the careful horse gaining plenty of air over the tough fences. Another powerful gallop to the final fence couldn’t make up their time and they would stop the clock in 41.95s.
Daniel Deusser (GER) and the eye-catching Cornet soared around the arena, up on the time and looking good to better Beezie’s time. But there was heartbreak at the last as Cornet clipped the Banorte vertical with his hind legs, picking up four faults despite their better time of 39.37s.
Another danger to Beezie’s result, Henrik von Eckermann took the penultimate fence on an angle, but it still wasn’t enough as they finished in 42.15s.
Carlos Lopez (COL) and G & C Arrayan looked up on the clock, but a miscommunication at the final fence saw the pair fall out of contention, and out of the running of a place today.
Final rider to go Pieter Devos (BEL) entered the arena with Claire Z to the “mission impossible” theme tune. But it was anything but as Pieter flew to the first fence with his top mare. Quietly, consistently pushing on the duo covered the ground, making a brave turn to the penultimate fence. The pair would fly through the finish in 39.95s - over a second and a half quicker than Beezie.
Saturday will see the final day of CSI5* competition take place in Mexico City, with the GCL final and LGCT Grand Prix promising to thrill the passionate crowd and fans all around the world. Tune in live via GC TV to watch all the action as it happens - you won’t want to miss this spectacular finale in the heart of Mexico’s capital.