Avallon Cup is a 4-day event held yearly in Avallon in Burgundy, France. It’s unlike any other high level agility competition. In 2018, there were 4 competition fields, 1500 competitors from 23 countries and 12 of Europe's top judges. At the same time as Avallon Cup, there are also high level agility seminars in which the competitors can participate. But what makes the event so different from any other, is the rodeo show atmosphere. As the owner of the Avallon cup says: “Avallon cup is not an agility competition, it’s an agility show!”
Dancers, fire eaters, mascots and music pump up the atmosphere
Agility is always fun, but should it be even more so? Could it be? I interviewed the owner of Avallon cup, Fabrice Laligant, who’s a wizard in creating a fun atmosphere: “Agility is a fun sport in itself, of course. Like all sports, it includes a tragic component. What we wanted to do was accentuate the show side. We love western riding and rodeos. During the competitions, they combine sport and show elements which, in addition to a bet between our friends, we wanted to found a whole new kind of event for agility.”
Fabrice explains how they create an atmosphere in which the crowd is hyped and competitors exceed their limits: “We have a DJ every day who runs the races and a speaker who animates them. We set up a show for the presentation of the judges with dancers, fire eaters and special effects. Furthermore, during the semifinals and finals, we go up a notch in the shows. A mascot warms up the audience and all the races are accompanied by music from a 30 000W sound system. The atmosphere then resembles one that can be found at a rodeo show.”
Avallon cup 2018 - 1500 dogs from 23 countries
Avallon cup 2018 brought together 1500 competitors from 23 countries. “In 4 years, we’ve gone from 350 dogs to 1500 which means that our event pleases the handlers”, Fabrice ponders.
When asked which run was most impressive for Fabrice, he mentions Susan Koldenhof without hesitation: “She was the winner of Avallon cup 2018, a member of the Dutch national team and accustomed to international podiums. Her runs were simply impressive. They were so fluid and handling looked so easy, it was beautiful.”
The courses tested technical mastery and the physical conditions of a handler
The world class judges had created very physical and technical courses for the competitors: “We saw long distances between obstacles that required the handler to be present at certain points to perform technical work. The courses required having both great technical skills and also irreproachable physical conditions.”
Fabrice points out that the main trend, present in almost all the courses, was the presence of some difficulty at the end of the dog walk. “The judges tested the quality of work on and after the running contact. On almost every course the main challenge was after the dog walk, often to shoot or pick up an out.”
The judges in 2018 were Nicolas Renaud (AWC 2018), Philippe Wattecamps, Gérard Géry, Dominique Prin, Dominique Favre and Caroline Guignard from France, Alexander Beitl and René Blank from Germany, Zvetlana Zolotnikova from Estonia (EO 2018), Wolfgang Tieber from Austria (EO 2018) and Lorenzo Celic from Italy.
Major shift happening in agility
When asked whether Fabrice noticed anything that has changed in agility from previous years, he brings up several points that are in line with our interviews with agility judge Jessi Landen and agility coach Jenna Caloander (the latter will be published soon).
According to Fabrice, the major evolution is the mastery of the running contacts (RC): “Almost 100% of the dogs have RC. We only saw a few dogs practicing 2on 2offs. Mastery of the RC is essential to remaining competitive, since now the speed of agility courses has become identical with the speed of jumping courses. And those speeds are impressive!”
The biggest challenge at the moment in agility, according to Fabrice, is to become as efficient as the German: “In football, we often say: “... and in the end Germany wins!” This is also true in agility.”
Next Avallon cup in July 2019
Fabrice invites you to join the amazing event he has created: