Flanked by cliffs to the north and south, Praia do Guincho sits west of downtown Cascais, below a coastal road that wraps around the headland. A wave-strewn oasis (when the wind lets up), it's also a place where dreams are spurred on into the season's final stretch, or left to wither under a hot Portuguese sun.
As Round Two got underway Thursday in pumping conditions, the Cascais Women's Pro had a bit of both, with upsets that sent ripples up and down the Jeep Leaderboard. The morning's first shocker was the elimination of reigning World Champion Tyler Wright at the hands of local wildcard, Teresa Bonvalot. For Wright, who arrived in Portugal as World No. 3 and just 400 points behind current front runner Sally Fitzgibbons, this was a chance to re-take the No. 1 spot.
But, between an opponent dripping with talent who knows this break well, and a meniscus that Wright revealed Wednesday is mostly torn, her sprint to the top was not to be. Despite sporting a cyborg-style knee brace, toward the end of the heat Wright was actually in the lead and it looked like she had triumphed. But with less than three minutes left, Bonvalot chucked a series of turns into a left-hander to turn the heat and win. Wright was left to limp up the beach in visible discomfort.
Ever the gracious competitor, however, she held her head high and praised on the 17-year-old who had just ruptured the top-end of the ranks. "I could have sat this event out but I'd rather win or lose on my feet so I decided to compete," Wright said. "Teresa had a really smart heat and played a smart game so I'm stoked for her."
And as for that knee? "My MCL is 70 percent off the bone so between now and France I'll focus on healing and getting myself in the best physical health to compete there. Even though I lost it's hard for me to figure out how I lost. I don't feel like I'm injured, I still feel like I can go out there and win."
Wright was not the only woman in the Title race today who faced some biting headwind. Not long after the Champ's shocker, fellow Australian and six-time World Champ Stephanie Gilmore went down in her own Round Two death-match. And it was yet another wildcard, Bianca Buitendag, who did the damage. Unlike Bonvalot, however, Buitendag is a seasoned Championship Tour competitor who fell off the Tour at the end of 2017, but is surfing in Cascais as an injury replacement.
"It's super tough out there," Gilmore said afterward. "There are plenty of opportunities but it's tough to find them. I relied too much on my forehand. Bianca [Buitendag] is so strong. It was tough and it's a terrible result. The year's not over and anything could happen."
Yet, one woman's loss is another woman's massive opportunity. In this case, actually, two women's opportunities. While Gilmore and Wright will now need to sip a little sangria and regroup for France, their early exits open the door for Sally Fitzgibbons, at No. 1, and Courtney Conlogue, at No. 2, to break away. So far, Fitzgibbons is pouncing, albeit in her typically calm and collected way. In Round Three, she simply cruised out into the lead for a hop straight to the Quarterfinals. No matter how she does in Cascais, she's pulling ahead in the points tally.
Conlogue, meanwhile, is on more precarious ground. She lost her Round Three heat to both Malia Manuel and Tatiana Weston-Webb, who were essentially in a two-woman battle. While the Kauai locals fought for the lead, the signature fire that has fueled Conlogue to so many wins was dampened somehow, perhaps by nerves in a high-stakes heat.
After the loss, though, she didn't miss a beat. She and her coach, Luke Egan, walked north from the event site, far from the crowd, and paddled out again.
CASCAIS WOMEN'S PRO ROUND TWO RESULTS:
Heat 1: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 11.50 def. Pauline Ado (FRA) 11.07
Heat 2: Malia Manuel (HAW) 8.90 def. Johanne Defay (FRA) 7.76
Heat 3: Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) 9.50 def. Tyler Wright (AUS) 7.23
Heat 4: Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 12.27 def. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 11.00
Heat 5: Sage Erickson (USA) 13.50 def. Bronte Macaulay (AUS) 7.60
Heat 6: Keely Andrew (AUS) 10.70 def. Coco Ho (HAW) 8.50
CASCAIS WOMEN'S PRO ROUND THREE RESULTS:
Heat 1: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) 13.23, Lakey Peterson (USA) 12.10, Teresa Bonvalot (PRT) 4.33
Heat 2: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 12.56, Keely Andrew (AUS) 10.00, Silvana Lima (BRA) 6.77
Heat 3: Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 14.37, Malia Manuel (HAW) 13.50, Courtney Conlogue (USA) 11.40
Heat 4: Carissa Moore (HAW) 14.34, Sage Erickson (USA) 12.67, Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) 8.50
CASCAIS WOMEN'S PRO ROUND THREE MATCHUPS:
Heat 1: Lakey Peterson (USA) vs. Silvana Lima (BRA)
Heat 2: Keely Andrew (AUS) vs. Teresa Bonvalot (PRT)
Heat 3: Malia Manuel (HAW) vs. Bianca Buitendag (ZAF)
Heat 4: Courtney Conlogue (USA) vs. Sage Erickson (USA)