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Redbull X-Alps Update: Athletes make their first flights at Red Bull X-Alps 2017. Coconea marches on. Durogati’s race in danger.

What a night for Toma Coconea (ROU)! The Romanian running legend stormed ahead, becoming the first athlete to cross the main alpine chain of mountains of the Hohe Tauern. By mid morning he’d opened up a 20km lead on his nearest rival Sebastian Huber (GER1), which had stretched to 30km by lunchtime.         “I didn’t sleep,” he said. “Just ran.” Teammates said AC/DC kept him going.

At noon today he was hiking up the peak of Goldeck, a major paragliding site, looking to capitalize on that lead with an afternoon flight. Although rain had cleared, conditions remained variable, preventing many of the athletes from flying down from the main ridge even after the rain clouds had cleared.

“It was too windy,” Huber said, as his team physio Helmut Lorenz gave him a leg massage at the head of the Malta valley.

Elsewhere the pack has begun to spread out. Chasing hard behind Coconea and Huber, were Gavin McClurg (USA1), who enjoyed a surge through the rankings after pulling his Ledlenser Night Pass, and Jesse Williams (USA2). That looked set to develop into a third place battle between the Americans, appropriately on July 4th.
McClurg’s decision to pull a Ledlenser Night Pass was a surprise since he’d said before the race that sleeping between 02:00 and 05:30 was critical for him and he’d only use at the start or the end. Finding himself languishing in 20th place after the Gaisberg descent clearly proved the spur to take immediate action.

Someone else whose knees also did not enjoy the descent was Aaron Durogati (ITA1). The shock news from his team is that he’s really suffering. They confirmed he has a potentially serious injury with his meniscus.

His supporter Matteo Vettore said: “Walking – especially steep walking – is currently almost impossible, so we are considering our options. We are trying to fly but the weather isn’t cooperating at the moment.”

Chrigel Maurer was able to take to the air, if only briefly. But it was enough to skip through the rankings from 22nd place to 6th. He is still a man to watch. No teams have elected to pull a Ledlenser Night Pass today, so it’ll be early bed for all athletes tonight as they fix their sights on making Triglav.

Athletes are now spread out over 70 km, but the lead is still there for the taking. Whoever gets the first strong flight could find themselves at the front of the pack

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