Chrigel Maurer is on track to win a sixth consecutive victory at the Red Bull X-Alps as he approaches the final Turnpoint of Peille. He is expected to reach it by late afternoon or early evening. Peille is where the clock stops for every athlete in the world’s toughest adventure race.
With the nearest rival 100km behind, his victory looked assured. Only a disaster could now stop his ten-year winning streak at the Red Bull X-Alps, which began with a win at the 2009 edition.
But race organizer Ulrich Grill warned that the final approach could yet prove a challenge. “There’s a chance that conditions towards Monaco could force him to land, which would mean endless hours of switchback road running to reach the goal.”
The approach to Peille is notorious for its meandering and steep roads, which can be psychologically crushing for an athlete so close, yet so far from goal.
In a bid to reach Peille tonight, Maurer has pulled a Night Pass, which allows competitors to hike through the night beyond the mandatory rest period, which starts at 10.30pm.
French rookie athlete Maxime Pinot (FRA4) lies in second place but with a confident lead of 70km ahead of his nearest rival he can start to eye the prize of the podium. But the race for third place just got interesting.
Benoit Outters (FRA1) is just 20km behind Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) and has the psychological advantage of not just being on home soil but in an area where he lives and knows well. He’s also extremely determined.
Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1), who has come third in three out of his four outings in the Red Bull X-Alps, will need to see off the challenge if he is to finish up on the podium.
“After them, eight athletes are in a 20km radius fighting for good positions,” adds Grill. “The final approach is going to be super exciting.”
Last night the race claimed its first withdrawal. Record-breaking high altitude athlete Antoine Girard (FRA3), who has flown to over 8,000m in the Himalayas, was forced to retire with knee trouble.
“My knees are in pain. I have to stop. It’s a serious thing,” he said. He added: “It’s the first time I have this pain. I have to see a doctor and we will see why.”
It will come as a bitter disappointment to the athlete, who also had to retire from the 2017 edition due to injury.
Meanwhile at the back of the pack, the race’s only surviving female athlete Kinga Masztalerz (POL) was fighting neck and neck with Chikyong Ha from Korea. Less than 100m separated the two. Whoever is in last place will be eliminated tomorrow morning.
The weather is forecast to remain good for the next few days meaning record numbers of athletes could make goal before the race finishes at 11.30am on Thursday 27th June.
ABOUT RED BULL X-ALPS
Red Bull X-Alps 2019 is the world’s toughest adventure race, covering over 1,138km of alpine terrain. It starts on June 16, marking the ninth edition of the race. 32 world-class athletes from 20 nations take part in this grueling journey from Salzburg to Monaco only by foot and paraglider – their every move tracked and played out to an audience of millions via the Live Tracking. The competition field consists of 16 veterans, 15 rookies and one defending champion who will be looking to add a sixth consecutive victory to his resume.
Along the way, the athletes will pass 13 Turnpoints in 6 different countries. Prior to the main event, the one-day Prologue race will see athletes jostle for a prime position. The top three finishers will earn themselves an additional Night Pass; allowing them to continue onwards once through the mandatory rest period.
This year’s route brings the racers into both familiar and new terrain – but you can count on every single day showing us rocky ascents, dizzying flights and crucial, strategic decisions – a challenge for body and mind. With a more demanding route than ever before, Red Bull X-Alps 2019 will be full of drama, adventure, and high-alpine action. The winner will need to be smart, strong, a master of both planning and reactivity – and have a little bit of luck. Red Bull X-Alps 2019 is the world’s toughest adventure race – and it’s starting soon.