MEDITERRANEAN SEA BECKONS FOR MAURER
Maurer enters home straight south over the Maritime Alps to Monaco as rest of the fleet battles on foot at the Red Bull X-Alps 2017.
This has been one of the most challenging races in recent years of the Red Bull X-Alps – the longest in distance with a route that zig-zags over the main chain of the Alps several times. And the weather has not been too generous this year, forcing athletes to hike unimaginable miles on foot.
But for one man at least, the finish line is now getting tantalisingly close. Christian Maurer (SUI1) was by mid afternoon 164 km from goal and on the home front.
In contrast to previous years, he’s following a different line south, staying on the Italian side to avoid the higher mountains in France which are more difficult to fly in difficult conditions. After hiking 1,000m to the take-off at Cima Cavallari he was in the air by 11am. It could still be a long couple of days ahead.
Behind and in hot pursuit is Benoit Outters (FRA4). He pulled a Ledlenser Night Pass the previous night – the first of two he possesses after winning the Leatherman Prologue – and it looked as if the French ultrarunner was preparing for a single push to Monaco on foot. But such is the difficult terrain around Turnpoint 6, the Matterhorn, that even he was making slow progress on the ground and was still 60km behind Maurer.
The chaser pack meanwhile was stretched around the northern shores of Lake Como with very little between them. All are starting to suffer – some more than most. After hiking all day yesterday in temperatures in the high 20s, Manuel Nübel (GER2) required medical treatment.
“We had a little problem with the heat,” his supporter Christian Schineis, a surgeon, said. “Manu suffered heat exhaustion and some dehydration so we went to a hotel and gave him some infusions. He’s doing a lot better.”
There was no hotel for Pascal Purin (AUT3). He did one better. After taking a wrong line in the mountains, he ended up taking shelter with a family in a primitive hut with just a single lightbulb for electricity. “It’s amazing to think there are still people who live like that today,” he said.
The battle for third place could yet prove a gripping finale to the race – particularly if and when it becomes possible to take to the sky.
Meanwhile at the back, the other Swiss athlete in the race, Krischa Berlinger (SUI2) was being stoical about his slow progress. He spent the night up on the Timmelsjoch on the Italian / Austrian border with Gavin McClurg (USA1) in the hope of a good flight to Lake Garda, but woke up to find the cloudbase 300m below them. “Then we’ll fly down, hike back up again, fly down – the story of my life,” he said.
Jose Arevalo Guede (ESP) and Simon Oberrauner (AUT4) have pulled a Ledlenser Night Pass today. Guede, who is 60km behind Tom de Dorlodot (BEL), will be hoping to fly today and then hike through the night to catch de Dorlodot and avoid elimination. But after a 48-hour enforced rest, de Dorlodot is feeling strong and unlikely to be overtaken easily.
Oberrauner, currently in fourth place, is clearly stating his ambitions for a third place and will push hard to overtake Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1).
As the race reaches its final stages, positions are bedding in – but anything can still happen on the long road to Monaco.
Follow all the action on Live Tracking on redbullxalps.com.