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Chaser group joins forces to cross treacherous Northern Alps at Red Bull X-Alps 2017.

A group of athletes in the chaser pack today agreed to join forces in a bid to get across the Zugspitze and reel in race leader Chrigel Maurer (SUI1). While that was looking optimistic with Maurer now in Italy enjoying an almost unassailable 100km lead, the fight for second and third place is still very open, with almost anyone in the top 14 in with a chance.

Today, alliances were formed to get across the treacherous terrain between Turnpoint 3, Aschau Chiemsee to Turnpoint 4, Lermoos, in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena, Austria.

Hungarian acro ace Pal Takats (HUN) said: “’Plans are big and spirits are high. We are a very strong group of pilots and we are going to work together to push to Lermoos and then push on until sundown.”

The gaggle included Benoit Outters (FRA4), Ferdinand van Schelven (NLD) and Manuel Nübel (GER2). And just behind them another gaggle had also formed consisting of Pascal Purin (AUT3), Sebastian Huber (GER1) and Stanislav Mayer (CZE) “There’s one plan: fly far,” Purin said before take-off.

As with everything in the Red Bull X-Alps, the plan didn’t quite work out as planned. Ahead and on his own Austrian athlete Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) was the next to tag Turnpoint 4 at lunchtime, in third place. “I’m feeling good,” he said.

For a while it looked like Nelson de Freyman (FRA3) and Nick Neynens (NZL), both ploughing their own lines, might be next. But it was Outters who landed on the picturesque landing field in the shadow of the Zugspitze at 14.30. The others however were only 10km behind and hot on his heels.

Elsewhere the race lost another athlete as Aaron Durogati (ITA1) retired due to the knee pain he’d been suffering from since day one. He did not want to risk further damage.

Two athletes have pulled their Ledlenser Night Passes: Gaspard Petiot (FRA2) and Duncan Kotze (RSA). The Night Passes will allow them to hike through the night while all the other athletes are sleeping.

Petiot’s decision to use his Night Pass now is a clear sign that he is determined to do all he can to close the gap between him and race leader Chrigel Maurer (SUI1). Petiot will likely use that time to get in a good position to fly as early as possible on Friday morning.

Duncan Kotze (RSA) meanwhile is fighting for survival. Second from the back he is keen to increase the gap between himself and Claudio Heidel Schemberger (ARG). But he in good spirits. Speaking from near Turnpoint 2, Triglav, he said: “This place is fantastic. It’s amazing. I come from the coast so these are big mountains for me. They make Table Mountain look like a training hill.”

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Image: “© zooom / Harald Tauderer

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