Day Eleven of the Red Bull X-Alps, and Paul Guschlbauer (AUT) continues to pile the pressure on second-placed Toma Coconea (ROM). The Austrian flew the length of the Chamonix valley this morning, gliding 21 km to land at Le Prarion just west of Mt Blanc. Coconea had landed there earlier, and had flown away by the time Guschlbauer arrived, but he is not impressing as much as his Austrian rival in the air.
Behind them, Martin Muller (SUI) is taking the low road, hiking through Chamonix town, leading out from John Chambers (GBR) and Ferdinand Van Schelven (NED) who are engaged in a tight foot race.
Meanwhile, Maurer lies just 67 km from goal in Monaco. Weather conditions are much poorer in the south of the Alps than the north. The race leader’s efforts are being hampered by unseasonal downpours and low cloudbase, preventing him from flying. With limited take-off options the further south he travels, Maurer is electing to sit it out and wait for conditions to improve. It’s his birthday today, and he can afford to take it easy.
At the back of the field, a sense of unity through adversity is developing. "This is what it comes down to", Max Fanderl (CAN) said while hiking with Richard Pethigal (BRA). "It's about not getting hurt, making it to another take-off, making another flight. When you get tired, you get hurt", he says. He said the spirit at the back is excellent. The way Fanderl describes it, there is no envy, nor satisfaction to be discerned. It's about grinding on, getting as far as you can. "At this stage, we're all just hoping to fly another day, perhaps two, before the contest ends".
Once the race leader arrives at goal, athletes have 48 hours to make Monaco before the race finishes.
A sense of urgency is developing among those rounding Mt Blanc today, but with good weather forecast for tomorrow, there is still hope that several athletes will make it to Monaco.