Saturday, July 23, 2011

Red Bull X-Alps 2011: Day 6

Switzerland's Christian Maurer has today extended his lead in the Red Bull X-Alps race to more than 100km over the Romanian Toma Coconea. Maurer (SUI) passed the Piz Palü turnpoint in southern Italy today, clocking more than 200km in flight by midday in what seems to be the longest flight yet this event.
But while the two frontrunners seem set to retain their positions for now, its the race for third spot that is heating up. Ferdinand van Schelven, who passed Paul Guschlbauer (AUT) in a strong flight to gain third place yesterday, had a bad start to the day, landing short of his intended target and being forced to walk up to a 1600m launch again.
Gathering storm clouds threaten to derail his plans today, while behind him Guschlbauer has been making up the lost ground, chased by Thomas de Dorlodot (BEL), Michael Gebert (GER) and Martin Müller (SUI), all within ten kilometers of each other - and the third podium position.
Nuno Virgilio (POR) was eliminated as the tail-ender this morning, At present, the last six competitors in the field are within eight kilometres of each other, and it will be a race from the back to avoid the next cutoff at 07h00 on 24 July. All six pilots will probably round the Tre Cime turnpoint today.
It was a day of drama for Vincent Sprüngli (FRA), who fell into tall trees today when he collided with a high cable. He deployed his reserve parachute but hit the trees before it opened. He was unhurt.
In the middle field, the Russian Evgeni Griaznov's slow but determined progress is continuing from day five. He is currently abreast with Finland's Jouni Makonnen, Jon Chambers (GBR) and Helmut Eichholzer (AUT).
So far six athletes have left the 864km adventure race. As well as Virgilio, Ivar Sandstå (NOR) was eliminated as the tail-ender. Mike Küng (AUT3) dropped out due to suspected pneumonia, Phlippe Barnier (FRA) decided not to continue on day three, Christian Amon (AUT) retired injured and Kaoru Ogisawa (JPN) was disqualified after entering forbidden airspace.
Maurer has now less than 400km straight line distance to Monaco, but the weather forecast does not bode well for flying in the coming days and he may well be pegged back by his rivals.

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