It was a spectacular end to the world’s toughest adventure race today with a close duel between two athletes sparring for second place. The Red Bull X-Alps finishes 48 hours after the winner arrives in Monaco. Christian Maurer clinched victory at 16:22 on Thursday, and at that time, his nearest followers were over 150 km away.
However, by last night, Toma Coconea (ROM) and Paul Guschlbauer (AUT4) were lying neck-and neck, around 65 km out from Monaco. They had both flown spectacular flights at heights of up to 3500 m through the southern Alps putting them within range of goal. As dawn broke, Coconea set off. He ran fast through the twisting valleys that lead to Monaco, sometimes averaging 10 km/h and living up to his nickname, "the raging Romanian". Meanwhile, Guschlbauer bade his time. He knew good flying conditions were forecast, and elected to hike to the same launch place above Isola that Maurer had used two days ago.
Suddenly, the final day had become a "Tortoise and Hare" race. Coconea initially covered big distance, getting within 20 km of goal by 09:30. But once Guschlbauer launched, the Austrian was able to fly much faster and as the crow flies – straight towards goal.
Eventually, Coconea completed 80 km of road running - the equivalent of two marathons – to emerge at the top of Peille take-off just over two hours before the race closed. Crowds of Romanian supporters cheered him as he inflated his glider and launched into a gap in the clouds down to the float at Monaco to secure second place (picture attached).
Guschlbauer’s race ended 10 km from Monaco. His tactic had failed, yet the Red Bull X-Alps newcomer had secured third position.
Behind them, Martin Muller flew well to clinch 4th place, while newcomer Jon Chambers maintained his fifth position.
The Red Bull X-Alps closes with a prize giving and party at Stars and Bars in Monaco, on Sunday July 31.