Next Sunday, July 17th, a new edition of the Red Bull X-Alps kicks off in Salzburg. Red Bull X-Alps is an adventure and paragliding competition for thirty selected internacional athletes from 22 different nations. The challenge is to cross the Alps from East to West and finish in Monaco as quickly as possible traveling only by paragliders or by foot. The race goes on day and night (5 hours is the obligatory downtime for 2011. The athletes may not move from 23:00 till 04:00), whatever the weather conditions are, until the first pilot reaches the goal. Athletes are forbidden any kind of motorised transport but can select a supporter to help supply food, equipment and information.
The first Red Bull X-Alps took place in 2003 opened up a new dimension in adventure racing. For Hannes Arch, event mastermind the adventure race "is much more than just an Alpine crossing; it’s an adventure, an expedition and at the same time a competition". As the organizer behind the event, Hannes Arch proves that he has the spirit and capability to combine sports in the purest form with modern marketing and media strategies.
In 2003 seventeen athletes braved the 800km journey from Austria’s Dachstein glacier but only three managed to make it all the way to the finish in Moncao via three turning points at the Zugspitze in Germany, France’s Mont Blanc and Mont Gros. Kaspar Henny a 35 year-old Swiss grabbed an early lead and held onto it for the 11 days and 23 hours it took him to complete the course. David Dagault (FRA) was second, over five hours behind and Stefan Bocks (GER) was third.
For the next two editions (2005, 2007) the Swiss domination continued. Alex Hofer (SUI) beat Urs Lötscher (SUI) to Monaco in 2005, and Toma Coconea (ROM) in 2007. Hofer's superior skill in the air, solid fitness and extensive local knowledge fitted perfectly to the Red Bull X-Alps. His rivalry with Lötscher in 2005 and amazingly close finish in 2007 where he nipped past Coconea in the dying moments of the race made him a worthy champion.
Starting as top favourite in 2009, Hofer saw rookie Christian Maurer (SUI) romp away with a comprehensive victory, reaching goal in less than ten days – a record time for the event (Maurer flew 72% of the route, and walked 28%. In total, he flew 999km and hiked 380km through the Alps).
Lamentably Alex Hofer has withdrawn from the Red Bull X-Alps 2011 after incurring serious back injuries in a flying accident.
Teams will start on July 17th at 11:30 am at Salzburg Mozartplatz and must travel over selected turnpoints defined by the race organisers towards Monaco. Final results are established according to the time it took participants to reach Monaco or the number of kilometres covered during the course of the event. The total prize money of 28,500 Euros will be divided among the athletes according to their final position in the race field (1st: €10,000; 2nd: €5,000; 3rd: €3,000; 4th-10th €1,500 each).
At least 1 million people are expected to watch the race via Live Tracking on http://www.redbullxalps.com/.