Today 30 adventure athletes set out from Salzburg on the race of their lives: the Red Bull X-Alps. At 11:30 they burst out of Mozartplatz in the city’s centre. Their ultimate goal is Monaco, 864 km away, but ahead of them they face Europe’s harshest mountain terrain and extreme alpine weather conditions.
Rules state they must cross the entire Alpine chain by foot or paraglider. Their route takes them through five countries and past eight turnpoints including many of Europe’s most famous peaks.
To the cheers of hundreds of spectators, the athletes ran through Salzburg and up the Gaisberg. Richard Pethigal (BRA) was the first to reach the 1288m summit. Not far behind was Michael Gebert (GER) who chose to take-off first. Unfortunately, he misjudged the conditions, landed at the valley floor, and started hiking. Other athletes had more success, and soon, groups of paragliders were circling overhead in the afternoon thermals. Defending champion Christian Maurer (SUI1) buzzed the crowd, to their delight.
Improving flying conditions saw them reach heights of over 2000 metres and make good progress towards the Dachstein, their second turnpoint. They were soon specks on the horizon. Those that do not make it by air will face a punishing ascent by foot to its summit.
A tight race is now unfolding. After the Dachstein, they must then conquer the mighty Grossglockner. At 3798m, it’s Austria’s highest mountain.
They will then tackle the Tre Cime in the stunning Italian Dolomites. Athletes must then pass Piz Palu and the Matterhorn in Switzerland before rounding France’s Mt Blanc and heading south to Mt Gros and finally Monaco.
The race is expected to take between ten and fifteen days, depending on weather conditions.