Red Bull X-Alps, athletes made final preparations on Saturday before embarking on the world's toughest adventure race. At 11.30am local time on Sunday 7th July, under the iconic backdrop of Salzburg's baroque skyline, 31 athletes from 21 nations will set off on an epic 1,031km journey to Monaco by foot or paraglider.
The route will see them pass 10 turnpoints as they journey through Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France. It passes iconic mountains such as the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc as well as famous Alpine towns and villages such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Wildkogel, Sulden and Interlaken.
Although athletes journey through some of the most remote yet spectacular areas of the Alps, fans can nonetheless follow their every move, thanks to Red Bull Mobile Live Tracking, which lets them follow the athletes in real time on redbullxalps.com. The race start, as well as regular updates during the race, will also be broadcast live on Servus TV.
"The Red Bull X-Alps is unbelievably hard", says race director Christoph Weber. "Athletes have to be skilled in so many areas — they have to be an incredible endurance athlete, and then they need the flying skills, but the most important thing of all is to be a good tactician".
Above all is the need to be flexible to changing weather conditions, says two-time winner Christian Maurer (SUI1). "It can be sunny one minute then you can be caught in a thunderstorm and visibility is down to 10m".
Fortunately, good conditions are predicted for the start, according to Clemens Teutsch, of Wetter.tv. "There is a risk of thunderstorms but the thermals will make for good flying conditions", he says.
Competitors come from all over the world, from Latin America to South Korea, from America to Japan.
They include some of the leading adventurers and paragliding athletes around today — individuals who have crossed continents, climbed Everest and broken flying records.
All eyes will be on race favorite Maurer (SUI1), who won the race in 2009 and 2011. But Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1), who was the surprise rookie who came third in 2011, could pose a threat. For most athletes however, just making it to Monaco is challenge enough.
On Sunday morning the start gun will fire at 11:30am and their mission will begin.