Six days ago 31 athletes started out from Salzburg. Today, just 26 athletes are still plugging away and the field now stretches for 500km across northern Italy, Austria and southern Germany.
At the front is Chrigel Maurer (SUI1), now on the western slopes of Lake Como. At one point this afternoon, it looked as though a new chapter in Red Bull X-Alps history would have to be written as Gaspard Petiot (FRA2) reeled him in and then drew level.
No one has caught up with Maurer like that before. But that was before Maurer got airborne again this afternoon. By the time he’d touched down, he’d managed to open up a 64km lead, flying along the south-facing flanks of the Valtellina valley.
But whereas yesterday he’d been able to cruise along the summits, this time it looked a lot more rough and dirty. The valley is notorious for its afternoon winds and Maurer would have had to fight against turbulent conditions. It would have demanded total commitment and skill, but then he’s not short of either.
Just a few hours earlier it had all looked so different as Gaspard Petiot drew level and then – for a brief moment – his name appeared at the top of the leaderboard. It was such a unique moment, we had to screenshot it for posterity. For a moment Maurer looked threatened.
Elsewhere it was a day in which the talent really showed itself. Red Bull X-Alps rookie Benoït Outters (FRA4) put in a great flight and overtook Guschlbauer (AUT1), who fell to 7th place. This evening just 9km and 1,000m of vertical ascent separated him from Turnpoint 5, Monte Baldo.
For a man of his ultra-running capability, that should take no longer than two to three hours, too long to bag tonight. But expect him to launch across Lake Garda early in the morning.
The chasing group who gathered on the summit of Matatze this morning, just north of Merano, had mixed fortunes. Nick Neynens (NZL) decided not to wait for the inversion to clear and took a bold decision to go anyway. Seeing him find some lift had Pal Takats (HUN) running for his wing and launching himself off the slope in hot pursuit.
By the end of the day, Neynens was 65km from the Turnpoint while Takats, along with Manuel Nübel (GER1) and Stanislav Mayer (CZE) were just behind Outters in the resort of Riva del Garda. Takats has a Ledlenser Night Pass so he’ll reach the Turnpoint tonight - but then he has to serve a 48-hour penalty (starting Sunday 05:00) for airspace infringement yesterday, so it’s a bitter-sweet experience for him.
Good days and bad. Every athlete experiences them. In 18th place, Krischa Berlinger (SUI2) complained of 50kph winds that made flying impossible en route to Turnpoint 4. He still had another 50km to go. Michael Gierlach (POL) also said he’d had a tough day. "It’s been hot, I tried to fly but it was windy, so I got into the lee side and had short flights".
He is currently about 45km from Turnpoint 4, about 350km from the race leader. "I hoped for something better, but it is what it is".