Sunday, July 9, 2017

Red Bull X-Alps 2017 Race Report: Day 7

Here are the highlights from day 7 of the Red Bull X-Alps 2017:

It’s been a busy day across the Alps. Up front, Christian Maurer (SUI1) extended his lead and was this evening within touching distance of the Matterhorn, Turnpoint 6.
"I think he’ll make Monaco on Monday", said race director Christoph Weber. "I’m leaving tomorrow" (In 2009, Maurer actually beat the organisation to Monaco.)
However, Maurer is not so optimistic. "I think more like four to five days. The weather is not really flyable for the next day or so".
His plan is not to fly north and pick up the Rhone superhighway, but to enter the Aosta valley and then head for Val d’Isere and then onto Briancon before following a similar line to Monaco from 2015. 
"I will climb up to 2,000m tomorrow and I hope it’s not too windy so I can fly down to Aosta, otherwise I will have to walk. It’s going to be a hard day for sure".
If it does take him another four to five days to make goal it could be one of his slowest years. His record is 6d 23h in 2013; his slowest time to Monaco was 11d in 2011.
Otherwise he said he’s feeling strong and the team is the best it’s ever been. "I’m within my comfort zone and flying as before but I also have better planning, better logistics, I can push more on the ground. I’m very relaxed and this makes me positive". There’s a small knee complaint but nothing serious.
In second place was Gaspard Petiot (FRA2) but today he was forced to retire after injuring his wrist and knee during a bad landing near Lake Como.
"I was trying to get into a small landing and a thermic bubble blew me into a wall", he said.
"It was the perfect race until this", he added. His retirement from the race comes just 383km from Monaco. He had spent 35.8 hours flying, during which he covered 1,401.5km in the air.
Near the back, Che Golus (AUS) also quit after picking up an injury.
Rookie Benoït Outters (FRA4) now assumes 2nd place. "It’s very sad news for Gaspard but the race continues", he said.
And it’s turning into quite a battle as there are now eight athletes in with a chance, all within 30km of each other. For the last two days they’ve been jockeying for position but also co-operating, sharing intel, the good times and the bad. As Pascal Purin (AUT3) told us yesterday: "It’s great to fly with my friends".
The gaggle of Pascal, Sebastian Huber (GER1), Ferdinand van Schelven (NLD) and Simon Oberrauner (AUT4) started the day with an epic flight off the Brenta, gliding with minimal thermal activity for more than 20km all the way from glaciated peaks to the warm shores of Lake Garda. "It was very impressive", said Weber.
Pal Takats (HUN) would have been in contention and is now within touching distance of Lake Como, but he is now grounded for 48 hours following an airspace violation.
After a bad day yesterday, during which he fell back to 7th place, Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) put in a blinder today and is currently behind Manuel Nübel (GER2) in 5th. But that 3rd spot is open to anyone – who will take the prize?
But there’s still a way to go, and as Chrigel warns: "The difference between a normal paragliding competition and an adventure race like this is that with an adventure you never know what’s going to happen – and anything can happen".

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