The Audi e-tron teams up with Red Bull for the extreme Red Bull X-Alps, which as you can imagine, was not for the weak, frail or faint hearted.
26 July, 2019
From the starting point in Salzburg to the finish line in Monaco, it is a gruelling test of endurance, stamina and sheer determination
So, you like hiking in the mountains? The sweet taste of fresh alpine air in the lungs and the sunning vistas as you hike heavenward. Right, well forget the Red Bull X-Alps then, because this is mountain hiking, running and flying taken to ridiculous extremes that only the most determined and experienced adventurers dare to tackle.
Run every other year and currently in its ninth year in 2019, the Red Bull X-Alps is an 1138km competition that sees the athletes running, hiking and mountaineering to reach the tops of mountains, before paragliding down the other side and then doing it all over again. Sound simple? It isn’t.
From the starting point in Salzburg to the finish line in Monaco, it is a gruelling test of endurance, stamina and sheer determination, coupled with the special skills and extraordinary fitness required to tackle such an event. Weather conditions are ever-changing, adding another level of complexity to an already overwhelming challenge.
Competitors come from all over the world, with 32 athletes from 20 countries taking to the mountains in this year’s event.
Originally inspired by Toni Bender’s first crossing of the Alps in 1999, the resultant documentary made about his historical crossing with its combination of hiking and paragliding formed the spark of an idea for Austrian pilot, Hannes Arch, who set out to turn it into a competition of sorts.
He and long-time friend Ulrich Grill came up with the rough framework for a paragliding competition based around the Alps crossing and the rest, as they say, is history.
The first Red Bull X-Alps was held in 2003, with 17 athletes setting out on the ordeal, but only three eventually crossing the finishing line. The journey from the Dachstein Glacier near Salzburg, to Monaco, took 11 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes. It was won by Swiss paragliding champion, Kasper Henny – the first of what now stands at eight victories for the Swiss in the event.
The number of participants is limited to 32 teams, with a team consisting of one athlete and one supporter.
Each year an entirely new route is set out to ensure that each instalment of ‘the world’s toughest race’ is unique. Athletes are required to sign in at mandatory ‘turnpoints’ throughout the competition in oder to move on to the next stage and every 48 hours, the athlete sitting in last place is eliminated from the competition.
The first Red Bull X-Alps was held in 2003, with 17 athletes setting out on the ordeal, but only three eventually crossing the finishing line
So dangerous and demanding is the event that only athletes with a proven competition record and the requisite flying skills are allowed to enter
Ahead of the race proper getting underway, a one-day Prologue is held that determines the starting order of the athletes, with the top three also receiving an additional ‘night pass’ which allows them to travel at night through what is normally the mandatory rest period each day, from 10:30pm until 5:00am.
Of course the athletes are required to carry their own equipment, made up of a list of compulsory safety gear and tracking equipment – weight is around 10kg, which just adds even more to the challenge.
As picturesque as the scenery is and enticing the images, this is a serious event in every respect, and only those with a proven record of competition at the highest levels, as well as the requisite flying experience need apply.
In 2019, despite an early challenge from Frenchman, Maxine Pinot, it was Switzerland’s, Christian Maurer who took the title for an extraordinary sixth time in a row. His time of nine days, three hours and six minutes made it seem easy, but even a cursory glance at this year's event shows that the Red Bull X-Alps shows that it is anything but. A true test of mind and body, where the stunning locations are the backdrop to the world’s most gruelling physical challenge.
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