re-sized Christian Maurer paragliding

The current status at the Red Bull X-Alps ultra-endurance event

Christian Maurer is one lucky man. I don’t know if you followed the tweeting that was going on at the end of last week, but it looked like he had infringed the very strict air space regulations for which there was a one-day penalty. It turned out he had… but, his one-day penalty happened to take effect on a day when appalling weather was being experienced and no-one went anywhere fast and so he was able to maintain his huge lead.

Now that’s luck!

“The chasing pilots are going to have to push like hell if they want to make it to Monaco before the deadline (48 hours after the winner gets in),” said Aiden Toase who is providing expert commentary throughout this competition. Toase has himself competed in three Red Bull X-Alps finishing 4th in 2009.

This is not a race for the faint-hearted. Watch the following videos and decide for yourself. Day Two first:

… and now Day 4

Wow, what magnificent scenery. And so to Day 5:

By Day 7 “The rankings  are so close for the chasing gaggle that they do not mean much. With a bit of luck Honza Rejmanek, in 13th, could be challenging for 4th place tomorrow, with unpredictable weather and airspace to navigate all the ranking will get mixed up –  it should be really exciting to watch this unfold,” he added.

JPN2 at the tail-end were eliminated yesterday morning. The next tail-end elimination will happen at 0700 on the 26th. The pressure’s on.

The Alps have been unkind. We are in July but they have been dealing out winter-like weather and a lot of snow, witness those videos. The athletes are having to put in “super-human levels of effort.” say event organisers. “It’s hard for people not here to really appreciate how horrible the last two days have been” says Jon Chambers (GBR2), currently in 5th position. “You have to work around the individual conditions that you face at the time, and it’s very hard to compare routes with other athletes.” Despite the conditions he is currently in 5th-position – not bad for a man who came into the race as a wildcard.

Yesterday was another horrible day. The wind, at 50kph was strong and unpredictable. Maurer found some shelter flying close to the hills and was able to do 30km an hour which was amazing, but even he was flying backwards occasionally. Commentators were stationed at a sailplane airstrip and no-one there was flying which is an indication of how bad it was. But this is Red Bull and the teams march on!

Ferdinand Van Schelven (NED) also managed a good flight yesterday and made up 20 km on second-placed Toma Coconea (BEL). These two are fighting hard for second place.

Today has dawned with promise. It looks like a high pressure zone is coming in. Weak, but better than what has been dished up in the last few days. The race is hotting up and getting more exciting by the minute. Maurer has just passed the Mont Blanc turnpoint. The following field are going balls out for Baghdad to catch up.

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