Can Maurer be caught by his chasers?
For three days they’ve hiked thousands of kilometers and pushed through pain barriers they never thought imaginable. They’ve marched through rain, snowstorms and hiked through mud and snow alike. But today, the eighth day of the Red Bull X-Alps, the 29 athletes still fighting to make Monaco, finally woke up to something to lift their battered spirits – the sun.
It rose early, bringing with it renewed optimism and the promise of covering some big distances in the air. Every kilometer in the air is a kilometer not spent marching on bruised and blistered feet. Right now, there is nothing athletes would like more than to give their legs a rest.
The sunny and stable conditions are set to continue for the next few days, according to official race meteorologist Ubimet. And that means Monaco is suddenly within grasp for many athletes over the coming days.
And for the five time champion, Christian Maurer (SUI1), that could be as early as tomorrow. Maurer was today hoping to make Turnpoint 12, Cheval Blanc, just 90km from Peille, where the race clock officially stops.
Battling in second place is the French athlete Maxime Pinot (FRA4), competing for the first time in the Red Bull X-Alps. Yesterday he told how he was hiking up to 5,000m a day. Today he recovered some ground lost to Maurer but was still 70km behind as he approached Turnpoint 10, St Hilaire. And just 15km behind him was Austrian athlete Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1), a podium finisher in three out of four Red Bull X-Alps he’s competed in.
“The race is speeding up now as flying conditions are getting better and the real distances will happen now as athletes give it full throttle,” says race director Christoph Weber.
“So far it’s been incredibly hard work for athletes coupled with the bad weather it’s been very tough for them, Titlis especially. Only Maurer managed to do it without the effort of hiking.”
For many athletes the adverse conditions have brought them together. In a spirit of camaraderie and adventure that characterises the race, Gaspard Petiot (FRA2) yesterday agreed to guide two other athletes, Tom de Dorlodot (BEL) and Markus Anders (GER2) over the Tschingel glacier. Race rules require athletes to be accompanied by a fully-qualified mountain guide on glaciated terrain. Petiot, a guide, agreed to do the job for them and they spent the night in the Mutthorn hut.
No athletes have pulled a Night Pass. Most will want to keep it in reserve to play when they’re in striking distance of Monaco.
Be sure to follow all the action on Live Tracking at www.redbullxalps.com.
MAIN IMAGE: Red Bull X-Alps 2019 Athlete flying in Briancon, France © zooom.at / Felix Wölk