Bad weather brings the battles to ground level.
The fog has rolled in across the Swiss Alps this morning, forcing athletes to continue the fight on foot.
Chrigel Maurer (SUI1) may appear to have escaped the clutches of Maxime Pinot (FRA4), the young French rookie on his heels, but adverse weather could yet spoil his plans.
That and a tactical decision by Pinot to pull a Night Pass, meaning that he will hike through the night to close the gap, and potentially catch up with the five-time champion.
Pinot was forced to hike over 2,000m to reach Turnpoint 7, Titlis and arrived shortly before 11.30am in thick summit fog. “It was really exhausting,” he said.
Visibility in places was less than 100m. The dense cloud wasn’t the only thing to worry about: airspace restrictions around Meiringen force athletes to fly under a height restriction as low as 1,600m in places until 6:15pm. But that only depended on being able to take off at all.
Pinot waited for two hours before heading out into position during a snowstorm. It looked impossible, but then the clouds lifted long enough to open up visibility along the valley and he was off.
“Next stop, the Eiger,” cried his supporter Jérémie Lager.
“The weather has slowed the race down, no doubt,” says Ulrich Grill, race founder. “The French athletes are looking very strong and it will be interesting to see what they are capable of once the race enters their backyard. Maurer has not got away yet. There are also some incredible battles going on further back in the field as dozens of athletes swap leads and jostle for position. It’s every bit as competitive as it is at the front.”
Chasing hard behind Pinot is Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) and Aaron Durogati (ITA1). Behind them is a cluster consisting of Patrick von Känel (SUI2), at 24, the youngest athlete in the field, and the French athletes Benoit Outters (FRA1) and Gaspard Petiot (FRA2). Another very strong grouping of athletes cleared Davos, Turnpoint 6, early afternoon. It comprised the Germans Manuel Nübel (GER1), Markus Anders (GER2), Simon Oberrauner (AUT2) and just a kilometer behind them, Tom de Dorlodot (BEL), who today celebrates his 34th birthday.
He said he was having the race of his life, his seventh outing in the Red Bull X-Alps. He says it’s the friendships that make the race unique:
“It is the people, the team, the athletes – it all makes for something special. Because it is so intense. It’s like when you go and climb a mountain peak with a friend, it creates moments for life. Of course it hurts, but you come home with very good memories.”
He added: “For me it’s always about being out there and enjoying the flying and the hiking – yesterday we flew almost all the way to Davos and then we got stopped by a thunderstorm. It is such a strong, intense adventure. I love it.”
Elsewhere Tobias Grossrubatscher received a penalty for an airspace infringement around Innsbruck. He will have a forced wait from 5am to 5pm tomorrow.
Be sure to follow all the action on Live Tracking at www.redbullxalps.com.
MAIN IMAGE: Maxime Pinot (FRA4) hiking at Turnpoint 7 Titlis, Switzerland © zooom.at / Harald Tauderer