The suffering kicks in as athletes find themselves hiking through the longest day of the year.
Today it’s midsummer and the 30 athletes remaining in the world’s toughest adventure race are looking to take advantage – by hiking through the night.
Three athletes have pulled a Night Pass, which allows them to ignore the mandatory rest period between 10.30pm and 5.00am. They are Thomas Christensen (DNK), Willi Cannell (USA2) and Tobias Grossrubatscher (ITA2).
“At first it made me wonder why so many pulled a Night Pass for no obvious reason. But maybe today being the longest day of the year is why,” said race director Christoph Weber.
There is another practical reason. Athletes are desperate to make Turnpoint 7, Titlis by the weekend so they can take advantage of the lifting of airspace restrictions. The complicated limits imposed by Meiringen airspace do not apply on Saturday and Sunday. They have so far limited athletes in their ability to fly far.
Grossrubatscher has his own motivation. He was forced to sit out today after breaking an airspace violation.
Ulrich Grill, race founder, said: “We have entered the 6th 24 hour cycle of the race and lots of suffering starts now!”
For most athletes, the focus of their attention is the highest Turnpoint in the race, situated at 3,000m on Titlis. Today, weather prevented flying, so athletes were forced to hike up on foot, a brutal three hour ascent.
Third placed Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) was first to arrive this morning. He signed the board, made a quick transition to flying mode, and launched within minutes down the precipitous slopes of Titlis’s south face towards the next Turnpoint of the Eiger.
He was followed by the Italian Aaron Durogati (ITA1), who was looking strong. “I’m having a great race,” he said. “It’s going as expected and I am very happy.”
The next athletes expected to tag Turnpoint 7 are Benoit Outters (FRA1) and Patrick von Känel (SUI2), who were expected to reach the top by mid- afternoon. Behind them the chaser back is not far away. The race within the mid-pack is proving as gripping as the race up front.
And that has its own story. Chrigel Maurer (SUI1) maintained his 50km lead over Maxime Pinot (FRA4) as he entered the French Alps. Once he tags Turnpoint 10, St Hilaire, he could find himself on a home run as a beneficial weather system moves in.
“Once he passes St Hilaire he will find himself with good flying conditions and he could speed up,” added race director Weber.
But Maxime Pinot (FRA2) is hanging in there in second place and once he enters home territory, he could be the one who has the advantage. The Red Bull X-Alps is far from over.
Dominika Kasieczko (POL) was this morning eliminated as the last placed athlete. The next athlete to be cut from the race will be in 48 hours.
Be sure to follow all the action on Live Tracking at www.redbullxalps.com.
MAIN IMAGE: Red Bull X-Alps 2019 Athlete flying over the Swiss Alps © zooom.at / Harald Tauderer