Christian Maurer wins Red Bull X-Alps 2017 for fifth consecutive victory
At 10:53 am today the 34-year-old Swissman Christian Maurer won the Red Bull X-Alps 2017 for the fifth time running, while France’s Benoit Outters placed second. Maurer needed 11 days, 23 hours and 23 minutes to paraglide and walk across the Alps from Salzburg to Austria all the way to the Principality of Monaco
11 days, 23 hours and 23 minutes. This is the time it took for Christian Maurer to win the Red Bull X-Alps 2017, this long and difficult journey across the Alps from Salzburg to Monte Carlo by paragliding or on foot. And as it happens this year, because of the prohibitive weather conditions, the 34-year-old Swissman had to cover a lot of terrain on foot over 500 km, 200 km more than in the previous editions. And 11 days is quite a gruelling challenge: in 2015 Maurer won the race in just 8 days, 4 hours and 37 minutes.
This is Maurer’s fifth consecutive victory, a record that will be difficult if not impossible to beat and that has a very particular flavour. “I felt a lot of pressure this time.” explained Maurer. “To win the first time was important. It was not so important with the others. But this time it was even more important to do well, so there was a lot of pressure. Above all it's an adventure first and foremost, not a competition…"
An adventure that started in the worst possible way for Maurer. Due to health problems the Swiss champion was forced to skip the Prologue, consequently suffered a time penalty that forced him to start last and 24 hours before the official start it was unclear whether the race doctor would even allow him to compete. But Maurer being Maurer dug in deep and overcame these initial difficulties to move quickly up in the provisional ranking, slowly but surely overtaking his 36 opponents as he made his way to Slovenia and then tracked west towards the Brenta Dolomites. At the turn points on Monte Baldo and the Matterhorn he was well ahead of the pack, but then the bad weather that marked the first half of July slowed progress and a long, exhausting march began down through the Aosta Valley and on towards the Principality of Monaco. Last night a final flight from Colle di Tenda took him to Ventimiglia, from where he continued walking through the night to reach Mount Peille above Monaco and win the race at 10:53. This evening at 18:45 it’s time for the last symbolic act, the flight down towards the sea to celebrate his victory.
Maurer will be followed shortly afterwards by Benoit Outters. The 27-year-old French rookie landed at Peille just a few hours after Maurer and placed a deserved second. And third? This is still to be decided. According to the race regulations, the competition ends 24 hours after arrival of the winner, ie at 10:53 am tomorrow morning. Austria’s Paul Guschlbauer is 56 km away from the finish line and may make it in time, while all remaining athletes are over 100km. One thing is certain: those who still have a Night Pass, and who after 11 days of racing still have some energy reserves, will continue to race through the night!
The chances of reaching the Mediterranean are not high in the Red Bull X-Alps. In the first edition in 2003 just three reached goal. In 2005 two made it. In 2007 five got to goal. In 2009 and 2011 it was only two again. With good weather in 2013 nine made goal, while in 2015 19 of the 32 teams made it to Monaco
Unfortunately, someone who won’t be flying down to Monte Carlo is South Tyrol’s Aaron Durogati, one of the athletes who in the run up to the event stood the greatest chances of winning. Durogati demonstrated his worth by winning the Prologue together with Germany’s Sebastian Huber and this could have bode well for the rest of the race, had he not been forced to retire after day 4 due to a knee problem. Durogati had covered 741.5 km of terrain (160.4 of which on foot) and up until that point had been in 5th and 6th place. His fellow countryman Tobias Grossrubatscher is currently in 13th place and 276 km from the finish line. Not bad if you consider that Grossrubatscher is the youngest in the race!