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Maurer Christian, Red Bull X-Alps
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Chrigel Maurer before the start of Red Bull X-Alps

14.07.2011 by Planetmountain

Chrigel Maurer is the most successful paragliding pilot of our days and the titleholder of Red Bull X-Alps. In 3 days, the Red Bull X-Alps 2011 will start in Salzburg. In the following interview, we asked Chrigel Maurer 12 questions.

Chrigel Maurer is the most successful paragliding pilot of our days and the titleholder of Red Bull X-Alps. When he first participated in the race two years ago, he set new standards in many respects, not least due to the record-breaking fact that it took him less than 10 days to get from Salzburg to Monaco. Nevertheless the “Eagle from Adelboden” is convinced there’s room for him to improve. In 3 days, the Red Bull X-Alps 2011 will start in Salzburg. In the following interview, we asked Chrigel Maurer 12 questions.

What is your prevalent feeling 3 days before race start? 
Stress. Right now, everything has to come together: the training, the material,… We have known the route for quite some time, but now you can see what the weather’s going to be like and where there’s still going to be snow. Looks like I will have to pack my crampons after all! But it’s a positive kind of stress.

In what ways do you think you can improve compared to 2009?
The team now feels much more familiar and that’s a real advantage. I am in a better shape and know better what kind of food to eat or not to eat. And it gives me self-confidence to know that I have been through this before.

What does your strategy look like?
Or rather: how many kilometers are you planning to cover with your paraglider and how many on foot?My strategy has remained the same as I’m still better in the air than on the ground. The last time I covered 70% of the route in flight – so that’s going to be difficult to top unless I spend more time waiting for better conditions. My goal is to cover 60% to 80% of the route flying.

Who is your biggest competition?
That’s difficult to say. Depending on the weather, it’s either the good pilots or the good hikers that have an advantage. Red Bull X-Alps is more of an adventure than a mere race. It’s really unpredictable. With one false decision I can really mess up.

Which part of the route is going to be the most difficult?
The part with the most rain. The valleys of Southern France are quite challenging because of their vegetation – it’s more difficult to get to the take-off spots there.

How did you prepare for the hiking parts?
My running training was very varied: Nordic walking, jogging with and without weight, ski tours, inline skating, mountain biking,… On the mountains you need a lot of strength, on the street you need strong and healthy joints. As I was taking turns training both, it was either my muscles or my joints that could recover for some time.

How many kilos of weight do you carry when you’re not flying?
My minimum equipment, which consists of my paraglider, harness, helmet and phone plus GPS, weighs about eight kilos. When I have to fend for myself up in the mountains, I’m also carrying clothes, food and drinks, which makes it about 12 to 13kg.

What are the most important tasks of your supporter Thomas Theurillat?
He goes with me all the way in his car and is always there for me whenever I need something or have a question. He helps me plan the route and makes suggestions as to where I should land or go to. I can ask him from up in the air what the weather forecast looks like and can plan my landing accordingly. This is much more efficient than landing somewhere and realizing later on that I’m standing in the wrong valley considering the current weather conditions.

What are you going to eat during the approximately ten race days?
What I learned during the last Red Bull X-Alps is that it’s not so much about what I eat than about eating enough. I burn about 5000-7000 calories every day and in order to take in this amount I have to split it up in individual portions and practically eat all day. Carbohydrates in different forms are important, as is high-energy food. And diversification is important too.

How and how often will you be sleeping?
I’m going to sleep in the caravan driven by Thomas. One of the biggest problems will be the exhaustion. Two years ago I was so exhausted from all the running that I was constantly on the verge of falling asleep during my rest periods. Back then, my longest sleep period was six hours, my shortest two and a half hours. This year we’ll have a mandatory rest period between 23:00 and 04:00. If you plan to eat and get massaged after that and factor in 15 minutes of preparations between getting up and taking off, that leaves you with about four hours of sleep. That’s not enough for me, I’m planning to get five to six hours of sleep.

What are you most afraid of?
Of making decisions when I’m exhausted. Often you have to make make-or-break decisions in a matter of seconds. And every meter I don’t fly I’m going to have to hike. This makes it difficult to decide whether you should land or keep on flying. And it would be even worse if a wrong decision would result in a rough landing and me getting hurt.

What part of the route are you most looking forward to?
It’s a lot of fun to fly across the Alps between the Engadin and Chamonix – at least in good weather. And once I’m in Southern France, I’m looking forward to crossing the finish line!

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