Red Bull X-Alps 2017, how to prepare for the world's toughest adventure race
On 2 July the Red Bull X-Alps 2017 gets underway, the world's most spectacular adventure race across the Alps and via via a 1000km course on foot or by paraglider, from Salzburg in Austria to the Principality of Monaco
Competing in the Red Bull X-Alps is arguably as tactical as it is exhausting. Endurance, mountaineering experience and paragliding skills aren't enough. They must also have the physical and mental strength to push themselves day after day. So, how does one prepare for the almost superhuman strength and determination required to compete?
Take Austrian pilot Paul Guschlbauer for example. His planning for this year’s race appears to be closely linked to intuition. He says that when training, he likes to take advantage of whatever nature provides. Guschlbauer goes ski touring if it snows and takes to the air as soon as the thermals start. He also explains that he eats only what his body feels it needs and currently has no diet plan. “I think that having fun in what you do is essential for being in good mental and physical shape,” he says.
Gavin McClurg of the USA on the other hand is much more meticulous in his preparation. Following an impressive 8th place debut at Red Bull X-Alps 2015, McClurg’s brutal preparation is well under way. For physicial preparation, he turns to intense interval workouts and anaerobic threshold training to build up strength. He also manages to fit in cycling and ski touring several days a week to improve his endurance. “The goal is to make the body super resilient so it can handle the abuse,” he explains. In addition, he follows a strict diet plan developed by a professional nutritionist, which includes natural supplements such as fish oils and collagen powders.
Former German champion Manuel Nübel broke his kneecap just four months before Red Bull X-Alps 2015. Despite his injury, he went on to shock everyone with a grueling 9th place finish and will be hungry for more in 2017. He says; “I am already in better shape than last time and the next four months will boost my endurance for sure.” Like most, Nübel’s preparation includes mountain running, XC skiing and cycling. He has also been working on taking off in strong winds and packing his gear as fast as possible, which may give him an advantage during the race. Will he be capable of pushing for the podium now that he’s returning to full health?
Red Bull X-Alps rookie and 2017’s youngest competitor Tobias Grossrubatscher from Italy has a completely different set of factors to contend with. He needs both the physical preparation and careful planning to help him through the biggest race of his career. The highly motivated Italian has been training five to six times a week from hiking and flying, to ski touring and trail running. He is also working on a diet plan and has been studying the areas around Dachstein, Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. He says; “All preparation is on schedule, so we can concentrate on planning the routes and strategies.”
In contrast to Grossrubatscher, Swiss flying ace and reigning champion Christian ‘Chrigel’ Maurer is able to draw on many more years of experience. The four-time consecutive winner of Red Bull X-Alps is currently planning to do 30,000m of vertical ascents each month until the start of the race. He also says that eating as much as possible is more important than a specific diet plan. For the first time however, Chrigel will be replacing his long-time teammate Thomas Theurillat with a new supporter, which may raise questions about whether he can retain the title. “At the start line, I know I can make it, but on the other hand every edition is new and different. This is what motivates me to do it again,” he says confidently.
Whatever the strategy, the constantly changing conditions make it impossible to predict how things will work out on race day. Mental preparation alone won’t be enough to win Red Bull X-Alps 2017. Tactical planning is nothing without physical fitness and unparalleled resilience; for this is set to be a whole new level of adventure.
To find out more, check out redbullxalps.com or visit the athletets facebook.com/redbullxalps.
Meet the full line-up of 32 athletes here
RED BULL X-ALPS
Red Bull X-Alps 2017 will start on July 02, 2017 and will be the eighth edition of the world’s toughest adventure race. It's a bold claim – but one it surely deserves. It's difficult to think of another race that demands such a high level of fitness and technical skill – or lasts so long. The combination of trekking and paragliding is one of the most exciting hybrids to emerge from the ongoing convergence of mountain sports.
The rules are simple. Athletes must race across the Alps, by foot or paraglider via set Turnpoints, usually a straight-line distance of over 1,000km. Over the years, the race has attracted and tested to the limit some of the world's top adventurers. It demands not only expert paragliding skills but extreme endurance. Some athletes will hike over 100km and 1000's of meters in altitude in a day.
Each team consists of one athlete and one supporter. The supporter is there to help with logistics, strategy, food, medical support and provide psychological assistance. The role of the supporter is hugely important – they truly are the unsung heroes of the race.
Athletes race between the hours of 05:00 to 22:30. Since 2013, athletes have been able to pull a Ledlenser Night Pass that allows them to push-on through the night on foot, normally a mandatory rest period.
The 2015 edition saw 19 of the 32 athletes make the goal – a record number since the first race in 2003. Incredibly, 12 rookies crossed the finish line in Monaco, including athletes from the US, Korea, New Zealand and elsewhere for the first time in history.
New to the 2015 edition was the one-day Powertraveller Prologue race. Fans were close to the action as the athletes raced from Fuschl am See, past the Zwölferhorn and Schafberg turnpoints, and back. In 2017 this successful one-day race will return as Leatherman Prologue! The first three athletes each gain an additional Ledlenser Nightpass and a five-minute headstart on the main race start. In 2015, Paul Guschlbauer (AUT) won the Powertraveller Prologue in 2h 21m.
Swiss athlete Christian Maurer, however, won the Red Bull X-Alps 2015 race in the time of 8 days, 4 hours and 37 minutes. It was his fourth successive win – and a new record. Could 2017 see athletes like Sebastian Huber or Paul Guschlbauer end Maurer’s reign as Red Bull X-Alps champion? Only one thing is certain – anything could happen!
RED BULL X-ALPS
15/07/2015 - Christian Mauer wins Red Bull X-Alps 2015
15/07/2013 - Red Bull X-Alps 2013: historic hat-trick for Christian Maurer
28/07/2011 - Christian Maurer wins Red Bull X-Alps 2011
30/07/2009 - Red Bull X-Alps 2009: interview with the winner Christian Maurer