One of the top adventure races in the world, the Red Bull X-Alps (now its fifth event), takes place on the 17th July and sees 31 top athletes competing for the ultimate adventure racing title.
The athletes from 23 nations have been chosen out of the world’s top paragliding and endurance elite to hike or paraglide their way across the Alps from Salzburg in Austria to Monaco on the Mediterranean coast. In-between there are eight turnpoints in Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France that force the participants through 864km of treacherous mountain terrain.
Athlete’s race non-stop through the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea, with just a paraglider and a pair of hiking boots to help them, their every move tracked by advanced technology and broadcasted to an audience of millions.
South Africa’s very own Pierre Carter, a building contractor who has flown up and over Acconcagua in 2008, represented SA in 1991 and 1993 at the World Champs, competed in the Red Bull X-Alps in 2009, and recently flew off Elbrus in Russia, is taking on a strong field of fellow athletes. We wish him all the best in his efforts.
Swiss athletes have won all previous Red Bull X-Alps and after 2009’s cracking performance, defending champion Christian ‘Chrigel’ Maurer, will start as favorite. Chasing hard will be two-time winner Alex Hofer and Martin Müller. Among the returnees on the start line will be Helmut Eichholzer and Christian Amon, who will be keen to make amends after disappointment in 2009. Eichholzer was disqualified after entering a no-fly zone while Amon dropped out after twisting his ankle on day one. They will be joined by Red Bull X-Alps rookie ‘Mad’ Mike Küng (better known as an acrobatics pilot).
France also fields three strong athletes who all have the ability to reach goal in Monaco first. Vincent Sprüngli returning after competing in 2007 and 2009 is joined by newcomers Philippe Barnier and Clement Latour, two extremely accomplished paragliders and endurance athletes. ‘Running Man’ Toma Coconea will be back for his fifth Red Bull X-Alps, hoping to finally win the race he has dedicated his life to, as is another five-timer, Andy Frötscher.
Other athletes who notched up top ten placings in 2009 and returning in 2011 are Honza Rejmanek, Evgenii Griaznov, Michael Gebert, Jouni Makkonen, Ramon Morillas and Thomas de Dorlodot. Further rookies include Martin Romero, Steve Nash, Ferdinand van Schleven, Ivar Sandstå, Pawel Faron, Nuno Virgilio and Richard Pethigal.
Photos by: Red Bull Photofiles/ VL – Vitek Ludvik/ OL – Olivier Laugero/ FW – Felix Woelk/ CH – Chris Hoerner/ UG – Ulrich Grill