Red Bull X-Alps

Team POL

Michal Gierlach

  • Nationality: Poland
  • Date of birth: 05. Mar. 1986
  • Profession: paragliding XC intructor, guide, tandem pilot, civil engineer in the past
  • Supporter: Dominika Kasieczko
  • Glider: Sup'air Wild 23
  • Website: http://www.michalgierlach.pl/
  • Sponsors: CAT Phones, Supair, Red Bull, Brubeck, Salewa, PSP, SPBW
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  • Michal Gierlach is another paraglider that will be counting himself among the pack of Red Bull X-Alps rookies. With multiple first place finishes in different paragliding championships and the Tatry mountain range in his backyard, expect a lot from this fresh face!
  • When and why did you begin paragliding?
    Everything started through my father. As a keen climber, he was dreaming about flying for many years. Family and work forced him to postpone this dream. Finally after years, when I was 16, we started flying together and I got totally addicted.
  • Do you paraglide competitively? List rankings and events.
    Yes, I’m a comp pilot. I've been a Polish National Team member since 2009, ranked no 1 in Polish Pilots Ranking since 2013 till present. My best results are: -8th at World Championships in Bulgaria 2013 ; -18th at World Championships in Colombia 2015 ; -Polish Champion 2014, 2015 ; -14th in CIVL ranking in August 2014 ; -Task winner in PWC Serbia 2013 ; -7th at PWC Macedonia 2014 ; -15th at PWC Portugal 2014 ; -1st at pre-PWC Nepal 2015 ; -1st at Pre-Europeans in Serbia in 2013 ; -1st at Ukrainian and Bulgarian Open 2013 ; -1st at Ratitovec Open 2013.
  • What is your mountaineering experience?
    As a son of two mountain guides, I was always close to the mountains. During winter time I love skitouring. In the summertime I do lots of hiking in the Tatras, some via ferratas in the Alps and Dolomites. As a youngster I was climbing with my father and as an engineer I work high-up on a daily basis (roofs, towers etc.).
  • What is your paragliding experience?
    I've been flying for 13 years. Around 3000 hours of inflight (I've stopped counting). I've worked as a tandem pilot for 2 years in Nepal, as well as as a paragliding guide and XC instructor for 2 years. I've been flying competitively since 2006 and XC from the early beginning. Besides comps, I try to spend all my free time in the sky doing XC flights, mainly in the mountains. I did my longest flight from Beskidy mountains (256km). Recently I completed a 195km FAI triangle from the Tatras (highest mountains in Poland).
  • What is your adventure racing / endurance sport experience?
    I'm passionate about all outdoor activities. A while ago I moved to Zakopane, the mountain “capital” of Poland, a town surrounded by the Tatra Mountains. Long hikes, hike&fly, skitouring trips with my girlfriend, who was competing in skitouring races for few years with good results, and having fun was and is the most important for me during the paragliding competition season. Now it’s time for combining those two things in Red Bull X-Alps.
  • What does your typical training week consist of?
    I like running in the mountains and I do this 4-5 times a week. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Himalayas, Alps or Tatras where I live now with my girlfriend. When it’s flyable, I go for Hike and Fly. During winter I go for skitouring.
  • What are your best and worst adventure/flying moments?
    For sure the worst memory was throwing my reserve in the Dolomites after falling in a cascade on some proto wing, then landing in 2m of snow. Landing in goal with my friends after an interesting task and racing is always best. Lonely breakfast at the top of Marmolada at 8am after running up also was not so bad ;)
  • What are the sporting moments you are most proud of?
    As a full on comp pilot, I was focusing mostly on paragliding competitions. Becoming Polish champion 2 years in a row hasn’t happened ever in the past and is certainly a big achievement. The 8th place at a World Championships was a great result for me (with a really small gap to Top 3).
  • When and how did you first hear about the Red Bull X-Alps?
    I started flying when the first Red Bull X-Alps took place and since then I followed every edition of the race, dreaming about this amazing adventure.
  • Have you competed in the Red Bull X-Alps before and if so, when?
    I haven’t competed in Red Bull X-Alps before.
  • What appeals to you about the Red Bull X-Alps?
    The simplicity of the race appeals to me the most. Me, my paragliding equipment and 1000km of route to cover. Choosing your own route, nobody to follow. Just yours and your supporter’s decisions. The element of racing is very important too for keeping your motivation high all the time.
  • What will be your strategy during the race?
    The race starts months before the 2nd of July, 2017. Lots of preparation, studying the route and getting to know it inside out is crucial. The one who flies, wins. It’s as simple as it is. As a good XC and comp pilot, I will try to use my skills to cover as much route in the sky as possible. We will try to set a plan for 2-3 days in advance, adjusting the race rhythm to the weather.
  • On average, over a third of the Red Bull X-Alps participants fail to finish the event. Why do you think you will make it?
    After 10 years of competing, I’ve learnt to focus on small goals to achieve the main one. As I have proven in the past, with strong motivation, I can overcome my personal limitations, that at some point of the race will be essential.
  • What scares you the most about the event?
    Flying in extremely strong winds with huge tiredness for sure can be scary, but good preparation can limit the risks.
  • Have you ever done anything of this magnitude before?
    No, never.