Red Bull X-Alps

2015 Red Bull X-Alps Hall of Fame

Red Bull X-Alps race reporter Ed Ewing rounds up the characters of this year's race – their highs, a few lows, and all that is in between

© zooom.at/Felix Woelk

That’s it, the race is over. Two weeks of pain and glory, highs and lows, tears, fears and laughter have come to an end.

The 2015 Red Bull X-Alps was without doubt one of the best and closest races ever. Over 1,000km of terrain 32 athletes battled it out to make Monaco. In the end, 19 of them made it – a record for the Red Bull X-Alps.

Chrigel Maurer (SUI1) made goal first and was crowned champion for an historic fourth time. Can anybody touch him in the future? We’ll have to wait and see.

But while Maurer grabbed Gold, Huber got Silver and Guschlbauer got Bronze, every athlete in the Red Bull X-Alps is a star, every one is a champion in their own right.
Here’s a fun rundown of highlights (and the occasional lowlight) from the 2015 Red Bull X-Alps hall of fame.

Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1): Can he catch him? Yes he can! In the end, no he didn’t but he had a hell of a time trying. Whether launching at dawn from 3,500m on the Matterhorn or racing to circumnavigate the Ecrins way out west, Paul finished the race with style.

Gerald Gold (AUT2): Never give up Gold they will call him! This morning as the clock ticked down he was at the back, but he was pushing forwards on the tarmac. The silverware may have escaped him on the podium, but he’s gold in our heart forever.

Stephan Gruber (AUT3): Gruber’s Grub, a video of Stephan eating an enormous bowl of pasta by his Led Lenser head torch has had over 3,000 views on YouTube. He can eat as well as fly! He is so popular, we are told he had an invitation to see a princess here in Monaco, although we’re not sure what thats all about.

Pascal Purin (AUT4): He makes the girls’ hearts flutter in the Red Bull X-Alps office that’s for sure, so we know he’ll always be a champion for some. Pascal pushed through the pain in his legs to leave a trail of broken hearts behind him. He did some nice flying, too.

Tom de Dorlodot (BEL): Belgian chocolate is the best in its class, and Tom is the best of the Belgians. A tough race this year as he injured his ankle on launch half way through. Hop-along Tom we call him from now on. Or maybe, Hang on in there, we’ll come and get you in a couple of hours mate!

Alex Villa (COL): Hola y bienvenidos to our friend from Colombia, flying the flag for the entire South American continent. He took his athleticism so seriously he was seen carrying a beer to the pilot briefing in Fuschl! That’s the South American way – and we love it.

Stanislav Meyer (CZE): Stan the man! He started so well that we know several people who put money on this guy to win. Cool, calm and collected he was never afraid to lead out and show the way. Chasing Chrigel through the Oetz Valley he hung on to the leaders like a limpet for as long as he could. Credit where credit is due, this guy’s a winner!

Ivan Colas (ESP): The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain… except when it falls in Austria, Italy, Germany… Ivan, you battled on through legs that “felt like rocks” and we salute you for your valiant heart. Viva Espana!

Clement Latour (FRA1): Oh Clement, you never made it, retiring before the race even begun with training injuries. We wanted to see you here! Racing Chrigel and winning! But we know you were watching, so we raise a glass to you too and wish you well.

Antoine Girard (FRA2): Ah, the philosopher of the race, a true French romantic with the looks to match the beating heart of a writer in his garret. You wrote history this race, top landing to beat your team mate with only minutes to spare. A gallic and gallant arrival, although no one has asked Gaspard Petiot (FRA4) what he thinks about that!

Nelson de Freyman (FRA3): Another year, another youngest ever competitor. We warn you, trade on your youth and good looks now, because they don’t last forever! Fortunately you have more to fall back on – your flight from Chamonix to Annecy and your top landing there showed your flying is as cool as your attitude. Chest la classe, as we say en France.

Gaspard Petiot (FRA4): Gasping across the line in fourth you were overtaken in flight by your pal Girard (FRA2). But that didn’t matter - the fact is you never expected to make it this far or so far at all. Your knees weren’t up to it at the start, you said, but that was clearly a little piece of make believe. You made it in one pice – just!

Steve Nash (GBR): Steve, you were 30 when Nelson de Freyman was being born! It’s true! Steve battled the west wind as others found a way to flow with it, but he came back with élan only yesterday, flying through France like a pro. Spiralling in to Annecy Turnpoint from 3,000m was surely a highlight – taking off again and going straight back up again another. 

Michael Gebert (GER1): The old guard are the best, and there are few better than Gebert. This was Michael’s fifth race, and although he retired early, we know he is a hero to many – he has blazed the way for a decade in the race, and it is built on the shoulders of those like him.

Yvonne Dathe (GER2): One of only four women ever to have competed in the Red Bull X-Alps, Yvonne kept the pace in the air but on the ground, as she knew, she was never on level ground. But she didn’t give up, and that is what adventure i all about – seeing how far you can go, against yourself as much as others. We loved her two cute dogs in her camper van too.

Sebastian Huber (GER3): Please stand and roar your approval for this gladiator of the Alps, a true Red Bull X-Alps warrior. A farmer, he rose early every day and went out to cut the hay. The hay in this instance being 4,800m Mont Blanc, or the landing mat at Annecy. Huber has legions of new fans out there, and he better get used to his newfound fame. Maurer – you better watch out, because this one is coming for you!

Manuel Nubel (GER4): How is that tree Manu? Manu was stuck at 22km for hours, with the world’s Red Bull X-Alps fans willing him on. We only found out later his tracker was broken – a bit like that branch. He’s here now, he’s happy to be here, and we’re happy he’s here now too.

Aaron Durogati (ITA): Italian style never goes out of fashion, and Aaron is leader of the Red Bull X-Alps style pack. We know you would have loved to stop for an espresso and a biscotti on your way to Monaco, but it’s a good thing you didn’t. You made it here in sixth. A special mention for sportsmanship – he helped Witschi mend his harness after Witschi’s lake swim, which is our spirit writ large.

Chi-Kyong Ha (KOR): Hachi had never seen a mountain higher than 3,000m before this race. He has now! You’ve impressed everyone with your determination and your grit – and your resolution to hang on there and finish. You crossed the line in the dark hours of this morning – unnoticed, you may have thought. We’re here to say that you were.

Ferdinand Van Schelven (NED): The flatlander! Much of the Nederlands is below sea level, so what Ferdy must have thought when he found himself at 4,800m above the Alps we can only imagine. Was it cold up there Ferdy? A resolute and determined spirit, we can only salute you. You have now competed in three Red Bull X-Alps races – consider yourself a veteran.

Nick Neynens (NZL): Forget the jokes about Kiwis being flightless birds, there is no place for that here. Nick took tiger lines to force his way back from near elimination early on, including col busting through alpine giants and flying independently throughout. And what about those jandals! He crossed the line with a skip and a hop – what’s he drinking? Red Bull!

Pawel Faron (POL): It was close but he made it in this morning. Consistent and strong he battled through it, with some good flights and good hikes. Experience shows in this game, and with thee races now under his belt he definitely has that in spade. Pawel too, has earned veteran status this race.

Toma Coconea (ROU): No jokes here. Toma was injured with a broken arm and cuts to the face on landing several days ago and has been in hospital since. He is up and about and hopes to be discharged soon, with no permanent damage expected. Toma has legions of fans at home and around the world. Toma, we salute your bravery and your spirit and wish you a swift and full recovery.

Stephan Kruger (RSA): Stephan took a long line south into Italy. Was this for the pizza, the pasta, or was it the natural homing instinct of a South African bird? We don’t mind which way it was. You had a blast in the Alps, and we’re coming to yours for a flying holiday in Cape Town this winter. See you there!

Christian Maurer (SUI1): Chrigel, anything we say can’t be enough. You have won four Red Bull X-Alps now, and this was your toughest race yet. You showed us again how to fly lines and how to fly fast through the Alps. You are a worthy champion and together with supporter Thomas Theurillat you have again shown the rest of us what is possible. That said, they’ll get you next time!

Samuel Vurpillot (SUI2): All the while, with a smile. Vurpillot, the athlete with ‘pilot’ in his name. You made a great start sprinting out of Mozartplatz, and a good first day in the air. But it all ended too soon and we were sad to see you go.

Michael Witshci (SUI3): Witschi, your reserve ride into the lake will stay with all of us who watched it on Live Tracking for a long time. We’ve been rooting for you ever since. Your spirit shone through that day, when you swam to shore and then got back up the next day to do it all again. And it shone through this morning as you ran to Peille with only an hour to spare. Heart of a hero.

Peter von Bergen (SUI4): Peter from the mountains – you forged your own route and went your own way, flying amazing lines through the mountains that are home. But you were also sick during the race, and helped by Manuel Nubel’s (GER4) supporter, who is a doctor. It is good to see you here… It’s good to see you anywhere!

Erik Rehnfeldt (SWE): Pulled by the lure of the north from where you come, you made tracks that took you that way. It worked out! As others were ground down by the wind, you made it seem easy(er). You pulled out all the stops to get here early this morning. Congratulations on reaching Monaco!

Honza Rejmanek (USA1): Honza, Honza, Honza, Honza. It’s taken four goes, but finally Honza made Monaco! We are so happy, we can’t imagine what he must be feeling. Honza has it in spades, whatever It is. Honza’s been on the podium before, but nothing will have been as sweet as this morning’s fly down to that raft.

Gavin McClurg (USA2): Big Guns McClurg we call him – have you seen those arms? He was out front from the start and no one was having more fun. That is until the last couple of days, when he had ‘The flight from hell’ and had to run 100km to make Peille. 

Dawn Westrum (USA3): Dawn, your name is a gift to the Red Bull X-Alps web team: ‘A new Dawn’, ‘Dawn rises’, ‘Dawn at last’. You showed true spirit, grit and talent as you made the race your own, in your own way. Destination Matterhorn was enough, and you did that with style, enjoying everything good about flying in the Alps. Dawn, we’ll see you next time (or tomorrow, about 5.30am).

Dave Turner (USA4): Your reputation as a wildcard is intact. You are still out there, still going, still flying. No raft will meet you in Monaco, no photographer will take your picture. Your race is over, but you are carrying on. Dave, we are with you all the way.

Thank you, and until next time, good bye.

Ed Ewing is editor of Cross Country magazine.

 © zooom.at/Felix Woelk