We take a look at the athletes from North America, Canada and Mexico – three rookies and one adventure legend who’s back for more.
Few names evoke as much as excitement as Gavin McClurg. The first American in the race to make Monaco, his fighting spirit, sheer determination and bold flying skill electrified fans throughout the 2015 race. By coming third in the Prologue he showed he was serious from the outset and could compete with the Euro boys on their home soil, which he continued to do throughout the race.
“It’s great to see Gavin come back, he’s just a machine,” says race watcher Tom Payne, who followed him closely last edition. “He’s tough and will have learnt a lot from 2015.”
In the year since the race, Gavin has successfully completed one of the boldest adventures in recent times with his traverse of the Alaska range. “He is definitely one to watch,” says Ed Ewing, editor of Cross-Country magazine.
“The thing he did in Alaska was insane.”
On his part, Gavin in stoked to return: “I’ve got the same team as in 2015 and we’re psyched to bring our A game to the greatest race on Earth.”
The other athlete from the US is surprise announcement Jesse Williams. But it’s no surprise to Red Bull X-Alps veteran Honza Rejmanek, who retired in 2015 after competing in five editions – Jesse was his supporter for the last two.
“I have watched Jesse improve tremendously over the past four years,” he says. “Besides being a great supporter, Jesse has joined me on several multi-day vol-biv adventures. I have witnessed his decision making process. He is able to push the tactical limits without sacrificing too much safety. This is exactly the attitude that is fitting of the Red Bull X-Alps. Besides being an excellent pilot Jesse is also a runner of similar caliber to Toma Coconea. I am certain that Jesse will put on an excellent performance and he will race hard all the way to Monaco.”
From Canada hails Richard Brezina. He’s a 48-year-old seasoned adventurer with many notable feats under his weathered belt, including multiple ascents of Mt McKinley (Denali) and some epic sea kayaking journeys. Although he’s only been flying since 2010 no one can accuse him of lacking experience – he clocks 500 hours a year and in 2016 flew over 1,000km in the Alps in just two weeks.
“As soon as I heard about the Red Bull X-Alps, I realized this race would be well-suited for me, due to my combination of mountaineering, paragliding, map-reading, weather-forecasting, and risk-assessment skills,” he tells us.
Lastly, from Mexico is one of the most interesting adventurers in this year’s lineup, David Liano Gonzalez who in 2013 became the first climber to summit Everest from both the north and south sides in one season. It was in Nepal that he first heard about the race from former competitor Babu Sunuwar. He applied in 2015 but didn’t get in. This time, he’s determined to make an impression.
“My experience as a climber and endurance athlete has prepared me to perform at the highest level of physical endurance for days and weeks without rest,” he tells us.
He’s also logged plenty of air time around the world, from his home turf of Valle de Bravo to the Alps to the Himalayas. But only time will tell if it’s enough to compete against the local Alpine boys.
“If you’re coming from Mexico and you’re going to the Alps, you’re going to have a tough time,” cautions Ewing.