Red Bull X-Alps

Guschlbauer delivers nail-biting finish

©zooom.at/Sebastian Marko

After almost nine days solid, the fight for 3rd place in the Red Bull X-Alps came down to the wire Tuesday afternoon. From the jaws of defeat, Austrian adventurer Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) succeeded in claiming third place, to the relief of his supporters and fans who had earlier watched in agony and despair as he fell to 4th.

All day Guschlbauer, Aaron Durogati (ITA) and Gaspard Petiot (FRA4) traded leads in a thrilling dash across the Alps Maritimes of France. Not until the last kilometer was it clear who would win this fight.

The three were all in the air until 12 km of goal. First to land was Durogati. Guschlbauer then stole ahead and it looked like it was his for the taking. But then a late charge from the Frenchman looked set to upset the Austrian’s plans.

On foot the terrain is not forgiving. There is no direct line to the Peille Turnpoint where the clock stops, only a maze of switchback roads adding more frustration and fatigue to the athletes.

For almost 12 hours straight the three had hiked and flown over the steep mountain terrain of southern France. For Guschlbauer it was even longer. The Austrian had hiked through the night after pulling a Led Lenser Night Pass, which allows competitors to ignore the mandatory overnight rest period. It was a high-risk strategy to gain precious kilometers on foot, but left Guschlbauer beginning the day already exhausted and in danger of making mistakes.

And that was not something he could afford to do against Aaron Durogati. Fortunately for Guschlbauer, he got the better of the Italian flying ace this time.

The result will be a source of huge relief for Guschlbauer and his fans. He had enjoyed a second place lead for much of the race and even challenged the four time champion Maurer during the race.

But that changed on Sunday when a poor route choice saw him overtaken, first by Sebastian Huber (GER3) and then caught up by the chaser group.

Guschlbauer lost his second place, but after this afternoon's excitement, he'll be very happy with third.