Meet the Frenchies
Who are the athletes to watch? In a new series we take a closer look at the Red Bull X-Alps athletes that will take on the adventure of a lifetime.
Among the lineup of 30 athletes, there is one name that has got the paragliding community particularly excited: Frenchman Benoit Outters. The 26-year-old is uniquely strong both on foot as well as in the air. He’s come third in his age category at Ironman and has won two ultra marathons (the 80km Blacons d’Azur and the 147km Ultra Trail Cote d'Azur Mercantour).
“He’s also one of the top xc pilots in France at the moment,” says Cross-Country magazine editor and veteran Red Bull X-Alps reporter Ed Ewing.
This year Outters flew 290km from Gréolières on the French Riviera to Mont Blanc and flew an FAI ratified 240km long triangle. He’s also not bad at competition flying, finishing 3rd in the Bornes To Fly and 2nd in the Airtour. Oh, and then there was last year’s vol-biv with Antoine Girard in which the pair flew over South Island and back, a 1,300km self-supported journey in 21 days.
“This guy has completely crushed it in French hike and fly races,” adds paragliding commentator and fellow Red Bull X-Alps watcher Tom Payne. “He’s an extremely strong trail runner and has been flying amazingly in southern France.”
And he’s not the only one who’s strong in France. Antoine Girard caught the imagination of the adventure world earlier in 2016 for his truly epic and record breaking flight over the 8,000m mountain, Broad Peak, in which he reached an altitude of over 8,100m. In 2015 he narrowly missed the podium, finishing fourth just one hour behind Paul Guschlbauer.
“He’s got to be really hungry now,” adds Payne. “He’s flying extremely strongly. And he’s mentally extremely strong as well. He’s got to be vying for first place.”
He adds: “The field is so strong I don’t think the race will be won by Chrigel.”
If anyone’s to do it, the Frenchies look very threatening. In their lineup is also Gaspard Petiot, who finished just minutes behind Girard in 2015. He is also very strong in the air and on the ground.
He’s delighted to be in the race again. On Facebook, he posted: “Back in the game!!! Yes!” “I will try to do as well as 2015 or even better,” he wrote on his application.
Lastly, in the French squad is Nelson de Freyman, who was the young rookie in 2015. “So happy to be in the game for the second time,” he posted on Facebook after his entry was confirmed. “Wish [for] a good weather for cross high and fast the Alps.”
He made the mistake of setting off too fast in 2015 but he did make goal after 11 days and two hours to finish in a very respectable 11th place. “He will have learnt a lot in the last two years,” adds Ewing. “It will be interesting to see how he performs.”
Next up, we profile the Austrians.