Red Bull X-Alps

Gripping race to the finish

©zooom.at/Sebastian Marko
 ©zooom.at/Sebastian Marko
 ©zooom.at/Vitek Ludvik

This race still has legs – or wings as the case may be. Maurer (SUI1) made it yesterday to Peille and splashed down onto the raft in Monaco this morning, but it was Huber (GER3) who was making headlines earlier today.

After landing in a valley yesterday evening following a great flight, he was grounded when “there were no thermals”, he said. “It was the most difficult moment of the race for me. I did not know what to do.” 

He wasn’t stuck for long – picking up his bag he set off on the long march south. “I hiked over 100km through the night to get here. My dream has come true.”

On launch at the final Turnpoint Huber was greeted by his ecstatic family, who cheered him on as he launched barefoot and flew down to splashdown on the raft. He got to Peille at 10.18am today and completed the race in the time of 8 days 22h 53m.

Meanwhile, the race for the final spot on the podium couldn’t be hotter. Four athletes were gunning for glory.

Out west, after a nightmare day yesterday that saw him grounded by strong wind while everyone else was flying, Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) was sweating it. He launched late last night and struggled to cross a lake, desperate to hook up with a paragliding route south. Hiking for part of the night he was in the air again this morning, now well behind Huber and head-to-head with a trio of pilots nearby.

That trio was Durogati (ITA), Petiot (FRA4) and Girard (FRA2). They had teamed up yesterday and flown south together as a group. They ended up landing and hiking together too. This morning, again together, they took off just after 6am and flew to the valley floor.

From there they hiked to a take off and started to fly – all the while almost side by side. But this is no Sunday outing in the park: these athletes know the importance of sharing the sky with each other so they can all move faster. But you can be sure they were looking for their breakaway moment too.

Just before 2.30pm Durogati did just that. Breaking away from his "entente cordiale" with the two Frenchman, he was soon breathing down Guschlbauer's (AUT1) neck – and overtaking him.

This was a pure speed move from Aaron, who is no stranger to winning paragliding competitions.

As the weather shifted on Peille in the afternoon it was unclear if they would be able to fly to the Turnpoint or would have to land and make a run for it. And make no mistake, these athletes will be running for that third step.

If it comes to that, Guschlbauer is tired from last night’s Led Lenser Night Pass march, but Durogati has ankle pain that has been playing up. This could go down to the wire.

Right at the back, Dawn Westrum was having the flight of her life, flying while the athlete in front was walking. By late lunchtime she had overtaken him. She has declared that her goal is to make the Matterhorn and not be cut from the back: there is still one elimination to go, which will happen on Thursday at 6am. If she can extend her lead today, she’s in with a chance of staying in the race.

The leaders might have splashed down in the Med, but the rest of the athletes are still racing all the way to the finish line.