Red Bull X-Alps

Rookies relive Red Bull X-Alps experience

©zooom.at/Markus Berger
 ©zooom.at/Felix Wölk
 ©zooom.at/Vitek Ludvik
 ©zooom.at/Kelvin Trautman

So how was it for you? We talk to two Red Bull X-Alps rookies to hear how the race went for them. First up, we ask Stephan Gruber (AUT3) whether it lived up to his hopes.

“It was not what I expected. In the end it was much harder! The weather conditions in flight were much tougher than I was thinking and the high temperatures in the valleys when we had to walk for hours was really hard.” 

But there were some unexpected surprises for Gruber. Not every athlete came face to face with an elephant. Gruber was handed a 48 hour penalty for airspace infringement at Peille. It wasn't reported at the time, but he landed in the private property of Princess Stephanie of Monaco.

“I was coming from the north. I saw too late there were a lot of clouds. I had no chance to go anywhere. It was not clear it was private. After I landed I looked to the left there was an elephant! I thought I'd landed in Africa!”

Gruber was quickly led away by the police, who happily released him after organisers explained the situation.

The real highlight for Gruber however was flying at 4,500m beside the Matterhorn. ”That was amazing,” he said. Another was the way cars would pull up alongside him and ask: “Are you Gruber?”

“So many people visited me during the route. This was really unexpected.” And the worst? “Witnessing Michael Witschi (SUI3) throwing his rescue. I saw him falling into the lake. I couldn’t go down to help him as I had to fight against the wind. This was really bad.” Witschi landed unharmed and managed to swim to shore. By the time Gruber arrived, the police and rescue services were already there, assisting.  

Nelson de Freyman (FRA3) also found things tougher than expected. “This year conditions were very strong. I really never flew in these kinds of conditions. So for me that was a very tough experience and scary. But every day got better and at the end they were manageable.

He also learnt a lot during the race. He said he made the classic 'young guy's' mistake of going too hard at the start.

“At first I didn’t want to take a rest to stop and eat. I then realised I needed to slow down and spend more time, resting and thinking and then my race was better. I started to come back and catch up the lead group and play with them for two to three days. That was a very nice experience.”

He adds: “I wanted to reach Monaco. For that I’m happy about the race and the experience. But I wanted to be in top 10 so I'm a bit disappointed. Now I’m looking to prepare for the next race in 2017. This time was for the experience. Next time I go to win.”