The Bavarian and Benelux athletes
There’s a challenger to the Red Bull X-Alps crown, and he hails from Bavaria. We profile the contenders from Germany and the Benelux countries, including one athlete who does it for the adventure.
Since it began, the story of the Red Bull X-Alps has been one of Swiss precision and dominance – even before the Chrigel Maurer years. But that was before Sebastian Huber came down from the woods in 2015.
“Please stand and roar your approval for this gladiator of the Alps, a true Red Bull X-Alps warrior,” was how we described his extraordinary rookie performance last edition, in which he came second. The Bavarian woodsman is the quiet type who prefers to keep a low profile and says his biggest fear of the race is the media. He doesn’t brag about his exploit,s so let us do it for him. On the ground and in the air he’s very threatening.
In 2015 he was on the heels of Chrigel throughout the race until he found himself on the wrong side of Mt. Blanc. What he did next is the interesting part: he hiked to 2,400m and put in one of the race’s most extraordinary flights, virtually circumnavigating the mountain at altitude to finish in second place, 18 hours behind Chrigel. As we warned in 2015: “Chrigel – you better watch out, because this one is coming for you!”
Also in the lineup is fellow Bavarian Manuel Nübel who reached Monaco in 10d 17h in 2015, finishing 9th overall. A German paragliding champion in 2012 and 2014, he has logged countless hours in every part of the Alps. On Facebook, he posted that he can’t wait for the race: “I’m looking forward to everything… it’s gonna be a formative experience.” His race strategy: “Be smart. Fly as much as possible for as long as possible. Stay safe.”
From Belgium is Tom de Dorlodot, who after Toma Coconea is the race’s longest serving athlete. He did his first ten years ago at the age of 21 in 2007 and this will be his sixth outing. He says that all that air time puts him in a good place: “Experience plays a big role in this race and I have quite a bit now!”
Besides the five previous races, he’s also banked around 9,600km of vol biv flights. And he says that with age comes wisdom but without any loss of fitness. “Physically I'm stronger than ever. The last physical test showed my best results so far.”
De Dorlodot is one of those athletes for whom being competitive is not the goal however. “I see the Red Bull X-Alps as an adventure.” His strategy? “To play it safe and follow my intuition.”
Having a good race is important for de Dorlodot. Last year he retired early due to injury after a launch went wrong.
Then there’s Ferdinand van Schelven from the Netherlands, the so-called Flying Dutchman. This will be Ferdy’s fourth Red Bull X-Alps and in every previous edition he’s placed sixth or seventh. But unlike previous years, this year’s he’s doing something different – he’s moved to Switzerland to be closer to the mountains.
“Usually it takes me the first week of the race to get used to conditions and then it is only three more days to Monaco,” he says. “This time I hope I’ll be good from the first day on!”
A formidable adventurer who’s been flying for 20 years, whatever Ferdy does in the race, he’ll be worth following.