We sat down with Gavin and talked about his Red Bull X-Alps 2021. He told us about his highlights and stand-out moments and how the race compared to his previous ones.
What was your highlight of the race?
Day 8 was an unbelievable flying day in rather atrocious weather. I was able to basically ridge soar DOWN the Rhone towards Martigny, which was pretty heads-up but unbelievably fun. At each ridge I would just turn into the wind, hammer into it on full bar, soar up the faces, hold on as long as I could and then wing it downwind over the back onto the next one. At one point I had to top land and wait out a rain storm, another time for a violent hail storm that washed out roads below me, and at the end of the day I got one final nice glide in light rain which set me up perfectly for a glide the next morning across the Martigny valley to tag the Dent D'Oche Turnpoint.
What was the toughest part for you?
The first three days were incredibly frustrating. We just couldn't get in our groove and my timing seemed to always be off. On Day 2 I flew eight times and don't think I ever flew more than 10 kilometers. Day 3 we gained some ground, but again and again I made poor choices in the air which really hurt and the distance between us and the leaders kept growing. Team USA had always had good starts and have never had to worry about elimination, so this was a new challenge but through it all we stayed really positive because it's a long race and we knew things would turn around.
What was THE stand-out memory for you?
On the final full day of the race, Day 11, after clearing Mont Blanc and "landing" in some of the sketchiest conditions I'd ever flown in (it was really strong N Foehn that day) I found a place to launch that was blowing harder than anything I'd ever launched in other than ground handing training and immediately rocketed to cloudbase. I was pretty terrified at the beginning, but after about 30 minutes realized that while conditions were strong, Mont Blanc was blocking most of the wind, which made for super duper exciting flying! I flew in a tail wind really fast north of the Aosta valley towards Monte Rosa, one of the prettiest places in the world and just munched up kilometers.
How was this race in comparison to your other Red Bull X-Alps races?
2021 was our worst result and the flying weather was definitely the sketchiest, but in many ways it was the most fun. Nothing can ever match the drill of the first (2015) and of course the year was also our best result and we made Monaco, so that's hard to beat. But in the 2021 edition I had no problems with my feet, even though I did more kilometers on the ground than in any of the previous so that alone made it a lot more fun! My team was amazing, we really, really, REALLY had a great time even when things sucked and this was a good race to put my Red Bull X-Alps aspirations to bed.