Calling all rookies

Are you ready (yet!) to take on the world’s toughest adventure race?

Maxime Pinot (FRA4) hikes during the Red Bull X-Alps at Turnpoint 7, Titlis, Switzerland on June 20, 2019
Harald Tauderer

For any young ambitious hike and fly athlete, there comes a time when you have to face the big decision: is it time to enter the Red Bull X-Alps? The world’s toughest adventure race is the original, the oldest and the most well-known. It’s no exaggeration to say it has legendary status both within the paragliding community but also the adventure world beyond. If you’re serious about the sport, sooner or later it has to be taken on.

But it can be a tough call to know whether you’re ready. After all, it could be your only shot and you don’t want to blow it. So here’s an easy test. Race Director Christoph Weber won’t even look at you unless you’re putting in some serious hours in the air. 

“To give a number, [I look for] 300 hours per year and minimum five years flying – and these flights should be cross-country in the mountains. The most important point is safety.”

He says athletes need to have the maturity to be able to perform in front of a global media, which can mean difficult take-offs broadcast live and fans commenting on your performance. 

“It will be crucial that they have the experience of bigger competitions,” he says.

But there’s no question that there’s a well of talent among the younger guys. “We see that more and more come to a very high level, like Maxime Pinot or Patrick von Känel,” says six-time winner Chrigel Maurer (SUI1). “I really feel pushed to come better for the next edition because of them.”

Maurer is perhaps better placed than most to see the new emerging talent, running his own x-alps academy in Switzerland. “We support from the age of 20 to 28,” he says. “There are maybe two or three with a good level and also good motivation, the others are good but not in all areas.”

“Being able to be at the Red Bull X-Alps is my biggest goal for which I am ready to train very hard and I hope to be able to be there some day ..."

One of the possible newcomers is 24-year-old Sepp Inniger, supporter to von Känel in the last edition. Despite an amazing resume that has seen him come third (after von Känel and Maurer) in last year’s Eigertour, he says he’s still not sure if he is going to apply. “Being able to be at the Red Bull X-Alps is my biggest goal for which I am ready to train very hard and I hope to be able to be there some day,” he says. “But I want to be sure that I am as well prepared as possible if I want to participate. I think very carefully about what I want to do so that I don't take any great risks because I don't want to ruin my body.”

Like many aspiring athletes, he also acknowledges the challenge of raising a team. “I am still very young in this sport,” he says.

Over the years there have been several young athletes. Tom de Dorlodot was just 22 when he first took part in 2007. Tobias Grossrubatscher was 23 when he competed in 2017 and at 24, Patrick von Känel was the youngest in the last edition. 

Youth however is no substitute for experience. And that’s what race director Christoph Weber says is the most important criteria of all. “There might be some who are ready at 19 and others at 25 who are not. It comes down to the individual character.”

He adds: “We already have some very interesting applications and for sure it will be the hardest work to select the right teams.”

 

Find all the information about how and when to apply here and stay tuned for more exciting insights about the application process! 

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