Not everything happens in the air. Some of the great moments from 2021 occurred around the Turnpoints. Here’s a selection to bring back the adventure.
Remember what the weather was like? It was gusting nearly 50km/h that morning and although it had calmed a lot by the time athletes began to take off, it was still blowing hard. First to summit was Tommy Friedrich and he rushed to get into the air. And that’s when it happened. Chrigel Maurer turned to Tommy and motioned for him to take it easy. It was a special moment to see the race’s king looking out for the young rookie, a reminder that athletes are first and foremost comrades not rivals.
The Prologue finish was a spectacle to see. Maurer managed to land almost through the finish arch. Then came Pinot right after and not far behind was the race rookie Tommy Friedrich, who flew through the flags to secure his place on the podium. He couldn’t contain his delight at the double win. Unfortunately for him it wasn’t to last.
Few Turnpoints have quite the atmosphere of the Mausefalle, looking down on the famous Hahnenkamm course. With MC Bernd Krainbucher working the crowd, the tension was at fever pitch as Paul Guschlbauer landed first. But the chaser pack were in hot pursuit. One after the other they landed, almost on top of each other – Anders, Maurer, Oberrauner, Durogati, Grossrubatscher, von Känel and then Outters all landed in quick succession, taking off again almost immediately. It was one of the best places to watch the action.
The heat. Oh my, conditions were brutal that day. It was originally hoped that athletes would be able to fly all the way to the Turnpoint and then glide back to the signboard, taking advantage of the prevailing winds. But it didn’t quite work out that way – with athletes landing short and having to cover the distance on foot. Not everyone appreciated the extra distance on the ground. The hot conditions pushed athletes to the extreme and as they arrived at the signboard it was clear the heat had taken its toll.
Lermoos Tiroler Zugspitz Arena
The Austrian resort at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain is not only one of the most scenic Turnpoints in the race, it gives athletes a real tactical dilemma after signing the board. With strong winds the leaders agonised over where next to launch. In the end Maurer, von Känel and Outters all decided to launch in strong lee winds off the Grubigstein, a move considered too risky by others including Paul Guschlbauer. In the end, they got away, but only just.
Benoit Outters attempts to take off. It was a masterclass of perseverance and determination and a lesser athlete would have given up after the first attempt. In fact, a lesser athlete would not have even dared to take off in such conditions. But fighting to finish the race in Zell am See, Outters was determined to get in the air. Every time he brought his wing up, he got a collapse. He got a few meters above the ground – another collapse. Finally, he wrestled his wing under control and got away. Others were not so lucky…
Zell am See
The finishing float always provides a dramatic finale to the race and with it being so much closer to the shore this year, spectators could witness the action up close for the first time. Possibly the most dramatic landing was that of Maxime Pinot. It was an incredibly moving moment. He landed perfectly on the float but then stood there unable to contain his disappointment. He had fought so hard the entire race, to finish fourth seemed particularly cruel. It was a reminder that agony and ecstasy in high level sport, never mind the world’s toughest adventure race, are never far apart.
Top image © zooom / Vitek Ludvik