Seven reasons why the Austrian resort of Zell am See rocks as a finish to the world’s toughest adventure race.
Last year was the first time in our history where the race did not end in Monaco. Controversial perhaps, but there’s no doubt Zell am See proved a popular finish to the race in 2021 for both fans and athletes. Here’s 7 reasons why.
Zell am See means staying in the big mountains
The main advantage of a circular route around the Alps ending in Zell am See means athletes get to stay in the big mountains for the race duration. And being in the mountains is what the adventure is all about.
Zell am See means more fan love
As much as we love Monaco, the principality was not a natural home for hike and fly fans. Towards the end of the race, athletes are physically and mentally exhausted and every bit of help – psychological or otherwise – means a lot. Zell am See on the other hand is brimming with adventurers and Red Bull X-Alps followers, meaning athletes get a lot more love from passers-by.
Landing in seawater if you miss the float is not kind to your paragliding gear which needs to be rinsed as quickly as possible – not always easy in Monaco. A dunk in the clear fresh waters of Zell am See? All that needs is to be dried and re-packed – and there’s tons of space to do that.
We’ll just say no contest and leave it at that. Monaco is an incredible place but let’s be honest, meeting the needs of campers is probably not top of their priority list, whereas Zell am See understands the needs of adventurers at the end of a long and exhausting trip. Being able to drive and park your van easily and sort all your admin – in the shade – is a big plus.
The final leg to the sea was really hard
Yes, there’s an aesthetic purity to crossing the Alps and finishing by the Mediterranean Sea but there’s no getting around the fact that the last miles sucked big time for athletes and supporters. Flying is made really risky by the lack of places to land while on the ground, the roads are a confusing labyrinth that add dozens of kilometres to the straight line distance. Add the baking heat, the expense and the difficulties for support teams and overall end-of-race exhaustion and it’s easy to understand why athletes didn’t like this part. As Gavin McClurg memorably said: “Yeah, great to get to the ocean but Monaco was a miserable awful end.”
Athletes stay closer together
The idea of a circular course is great for fans and followers. Rather than having athletes stretched out over a 1,000km course line, the loop brings the field closer together meaning the frontrunners and back markers can be reached more easily. And in 2021 if you stayed in Zell am See the whole time you’d get to watch the athletes come through twice.
Rest and relaxation
When the race is over there are few better places to rewind than the shores of Zell am See. With saunas and spas to relieve aching muscles, good mountain food to replenish the calories and a great view of the mountains, it’s the perfect finish.
Top image © zooom / Felix Woelk