With the Application Phase for 2021 lurking around the corner, let yourself be reminded: Choose your support team wisely!
Thinking about entering the Red Bull X-Alps? It doesn’t matter how good an athlete you are if you haven’t dialled your support. Don’t forget, this is a team event …
Anyone who has followed the Red Bull X-Alps knows that behind every successful athlete is a finely tuned support crew working tirelessly behind the scenes.
From cooking, carrying, driving to making the big decisions, supporters are not just a help to athletes. They are the team.
“They are 50 percent of the race,” says five-time athlete Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1). “They’re incredibly important. I spend an equal amount of work into getting my support team ready as I do myself. I think some people forget about the importance of the support team.”
The list of jobs of a supporter is endless. They work to ensure their athlete performs on a physical level, as cook, physio, masseur. They ensure all their technical details are taken care of, charging batteries at night, checking equipment, updating information on the route, race and conditions. Very often they are the strategic brains of the partnership, making the calls on which mountain to hike up or which route to fly. And they work incredibly hard. “My supporters did the same mountain climbs as I did,” adds Paul.
© zooom / Vitek Ludvik, Harald Tauderer, Julian Lajtai
“The Red Bull X-Alps is the perfect example of a team event,” says Kilian Hallweger, supporter to Markus Anders (GER2) in 2019. “I never thought supporting was that demanding, but it’s a whole new story in the Red Bull X-Alps. It may seem like one job, but in reality it’s more like 10 mini jobs you have to do at the same time. You need to be aware of the weather, the route, take-off places, nutrition of the athlete, routes of others, coordination of the team, car-placement. You always need to be one step ahead.”
But it’s worth it he says. “It’s very rewarding if it works as planned, and after a good day you see a smiley face hiking along the road.”
"To have a a team which can support you properly is key to being successful. You can see this from the strong teams, like Chrigel and the French guys.”
“The team is very important,” says Aaron Durogati (ITA1). “It’s probably the key to doing well – to have a a team which can support you properly is key to being successful. You can see this from the strong teams, like Chrigel and the French guys.”
Athletes should think carefully on the size of their support team. Officially, athletes have one supporter. But in practise, most teams have others. “My supporter Werner Strittl is responsible for me; he has other supporters who help him – that’s how it’s set up for me,” says Paul Guschlbauer.
For Durogati, roles are clearly defined. “I know my knee will influence my strategy so it was very important to have a mountain guide, Bruno, to allow me to go everywhere. Also very important to have a physio, Tazio and a doctor, Kurt so I got treatment every day. Then of course someone who has the overview plan, the mastermind of strategy and that’s Elisabeth. She is like a little computer.”
But you don’t need a big support team. Some athletes prefer to keep things simple, like New Zealand’s Nick Neynens (NZL1). Last edition he was supported by his mother and brother, following him in a hire car. He says having a big support team can add a layer of stress if you then start worrying about your crew. “The number one job of a supporter is to take care of themselves. The number two is to take care of me.”
Paul Guschlbauer also warns that supporters must manage themselves. “They have to be in the mindset that whatever issues they have, they can never be my issue,” he says.
Unlike solo adventures, having supporters does make the Red Bull X-Alps a unique adventure adds Neynens. “In vol biv you spend a lot of time alone and have all kinds of time to think of your objectives, the meaning of it all, when you’ll next eat a hot meal, your love life… The beauty of the Red Bull X-Alps is that the practicalities of survival are delegated to your supporters and all you have to worry about is hiking and flying.”