Everyone races and in the end Chrigel Maurer wins. But the Red Bull X-Alps 2021 Prologue did show some surprises.
The beautiful summer day saw 29 athletes racing around the mountain resort of Wagrain-Kleinarl for the Prologue. The day began with mass start from the sportsfield in Kleinarl to the Mooskopf.
A start like this can be hectic and it's easy to forget something. Maxime Pinot (FRA1) managed to forget his speedarms, which the athletes have to wear at all times in the air. Luckily his supporter Jérémie Lager caught up with the photographer car going up and the speedarms were delivered on time.
Pinot was in the lead for a long time during the run, followed closely by Chrigel Maurer (SUI1) and Aaron Durogati (ITA1).
On their way, the athletes ran past the residence of Annemarie Moser-Pröll, a local ski legend from the 1970s.
On the Mooskopf a good crowd had gathered, all socially distancing as required but creating a great atmosphere for the athletes to prepare their flight.
Pinot was first to the top, eager to demonstrate that he means business in this year's race. The surprise second athlete to arrive was Aaron Durogati, surprising because he has been beset by knee problems in previous editions. Third to arrive was Maurer – just as he predicted to us the day before. Arriving in the first group was part of his race plan.
Most athletes were quick to launch and most managed to get up and away. However, the conditions caused a few pilots to sink fast and land just below take-off, including Théo de Blic (FRA3) and Aaron Durogati, who was in the leading pack earlier. This delay caused him to finish 26th, almost last, which must be a bitter disappointment having worked so hard to be in the lead group. His high-stakes gamble had failed to pay off.
Flying conditions improved really quickly though and the day turned into an amazing flying day. Chrigel Maurer (SUI1) even said he found 8m/s climbs. That's pilot talk for being skyrocketed by hot rising air on which paragliders gain height.
With Chrigel and Pinot in the lead, they were chased hard by rookie Thomas Friedrich (AUT3), who, at 20, is not only new to the Red Bull X-Alps but also the youngest one ever to compete. Also fighting for third was Benoît Outters (FRA2), who had a great day, proving that he is also very competitive at the moment. Even before TP2 Grafenberg the race was decided: these athletes raced around TP3 Hochgründeck and from there back to the sports field in Kleinarl, where they landed in under two hours.
The chasing pack was flying high above the village of Wagrain, to land one-by-one among the spectators gathered to watch the spectacle. The last one in was Cody Mittanck (USA2) in just over three hours. Clearly he's saving himself for the 12-day ordeal ahead.
Two athletes unfortunately receive time penalties for not tagging Turnpoints correctly. Michael Lacher (GER3) did not tag TP2 in the correct way. Nick Neynens (NZL1) did not tag Hochgründeck properly either. The race committee has therefore given them both a time penalty of three hours each, which they have to add to the starting time on Monday the 21st of June in addition to the time difference between their time and the Prologue’s winner's time.