The 2019 field packs some serious heavyweights.
There was a time when to have done the Red Bull X-Alps two or three times meant you were probably one of the most experienced athletes in the field. Not any more. The 2019 edition will host 18 veterans, of whom several have done the race multiple times, and between them they clock up an incredible 47 appearances. Toma Coconea is not the only race legend around.
Chief among them is Chrigel Maurer. He has now been winning the Red Bull X-Alps for ten years! He first took to the startline in the 2009 edition, and as we all know, has been winning the race ever since. His secret has been to consistently up his game year on year to stay just that little bit further ahead of the competition. But in 2017 he looked vulnerable for the first time and was briefly overtaken in the air. On the ground he battled injury. Can he keep the challengers at bay to take the crown a record sixth time?
There is some serious experience among them. Paul Guschlbauer has now done the race four times and been on the podium three times. Aaron Durogati has competed three times. The French athletes have also accrued a lot of race experience between them. This will be the fourth time for Antoine Girard and the third time for Gaspard Petiot, both of whom have a lifetime of flying adventures between them.
After Coconea, the longest-serving athlete is Tom de Dorlodot. He first competed in the 2007 race at the age of 22 and has competed in six editions since then. That’s a lot of race experience. During that time he’s witnessed a lot of change as well. (In his first outing he popped into a supermarket to do his own shopping – unthinkable in today’s fast-paced race.) In the past the Red Bull X-Alps has often clashed with other adventures but this year he says he’s clearing his diary to really focus and train for the race.
Another notable factor of the lineup is the return of athletes from the race’s early years. One of the most interesting veterans – in the race as well as life – is Kaoru Ogisawa from Japan, who is back for one more outing. He competed in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. At the age of 59, he’s the oldest athlete ever in the race.
Another old-timer is the 46-year-old Russian athlete Evgenii Griaznov, who’s competed in every edition since 2009 except 2015. This will be his fifth participation.
There is only one man however who has participated every time; the one and only Toma Coconea. The last time he stood on the podium may have been in 2011, but by no means is he slowing down. As he proved in the last edition, he’s still a remarkable endurance athlete and very dangerous on the ground.
All told, it’s a remarkable lineup. But as Benoit Outters (and Paul Guschlbauer before him) have proved, it’s not always the experienced guys who make the podium.
Stay tuned for an extensive look at the Red Bull X-Alps 2019 rookies or check out the full list of athletes yourself!
Photos © zooom/ Harald Tauderer, zooom/ Honza Zak, zooom/ Vitek Ludvik