Lessons from Lockdown

Talking to Red Bull X-Alps athletes grounded in Italy, France and the US

Maxime Pinot (FRA4) rests during the Red Bull X-Alps in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland  on June 20, 2019.

The last couple of months have been particularly cruel for athletes with almost perfect cross-country flying weather across the alps. But being grounded has had its upsides.

In the days leading up to lockdown Aaron Durogati (ITA1) was on a mission, transporting equipment from his local gym to his garage. After suffering weeks of knee pain, he knew that an enforced period on the ground was a golden opportunity to get back into shape. 
“I was really having knee pain but I didn’t want to stop. I like what I do and was still climbing and skiing but in January I decided that I had to stop. Then coronavirus came and forced me to be at home. Now my knee is getting really better.”

Aaron Durogati (ITA1) training in his garage in South Tyrol, Italy.

"We’re probably more capable of dealing with fear and the unknown than most other people in our society.”

Eight thousand kilometres away in Ketchum, Idaho, US, Gavin McClurg (USA1) has been using the time to work on some neglected areas of his skillset. “I’ve been trying to put more energy into forecasting as that’s a weakness, I’m writing a ton, reading some good sports psychology books and thinking quite a bit about July 1st (when the applications open). And I’m also working really hard on packing my wing as fast as Chrigel!”

He says that athletes are uniquely adapted to deal with the uncertainty thrown up the crisis. “I think pilots are especially capable of dealing with uncertainty because flying is always uncertain, we have to go with the flow. We’re probably more capable of dealing with fear and the unknown than most other people in our society.” 

He adds that years sailing around the world has also taught him how to deal with the situation. “I’m used to being isolated and cut off from the world. When a storm hits you’ve done all your preparation hopefully in advance and you’ve hopefully got the skills to handle it and then it’s just attitude. Eventually the storm will pass.” 

"I spend a lot of time dreaming about flying lines, planning routes, thinking, writing things down.”

“It is like facing something unplanned during the race,” says Max Pinot (FRA4), who’s tried to use the time positively. “You have to be adaptable. So now I try to be more optimistic and set intermediate goals, thinking about the Red Bull X-Alps 2021. For example, I was training alone all winter, and I'm now super excited to work again with a new physical trainer. It's a new and strong motivation. And I spend a lot of time dreaming about flying lines, planning routes, thinking, writing things down.” 

For Durogati, it’s all been about the knee, training from 8.30am to 12.30 every day in his garage. “Before it was hurting to walk down stairs. Now I can do 200 squats without pain.”

He adds that never before has he been forced to stop for so long. Even after he broke his leg he was back in the air, launching with crutches! “My way of life is always really full-on. There are very few occasions where I have rest where I don’t do any sport or adventure.”

With South Tyrol set to lift restrictions this month, he’s looking forward to flying again soon, adapting to the rule not to cross any frontiers by flying triangles. 

For Pinot, he confesses the last weeks have been tough. "I must admit I was and in some ways I'm still pretty angry about the lockdown. I had great ideas in mind to improve, specially in flight, during spring, and it is frustrating to be grounded. Flying and being in the mountains will taste amazing after all this.”


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