Athletes were this evening coming to terms with the reality of this race – that it’s going to be a long and hard campaign to reach Monaco. And there’s no sign of it ending just yet.
Everyone now is feeling the pain of this race. From Chrigel Maurer up front to Jose Ignacio Arevalo Guede at the back, every athlete is battling the blisters, bad knees, sore joints, sunburn or just plain exhaustion. Everyone except Tom de Dorlodot that is, who is raring to go after 48 hours in the sin bin.
Maurer’s got a bad knee making hiking on the flat extremely painful, as well as preventing him from using full speed bar as he can only push it with his left leg. It seems this race is too brutal even for him.
Normally that should be the green light for superhuman ultrarunner Benoït Outters, currently 70km back, to take advantage. But it turns out that he is human after all. After pulling his Ledlenser Night Pass last night he confesses to feeling ‘very tired’. He now doubts that he can catch Chrigel – although that was said before news of Chrigel’s knee became public.
Maurer is closest to Monaco with 140km to go, but if you can’t fly and walking hurts, that’s still an awful long way to go – especially on the notoriously evil switchback roads in the south of France.
“With good conditions, I might make it on Wednesday and with bad luck, Friday. I think probably Thursday,” he said.
The battle for 3rd place continues. Paul Guschlbauer currently holds the bronze crown and was just 20km to the east of the Matterhorn this evening. But rookie Simon Oberrauner is only 2km behind and he’s hiking through the night.
And yet the crown could still go to Purin, Nübel, Mayer or van Schelven who are all within a few kilometers of each other. Nübel at least seems to be back in the game after requiring medical treatment last night suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration after yesterday’s yomp along the flat.
Thirty one athletes began this race just over a week ago. This evening only 23 remain in the field – down to 22 tomorrow when the axeman’s chop comes down on the last man in the field – likely to be Jose Arevalo Guede, despite him pulling a Ledlenser Night Pass. He’d need to cover over 70km to stay in the game.
But the race will gain two athletes from tomorrow when Evgenii Griaznov and Pal Takats are allowed to get on the move again after their 48 hour penalties.
This has been the most brutal race in recent Red Bull X-Alps history and it shows no sign of letting up.
“We fly down, hike back up again, fly down – it’s the story of my life,” said Krischa Berlinger this morning. This evening he was still 100km from Turnpoint 5, Monte Baldo. No doubt he – and every other athlete – will carry on doing a bit more hiking up and flying down before it’s over.