Race to Mt. Blanc - and back
Dramatic new route revealed for the Red Bull X-Alps 2021.
In a radical break from the past, the 10th edition of the Red Bull X-Alps is revealed as an out-and-back dash across the Alps, from Salzburg to Mt Blanc and back again to Austria via Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy. In a break from tradition, the race will not finish up in Monaco. Instead, the freshwater lake of Zell am See will substitute for the Mediterranean Sea.
Race organizer Ulrich Grill says the inspiration behind the new route was to do something different for the 10th edition and was not related to current covid regulations. “It’s an extraordinary route,” he says. “It will be a true adventure and one that athletes and fans will talk about for years to come. It’s the next evolution in Red Bull X-Alps race history.”
At 1,238km, it’s the longest route in the race’s history, 100km further than 2019. Race director Christoph Weber says: “It’s a new chapter for the Red Bull X-Alps. The race committee wanted to make the tenth edition of the race one to remember so we decided to break away from the past and design a completely new route; one where athletes will be geographically closer together. This will add an interesting dynamic to the race.”
The route will see 33 athletes, including three women, race across Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy, before finishing back again in Austria via 12 Turnpoints.
The race begins with a one-day Prologue on June 17th in the mountain resort of Wagrain-Kleinarl, 60km south of Salzburg. Athletes have to hike and fly a 30km course via three Turnpoints, with the three fastest athletes each winning an additional Night Pass.
The main race then begins, as in previous years, in Salzburg’s historic Mozartplatz. Athletes run through the city and up the Gaisberg (1,288m) to Turnpoint 1. From the Gaisberg, athletes head to Wagrain - Kleinarl, a mountain holiday town 58km to the south. This is also the location for the one day Prologue.
For the first time the race then heads to the famous alpine resort of Kitzbühel, Tyrol, home to the legendary Hahnenkamm downhill race, the scene of many epic deeds of courage, heroism and glory – values all close to the heart of Red Bull X-Alps athletes and fans.
From there, it’s a short 35km leg to north to Germany and Turnpoint 4, Chiemgau - Achental, a picturesque region amidst the northern Alps.
It’s then approximately 115km south west to Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, following a line that will be familiar to athletes who competed in 2017. Turnpoint 5 is on the Austrian side of the mountain, in the resort of Lermoos in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena, the fourth time the resort has hosted a Turnpoint.
Turnpoint 6 is situated atop the 2,502m summit of Säntis, which lies to the south of Lake Constance (Bodensee) in Switzerland. Athletes then set their compasses for the high mountains of Switzerland and Turnpoint 7, the Fiesch - Aletsch Arena, home to Europe’s longest glacier.
By this stage athletes will have their eyes on the Rhone valley, an aerial superhighway that offers perfect conditions for flying distance – but only when the weather’s good. Athletes will hope it offers them an easy ride into France, otherwise it’s a long hike.
Turnpoint 8 is the 2,221m high summit Dent d’Oche, above Lake Geneva and Turnpoint 9 is Mont Blanc, the eighth time the iconic mountain has featured in the race. Uniquely, both Turnpoints need to be passed in an anticlockwise direction. That means athletes can’t just tag Mt. Blanc and return the way they came – they need to cross from the French to the Italian side of the mountain.
From here route options open up and we could see the field diverge. Turnpoint 10 is the Swiss peak of Piz Palü, 250km to the east. Athletes can either go north, rejoining the familiar Rhone valley or take a direct bearing passing to the north of lakes Maggiore and Como.
Athletes then pass the peak of Ortler, 3,905m, the highest mountain in the South Tyrol, as they make their way to Turnpoint 11, Kronplatz. Here athletes have to land and sign a board next to the famous Messner Mountain Museum.
For those who make it this far, the last leg should be a beautiful final flight across the main chain of the Alps to Turnpoint 12, Schmittenhöhe, which overlooks the resort of Zell am See and the finish line. Whereas the clock officially stopped in Peille above Monaco, this time, the race does not actually end until athletes make the landing float, whether they get there by landing directly on top, or swimming there. It promises to add a spectacular end to the race!