In this series official Red Bull X-Alps photographers give us their unfiltered behind the scenes insights of the world's toughest adventure race.
Red Bull X-Alps photographer Vitek Ludvik first covered the Red Bull X-Alps in the year 2007, the last time the race was won by someone other than Chrigel Maurer. He says the hours are terrible, the sleep non-existent but it’s an honor to be involved.
What’s the best thing about shooting the race?
Meeting all the great people involved in the event – athletes, supporters, organizers. During this one month we all become a kind of family that I start to miss after the prize-giving party in Monaco.
What’s changed the most since 2007?
What I see as the biggest change during these years is the radical increase of sport performance of Red Bull X-Alps athletes, professionalism of their teams and the evolution of sport equipment, particularly with gliders and harnesses. During these 13 years I’ve really seen this hike and fly style of paragliding became its own sport, independent from free flying.
Give us an idea of how hard you work.
Being part of the race is challenging for all participants, athletes, their assistants and organizers. So I suppose I have little sleep. I usually start my day before 5am with a brisk ascent with one of the athletes, normally around 1,000 vertical meters. I take photos of everything that goes on during the ascent, preparation for the start at the top and the start of the flight. When the athletes disappear, I run to the car and edit the images so I can send them to the media center right away. Then I try to get close to another competitor nearby and again climb with them to a takeoff or shoot whatever is going on. Then I pass on and try to camp near an athlete who goes up the hill the next morning. I'm crawling into my sleeping bag at around 1am. By that time I will have clocked anything from 1,000 to 2,000m of altitude, 100-300km in my car and up to two to three hours of photo editing.
So how much sleep are you getting a night?
I sleep something between nothing and five hours a day.
But it’s worth it?
Photographing the race is an honor for me.
What are the special moments that stand out?
There are so many. One of the best was from 2017 above Lake Garda. I was getting ready for a deserved rest at midnight when I received a message that about five athletes were resting at some hut on the way to Monte Brenta. The request was to capture them hiking in the morning to the take off somewhere in the mountains. I drove my car for an hour and half, then hiked until 4:30 in the morning and reached the hut right before Pascal Purin, Sebastian Huber, Ferdie van Schelven and others left the shelter for another three hour brisk hike! I shot them hiking and at the takeoff in the awesome morning light and mountain landscape. Then I got a big cappuccino and croissant at the hut near the launch and after a small breakfast ran back down the valley. The images were stunning as well as all the experience. That was just one example, but there are many like that from every edition.
For more of Vitek’s work check out his Instagram: @vitekludvik