Whoever finally wins the Red Bull X-Alps 2019, the French will likely have a victory of their own to celebrate.
With their Rookie, Maxime Pinot (FRA4), leading from the front and challenging five-times winner, Christian Maurer (SUI1), every step and thermal of the way, the French currently have every one of their athletes in or just outside the top 10.
The three veterans – Gaspard Petiot (FRA4), Antoine Girard (FRA3) and Benoit Outters (FRA1) – are in fifth, eighth and eleventh respectively.
They have form, too. Petiot ran Chrigel close in the 2017 event, until he was forced to retire, while Benoit Outters managed to finish second overall, missing the top slot by just a few hours.
Girard, an extremely accomplished adventure pilot, who holds the world paragliding altitude record after flying to 8000m over Broad Peak in the Himalayas, may also come into his own in the high, snow-clad summits of Switzerland.
While Chrigel is now entering his own Swiss back yard, the French have their own flying sites to come. With Turnpoints at Mont Blanc, St Hilaire and Cheval Blanc on the horizon, they may well still have a home advantage up their sleeves.
Can they now work together to bring the Red Bull X-Alps trophy home? Time will tell.
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