The Glory Lives On
Six months on from the race, we look back and experience once again the incredible moments of the 2019 edition.
As snow settles across the Alps it seems crazy to think back to just six months ago when 32 of the world’s top adventure athletes set off from Salzburg to race to Monaco. Athletes have been quick to move on with their lives, back to the day jobs as teachers, engineers, guides, instructors and full-time adventurers now skiing and flying. But for many of us, fans and athletes included, the memories are still fresh – the pain, the glory, the exhaustion and elation.
As the feature-length documentary on the race is released, we take a look back to remind ourselves of some of the golden moments and unique trends from the 2019 edition.
Chief among them was the pace of the race. Storms in Switzerland and the stable (un-flyable) conditions in France may have slowed athletes down, but their adventure racing efficiency – never wasting a moment – is now next level. Gavin McClurg (USA1) is one of many athletes to have commentated on how much quicker this year’s race was compared to previous editions. It’s like everyone has been studying the Chrigel Maurer (SUI1) manual – getting quicker at the little things like packing and unpacking their glider, eating on the move, making final glides in the evening just before the no-fly deadline kicks in to get in a few more K’s.
The hiking was brutal. Every athlete afterwards remarked at the outrageous amount of vertical meters they hiked, day in day out, sometimes up to 5,000m a day. McClurg averaged 4,000m and 50km. A day!
The exception to that rule was Aaron Durogati (ITA1), who somehow managed to reach Monaco by hiking less than 30km on roads – the entire race. But he’s Italian – the rules don’t apply! Unable to run, and relying almost totally on his flying ability he had one of the most remarkable races of any athlete. He watched everyone race off at the start, waited on top of the Tennengebirge for his moment, then picked off the competitors one by one like a bird of prey. (He also came within a second of pulling his reserve near Nice after suffering a huge collapse 50m above the ground. Fortunately his wing re-inflated.)
Some of these moments, and many others, are portrayed in the Red Bull X-Alps 2019 feature documentary
The route was defined by its 13 Turnpoints, the highest number of any edition. It’s no secret that athletes prefer fewer TPs as it gives them more route options and allows them to stay airborne for longer. (No one likes being forced to land when the thermals are kicking off.)
But among fans and supporters, the TPs are some of the few places where you can catch the action. And this year saw some incredible places to experience the race, in particular the Turnpoints of Titlis and Kronplatz – spectacular mountain-top locations with views in all directions. Titlis was to prove a major sufferfest for athletes for two reasons: the 2,000m and 10k hike, and the restricted airspace that prevented many from taking off.
But any spectators were rewarded with some of the most spectacular launches of the whole race, from Patrick von Känel’s (SUI2) ‘penguin’ to Evgenii Griaznov’s (RUS) mid take-off hurdle over a fence to many of the athletes’ hair-raising launches down the terrifyingly steep south face.
Some of these moments, and many others, are portrayed in the feature documentary, which gives a day by day account of the ninth edition of the race. Others include the role played by supporters, working tirelessly to support their teams – and in many cases other athletes as well. Gaspard Petiot’s (FRA2) support team for example, frequently went to the aid of others, notably when it came to crossing the glaciated pass between the Oberland and the Valais. The film reveals the extraordinary lengths supporters went to help their athletes reach Monaco.
The race may be six months ago, the pain may be long since forgotten. But as the saying goes, the glory lives on.
The full-length Red Bull X-Alps 2019 documentary is available HERE from December 19, 2019, 7.30pm.