The Secrets to Selection

What does it take to get accepted into the world’s toughest adventure race?

Athletes during the Red Bull X-Alps 2019 Welcome Dinner in Wagrain, Austria © zooom / Harald Tauderer

What does it really take to get accepted into the world’s toughest adventure race? Is it enough to be one of the world’s top pilots? The answer is no – you need to be way more than that. Below, we reveal what criteria you actually need– and dispel some myths too.


Is it enough to be a great cross-country pilot?

No, that’s just the starting point. When the race committee members go through applications they’re looking for flying experience first of all to check you have what it takes – but after that it comes down to overall adventure experience, and that comes down to the ability to operate and look after yourself safely in extremely demanding situations when exhausted. 


But I can fly 300km triangles.

Athletes race for 15h 30m every day for up to two weeks. However, they will spend far more time on foot than in the air, hiking to launches, running big distances on the flat when rainy days make flying impossible. The question is, can you fly 300km triangles as well as run 100km along the flat, carrying 10kg on your back, hiking 5,000m of vertical every day for two weeks.And still have a smile on your face? 


You can?

That’s good news. Besides the flying part, almost all athletes have solid experience taking part in big, epic adventures and are used to coping when things go wrong (see Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1), Gavin McClurg (USA), Antoine Girard (FRA3)) or have competed in various adventure races and ultras like Benoit Outters (FRA1) and Maxime Pinot (FRA4). Remember, the race may be won in the air, but you can only fly if you can hike phenomenal distances across mountains at speed. 


Do you select from my country?

The Red Bull X-Alps has a great tradition of selecting athletes from all over the world, not just the European Alpine countries. In the past 10 years, athletes have come from as far away as Nepal, Mexico, Turkey, Greece, Colombia, Lebanon, Korea, South Africa, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil and the UK.


Can female athletes compete?

Yes, and there can be no excuses for not performing well. The race first saw female entrants in 2005. We had to wait 10 years for the next two girls to sign up and 2019 continued the tradition.


Do I need a big social following?

Absolutely not. Of course, there are some athletes who are bloggers, Instagram stars with huge numbers of followers on Facebook. Or like Toma Coconea (ROU) and Kaoru Ogisawa (JPN), they come to the race with their own fans. But take a look at any given year and you will find plenty of athletes also who are media shy, live off-grid and have less grasp of social media than your average grandma.


But do I still need loads of sponsors?

Taking part in the Red Bull X-Alps isn’t a budget vacation, especially if there are long haul flights involved and you’re paying for a support team, but there are ways of keeping costs down. Just ask Nick Neynens (NZL1) who was supported by his mum and brother who unlike every other support team, drove around in a regular hire car rather than a campervan. And that hasn’t stopped him from doing well.


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