We take a deeper look at the Turnpoints and their strategic implications.
Mt Blanc and back was the big reveal – but what else is unique about this year’s route? We take a deeper look at the Turnpoints and their strategic implications and reveal some of the route’s lesser known rules.
Two Turnpoints in One
Good planning is required at Chiemgau Achental – there are actually two Turnpoints to tag. The first is a cylinder with a 6km radius that athletes can pass in the air. Its centre is just a few hundred metres from the shore. They then have to reach a signboard in Marquartstein 10.5km to the south. If athletes time it right, they’ll benefit from the prevailing northerly winds as air is sucked into the Alps for an easy downwind glide. If not, it's an hour on foot.
Athletes should practise their signatures – the first six Turnpoints are signboards. But not every one is bad news for athletes keen to stay in the air. The Gaisberg is reached on foot. The Kitzbühel signboard meanwhile can be top-landed – it’s at 1,636m on the site of the famous Mausefalle section of the legendary Hahnenkamm, meaning athletes can quickly launch back into the air if the weather’s flyable.
Pass North of the Zugspitze
The airspace restrictions around Innsbruck are notorious and have caught out many an athlete in the past. Fortunately, the route does not directly cross the Inn valley but athletes nonetheless have to pass the Zugspitze massif to the north, thereby staying clear of the tightly regulated airspace. Of course, if you’re Toma Coconea, you just run straight over the mountain and down the other side, like he did in 2017.
Prepare to hike
The leg from Lermoos in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena to Säntis is 117km, just over the average daily distance athletes must cover in order to reach goal. But it’s not straightforward. Athletes first travel along the Inn valley but then have to cross over the Arlberg. “It could take a lot of time,” says race director, Christoph Weber.
It’s a long and complicated leg from Säntis with athletes most likely staying south of the main Bernese mountains and passing through Andermatt to reach Fiesch in the Aletsch Arena. But once there, they should be able to rest their legs. “Fiesch is very famous for flying,” says Weber. “There are good chances to fly low even when the weather is not perfect.”
Race against the clock
The next two Turnpoints, Dent D’Oche and Mont Blanc must be passed anti-clockwise, which means passing them to the north. This seems unremarkable, but the ruling has big implications for Mt Blanc. Even if it's flyable, it still means crossing a ridgeline that rarely dips below 2,500m. And if it’s not, athletes will find themselves following the course of the UTMB ultra race, and that could add 60km to the route, not to mention a lot of uphill meters.
The glide from Schmittenhöhe to Zell am See promises to be a spectacular final flight. But unlike the descent to Monaco, the clock is still ticking and won’t stop until athletes reach the landing float on the water. And in case they can’t fly, they have to swim. Don’t forget the swimming goggles!