The first woman to make goal reveals the secret behind her magic move and how she found the time to play cards with her team.
We speak to Eli Egger to hear of her race experiences, and why she’s having doubts about doing it again.
Looking back on your race, was it a positive experience?
I am still looking back quite positively. I had a great time during the race, but I also learned a lot about myself, about my physical abilities, but also about my mental strengths and weaknesses!
Were there any moments in the race where you look back now and think, that was crazy, what was I thinking?
Like on the very first day when I thought I'm better than everyone else and I bombed out immediately. (laughs)
Did it have a big impact becoming the first woman to make goal?
It changed the way people act when they see me on takeoff, like now I'm “famous” but I still feel like I'm the same person. But for sure more people know my face. That’s nice, but it's not so easy to hide anymore.
What was your best moment of the race?
There were a couple, but I enjoyed one evening where I did the long flight from Dufourspitze to Sondrio. And I decided to just go land early to spend the evening with my team. It wasn’t super early, around 7pm so it would still be possible to fly a bit further. That was super nice because we were in the middle of the race, but we were like, let's play some cards and enjoy the evening!
But also especially in the last days, there were more and more people chasing me and trying to get some selfies or a walk with me and join me for the last minutes. One truck driver, he kind of circled around to say, ‘Yeah, go on! You're doing great!’ And it was always the same big truck. That was cool.
"My worst moment was up on Cima Tosa"
What was your best move?
Probably when I decided to fly through the Inn valley. It was already pretty late when I took off from Marquartstein that I decided to fly to Inntal. That was a pretty nice move, I would say. I knew this area pretty well so the whole area around Wilder Kaiser and it's actually one of my favorite spots. Maybe that was one of the reasons why I decided to sneak in. And also the next day when I managed to fly from Lermoos a little bit further than the others just by being patient and catching the right moment.
What was your lowest moment of the race?
I think it was up on Cima Tosa where we had a kind of dispute in the team. I landed (in the valley) and had to wait for my supporters because I was flying with all this ballast and they needed to carry it. I started hiking and didn't wait for the girls behind. Everything was fine but when the girls arrived about one hour later they came into a whiteout. There was still snow up there and the clouds came in and so they were pretty scared and that was kind of a drama that evening up on the mountain. But we worked it out in the next days. They were super tired. I was super tired.
You know the race really well having supported Aaron Durogati in previous years. But were there things that surprised you or caught you out?
I underestimated the difficulties we would have flying with 15kg of ballast. Someone has to carry up the weight, but it really slows you down and limits your options. I couldn't just land and hike 200 meters. If I'm on my own, I would've had to carry like 23kg. And that was basically not an option.
We expected it to be easier to meet. We also figured out that the supporters, although they're super strong athletes, it wasn’t really possible for them to reach me if they're going with 10 or 15kg and I'm going with 7kg. So that was something we had to learn. I needed some patience to wait and also to make sure I landed close to a road.
If you were to do it again, would you do it with ballast or have another system?
Actually, Ozone have built a smaller glider for me now. So I got a zeolite in extra small so I can fly without ballast. But small guiders are sometimes a little spicy. For sure I'm not going to do it again with ballast.
How did the body hold up?
It was super strong. I had one super tiny blister on the last day. Verena my osteopath treated me every evening. One time I had a stiff neck from thermalling the same side and she manipulated it so I didn’t feel it any more.
Did you lose much weight?
5kg, which is quite a lot because I started with 57!
What do you think the future of the race is for women?
I think it's nice to do the same task. But we probably need a little bit more time than the men because there are some disadvantages we have, with the physical disadvantage and weight. But for me it was like I wasn't competing against the men, I was competing against myself. I actually don't even know what rank I had in the end!
So, the big question, are you going to sign up for 2025?
Honestly, I don't know. I would have to change the team which would be really hard. On the other hand, it was probably one of the best things I ever did in my life so far and a really cool experience. So, there's kind of this addiction to do it again (laughs). But yeah, it’s not just these two weeks of race, it's like one year of preparation. I have a full-time job. It’s not so easy to do it every two years if you're not a professional.
Top image © zooom / Lukas Pilz