Chrigel pulls ahead into clearer weather as Toma snaps at his heels
Bad weather on Day 4 of the Red Bull X-Alps. Hugh Miller reports
Are you addicted yet? Is it impossible to stray too far from your screen despite the cracking sky outside and the beautiful clouds? Have you been looking at your partner over the dinner table but not listening, instead thinking about Chrigel as he marches along the long valleys of Italy, or wondering what Toma is doing, taking the high route in foul conditions. Is he just a machine and simply following the big yellow Red Bull X-Alps line?
It’s evening on Day Four and already the best event in the paragliding calendar has settled down into a slog through snow, wind, rain and cloud. After yesterday’s scary looking launches from a few pilots – including Mr Chrigel Eagle (SUI1) – today brought a whole bunch of walking.
Chrigel spent the night in a mountain hut and hiked early to the Tre Cime turnpoint. He only had to get to within a kilometre of it to bag it, and once he had done that he was off again, on towards Piz Palu.
Meanwhile, just 20km behind him, is Toma Coconea (ROM1). As mentioned above he took a line south of the mountain – looking at the map on Live Tracking it seems to imply that is the correct line, to go round the turnpoint clockwise, but Chrigel’s in-and-out tagging of the turnpoint is kosher. Perhaps Toma didn’t understand that? Who knows. His decision looks like it could have cost him a few kilometres anyway.
Meanwhile, latest news from the race leader is that the skies are clearing towards the west. This could well benefit Chrigel, who will take any opportunity and turn it to his advantage. This happened in 2009 when, after opening up a lead, he took advantage of better weather in the west to crack on, leaving the rest of the pack behind in the mire.
Elsewhere, as the front of the race looks increasingly like a two-horse race, the competition in the chasing pack has stepped up a gear.
Jouni Makkonen (FIN) spent the night in the mountains, sleeping in the snow. He’s now in the second gaggle, with Paul Guschlbauer (AUT4) and XCmag’s weather guru Honza Rejmanek (USA). There are seven others spread out behind them over about 10km.
At the back, Ivar Sandsta (NOR) was eliminated from the race after being one of four athletes given 24-hour time penalties, which meant they had to stay where they were for a full day.
The next elimination takes place on Friday at 7am. It could well be backmarker Nuno Virgilio (POR). He also scored a 24-hour time penalty yesterday after his tracklog revealed he bust airspace on Day 1. He’s 5km behind Brazil’s Richard Pethigal, who is also standing still for 24 hours due to airspace infringement.
Nuno’s not had an easy race. After hurting his knee on the way down the Dachstein on Day 2 he got blisters. His diary for today reads: “Time to rest and tomorrow come back with full power.” But will he be able to do that? The race at the back of the field will be as interesting to watch as at the front as the pressure piles on Nuno and Richard. Who will face the axe?
The word is Chrigel could make Switzerland by Thursday night. If the weather improves as forecast, then we could see Chrigel the Eagle fly far, far ahead. But this is the Red Bull X-Alps – and nothing in this race is predictable.
Forget dinner, forget work, forget flying (truly, the weather in the Alps is awful: the word from the blown out Hang Gliding World Championships in Monte Cucco (four days, no tasks) is that they’re following the tracking just as closely as anyone) and just keep watching. If your partner/boss/mum/pet goldfish looks like they’re talking to you, just nod, and say, “Yes, that’s right” quite brightly. That should convince them.
Now back to Live Tracking…
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