Red Bull X-Alps 2011: Day 9

Chrigel looks to Monaco as Toma fends off the wolves


Maurer boots-it past Mont Blanc. Paragliding perfection on Day 9 of the Red Bull X-Alps 2011

Will Chrigel get to Monaco today? At 9am he’s 183km out and if the day proves good, then yes he could. However, storms might hamper his progress.

Behind him, Toma Coconea is still to break the 300km-from-goal mark. The race is on for second and third place.

Yesterday saw Martin Muller – three-times Swiss national champion – pull off some spectacular flying. After a shaky start which saw him at the bottom – he could easily have been cut – he has been perhaps one of the steadiest pilots. Climbing slowly through the ranks.

Toma Coconea on track for the Matterhorn on 25 July 2011. Photo: Red Bull X-Alps

Toma Coconea on track for the Matterhorn on 25 July 2011. Photo: Red Bull X-Alps

Whereas young guns like Tom de Dorlodot have had their moment in the sun, and reached third spot only to fall back again, Martin has just kept plodding up the ladder. This is where experience such as Martin has really counts – in the head game of keeping cool and making the right decisions.

Martin is also a brilliant pilot, and on the right day will out-fly Toma. At the time of writing he is at 3,100m and hiking up to the glaciers to the east of the Matterhorn. This is the same place where Chrigel wowed the world last year with his spectacular trick of being towed into the air by a climbing rope. Will Martin Muller try the same thing? Will he catch Toma? He’ll have to fly fast and cleverly, but it’s not impossible.

Word is the weather is good, so we could see some great flying. Toma was in the air at 9am.

At the back, Pierre Carter has been cut. This really brings home how severe this race is. Pierre is a tough cookie. His current pet project is climbing and flying from the Seven Summits – the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. He has flown up and over 7,000m Aconcagua in South America. He competed in the 2009 Red Bull X-Alps – his first time flying in Europe – and had to retire after injuring his feet in a hard landing. It’s sad to see him out again.

There are now only 20 athletes left. In the time it’s taken to write this, Chrigel has launched and is in the air heading south. His flight will take him east past the mighty Ecrins mountains and into classic paragliding terrain in the south of France.

So far in the Red Bull X-Alps we haven’t seen Chrigel make any mistakes. His one metre incursion into airspace notwithstanding, his route selection and timing have been flawless. It looks like it’s in the bag for him. The question now then, is who will be second, and even maybe, who will be third? Could Toma, who has been in second place for so long, see his second-place on the podium snatched from him? Could someone else even step in and take third? Life can be cruel, and in this race athletes are truly living life large.

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