On weekdays, Darby Jack bicycles the 15 miles from his home in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, to his office at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in Washington Heights. Unlike most people who bike to work, the 42-year-old assistant professor of environmental health wears sensors that monitor how much air he breathes in during the trip along with air pollution levels along his route.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA BECKONS FOR MAURER
Maurer enters home straight south over the Maritime Alps to Monaco as rest of the fleet battles on foot at the Red Bull X-Alps 2017.
This has been one of the most challenging races in recent years of the Red Bull X-Alps – the longest in distance with a route that zig-zags over the main chain of the Alps several times. And the weather has not been too generous this year, forcing athletes to hike unimaginable miles on foot.
But for one man at least, the finish line is now getting tantalisingly close. Christian Maurer (SUI1) was by mid afternoon 164 km from goal and on the home front.
In contrast to previous years, he’s following a different line south, staying on the Italian side to avoid the higher mountains in France which are more difficult to fly in difficult conditions. After hiking 1,000m to the take-off at Cima Cavallari he was in the air by 11am. It could still be a long couple of days ahead.
Behind and in hot pursuit is Benoit Outters (FRA4). He pulled a Ledlenser Night Pass the previous night – the first of two he possesses after winning the Leatherman Prologue – and it looked as if the French ultrarunner was preparing for a single push to Monaco on foot. But such is the difficult terrain around Turnpoint 6, the Matterhorn, that even he was making slow progress on the ground and was still 60km behind Maurer.
The chaser pack meanwhile was stretched around the northern shores of Lake Como with very little between them. All are starting to suffer – some more than most. After hiking all day yesterday in temperatures in the high 20s, Manuel Nübel (GER2) required medical treatment.
“We had a little problem with the heat,” his supporter Christian Schineis, a surgeon, said. “Manu suffered heat exhaustion and some dehydration so we went to a hotel and gave him some infusions. He’s doing a lot better.”
There was no hotel for Pascal Purin (AUT3). He did one better. After taking a wrong line in the mountains, he ended up taking shelter with a family in a primitive hut with just a single lightbulb for electricity. “It’s amazing to think there are still people who live like that today,” he said.
The battle for third place could yet prove a gripping finale to the race – particularly if and when it becomes possible to take to the sky.
Meanwhile at the back, the other Swiss athlete in the race, Krischa Berlinger (SUI2) was being stoical about his slow progress. He spent the night up on the Timmelsjoch on the Italian / Austrian border with Gavin McClurg (USA1) in the hope of a good flight to Lake Garda, but woke up to find the cloudbase 300m below them. “Then we’ll fly down, hike back up again, fly down – the story of my life,” he said.
Jose Arevalo Guede (ESP) and Simon Oberrauner (AUT4) have pulled a Ledlenser Night Pass today. Guede, who is 60km behind Tom de Dorlodot (BEL), will be hoping to fly today and then hike through the night to catch de Dorlodot and avoid elimination. But after a 48-hour enforced rest, de Dorlodot is feeling strong and unlikely to be overtaken easily.
Oberrauner, currently in fourth place, is clearly stating his ambitions for a third place and will push hard to overtake Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1).
As the race reaches its final stages, positions are bedding in – but anything can still happen on the long road to Monaco.
Follow all the action on Live Tracking on redbullxalps.com.
Maurer passes the Matterhorn but bad weather slows down the rest of the pack at
Red Bull X-Alps 2017.
Christian Maurer (SUI1) now has Monaco in his sights and a clear run to get there after Gaspard Petiot (FRA2), his nearest rival, dramatically pulled out of the Red Bull X-Alps yesterday after suffering a hand and knee injury while landing near Lake Como. “When I was about to touch down, a thermal bubble smashed me on that wall and that was it. The dream is over.”, Petiot said.
All eyes are now on Maurer. In good conditions he could be Monaco in a couple of days. But both he and the chasing athletes behind him are facing a weather front that is making flying all but impossible. By mid afternoon thunder clouds were rolling in over the northern shores of Lake Como while sporadic storms were breaking out.
Maurer says that four to five days is probably the best estimate for making goal. “The weather is not really flyable for the next day or so,” he said.
If it does take longer than 11 days, it could be the slowest time he’s ever made the finish since starting the race in 2009. That year it took him just under 12 days. His record is 6d 23h in 2013 – but both were on shorter courses.
Although the outlook is not good, he said he’s still feeling strong, and the team’s Swiss efficiency, for which they’re noted, is still running like clockwork.
“I’m within my comfort zone and flying as before but I also have better planning, better logistics, I can push more on the ground,” he said.
For the chasers now lying 100km back, Sunday was a day that offered a difficult choice between hiking up for a short flight on glide only, or just plugging away on the road.
Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) had made two flights by lunchtime. Neither involved much, if any, thermal activity, but he has covered a lot of ground and cleared Lake Como. Stanislav Mayer (CZE) also made a flight but the gains were small.
Most midfield athletes opted to hike along the main road. “It’s so hard,” says Simon Oberrauner (AUT4), of the decision whether to fly or hike. “It looks flyable but I’d need to hike up 1,600m which would take three hours and I know the front is coming. I need to conserve energy.”
At the back Duncan Kotze (RSA) has been eliminated. The 41-year-old rookie was in last place 47km behind the nearest competitor when the axe fell. “Bizarrely, I feel ready for more,” he said.
Benoit Outters (FRA4) will use a Ledlenser Night Pass this evening. The rookie, who is currently in 2nd place and 97km behind Christian Maurer (SUI1), has two night passes, after earning an additional one during the Leatherman Prologue.
He will likely push hard, to gain as much ground on Chrigel as possible. Benoit is a talented ultrarunner and could significantly narrow the gap. He will also want to extend his 38km lead over 3rd place Paul Guschlbauer and the pack behind him. As the Frenchman moves towards home soil, the final race for Monaco is on!
Follow all the action on Live Tracking on redbullxalps.com
The Red Bull X-Alps 2017 ‘peloton’ swings by the Italian lakes before heading north back into the mountains.
The fight for 3rd place heated up today as athletes tagged Turnpoint 5, Monte Baldo, before swinging north into the high mountains again. While Maurer (SUI1) and Petiot (FRA2) are still battling it out at the front.
Outters, a top ultrarunner and paraglider pilot, looks to be in strong contention now after clearing Turnpoint 5, Monte Baldo early this morning in 3rd place. Pal Takats (HUN), who had a great run yesterday from the mountains north of Merano to the shores of Lake Garda would also have been in the running, but he now has to serve a 48 hour time penalty for violating an airspace infringement. During this time he is not allowed to move more than 250m from his location. (Evgenii Griaznov (RUS) must also serve his 48 hour penalty from tomorrow.)
But after that, it’s wide open with Stanislav Mayer (CZE) and Manuel Nübel (GER2) in hot pursuit. The pair reached Turnpoint 5 shortly before 10am this morning. They were followed about an hour later by Sebastian Huber (GER1) who is now back in the game after a few difficult days. “To the Matterhorn,” he shouted, as he ran from the signboard to the take off. Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) who yesterday fell from 3rd to 7th place was next to arrive. “I’m really pleased to finally reach this turnpoint,” he said.
Close behind was Simon Oberrauner (AUT4), Ferdinand van Schelven (NLD), and Pascal Purin (AUT3). The group had a spectacular start to the day with a dawn raid on the Brenta. Purin, Huber, van Schelven, and Oberrauner all launched from a spectacular location at 2,500m next to the Rifugio Pedrotti, in the Brenta Massif.
Another athlete enjoying an unstoppable run is Gavin McClurg (USA1). Although he is not where he’d like to be, he’s been slowly clawing his way back, making some good distances in the air and is now in 16th place behind Toma Coconea (ROU) and heading towards Italy.
None of the athletes have pulled their Ledlenser Night Passes tonight. That means all the athletes still in the race will rest for the mandatory period between 10.30pm and 5am.
Looking ahead, one athlete will be eliminated at 6am on Sunday. The last athlete is currently Duncan Kotze. He faces the axe unless he manages to pass Jose Arevalo Guede (ESP), who is currently 50km ahead, before 6am tomorrow. Follow all the action on Live Tracking on redbullxalps.com.