Turn by turn at the 2017 Red Bull X-Alps, aka ‘the world’s toughest race’
May 16, 2017
2017 Red Bull X-Alps
What: A 707-mile adventure race through seven countries and the European Alps, dubbed the ‘world’s toughest race’ for 14 years running
When: July 2 start
Where: Salzburg, Austria to Monaco
Watch: Daily live tracking at RedBullXAlps.com, starting June 29
For more info about the event, including interactive maps, videos and interviews with the athletes, see RedBullXAlps.com
Meet the adventure race to end all adventure races, which of course means Red Bull is involved.
Beginning July 2 in stunning Salzburg, Austria, a total of 32 athletes from 21 nations will race a straight-line distance of 707 miles across the European Alps to tiny Monaco, population 37,730, via seven "turnpoints," or markers, in seven different countries for the 14th edition of the Red Bull X-Alps adventure race, according to a release from Red Bull. This year's X-Alps promises to be the longest in event history, the release continued, and by turn the toughest — and that's saying something for an event already marketed as "the world's toughest race."
What exactly makes this the toughest in a world full of ultra-marathons, "Ninja Warrior" rip-offs and Tough Mudders? The format. Traveling only by foot or paraglide — no bikes, boards or boats allowed — an athlete's every move is monitored by advanced live-tracking technology and then broadcasted to an audience of millions. With constantly changing weather conditions, tactical planning is just as important as the extreme endurance athletes need to participate, the release said, and for this reason, each athlete has at least one support crewmember to help with strategy, nutrition and everything in between.
The 2017 X-Alps features three American athletes: Gavin McClurg from Ketchum, Idaho — one of the world's foremost "cloudbasers," a term that must have been invented for paragliders who take the same risks as B.A.S.E. jumpers — first-timer Jesse Williams from Bellingham, Washington; and fellow first-timer Mitch Riley from Park City, Utah.
Before the main event on July 2, the one-day Leatherman Prologue race takes place on June 28 in Fuschl am See outside of Salzburg. The top-three finishers there each win an additional Ledlenser Night Pass, which allows them to race through the mandatory rest period. Winners cash in their time benefit on day two of the race, when start times are staggered to give the Leatherman Prologue athletes a head start.
Why does a head start matter? Because serious cash is up for grabs this year: 28,500 Euros (roughly $32,000) split between the top-three finishers, with 10,000 Euros going to the winner and at least 1,500 Euros for finishers. Not a bad take for seven (or more) days of hiking and gliding through the Alps.
7 countries, 707 miles
Red Bull released the 2017 route in early May, calling it the most demanding in the event's 14-year history. And it is: Athletes race 707 miles from Salzburg to Monaco through seven countries — Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Monaco and Slovenia, a new addition — with nothing but their personal route-finding skills standing between them and 1,000-plus miles of wandering through the Alps. This exciting new development is expected to make the race "more challenging and more unpredictable than ever before," the release said.
As if that wasn't enough, the new Slovenian turnpoint leads athletes to racing along Europe's largest mountain range. They'll traverse it four times between the northern and southern fringes, each time mapping their own route through the remote high alpine.
"Such a wide variety of potential routes comes with a whole new world of strategic possibilities that will push rookies and veterans alike to their very limits, both mentally and physically," X-Alps race director Christoph Weber says.
Think you can map a better route through the X-Alps course than the 32 lucky few? Start now with brief descriptions of each turnpoint, and then head to RedBullXAlps.com for interactive course maps and more. Good luck!
The race starts at the historic Mozartplatz in Salzburg, Austria. From there, the athletes run through the city and up the Gaisberg to Turnpoint 1. The scenic view above the Salzburger Land region is expected to attract thousands of spectators.
After the opening day, a grueling 98-mile straight-line journey south through Austria takes athletes to Turnpoint 2: the Mangart paragliding launch pad on the edge of Triglav National Park in Slovenia. Triglav is the first Slovenian turnpoint to appear in the race after 14 seasons and rests at 9,397 feet above sea level.
Traveling northwest from Slovenia, competitors traverse the Austrian Alps for a second time to reach Turnpoint 3 — Aschau-Chiemsee in Germany. Located at the foot of the Kampenwand in the picturesque town of Aschau im Chiemgau, the athletes here decide whether to continue west on foot or climb upwards and take to the air.
The fourth turnpoint is the second Austrian turnpoint in the race, found in the small village of Lermoos, situated in the shadow of the Zugspitze. This 9,845-foot mountain connects Austria to Germany and offers the athletes huge flying potential.
Pushing back south through the Alps to Italy, the athletes leave Zugspitze's shadow to find themselves at Turnpoint 5, nestled near the shores of Lake Garda by Monte Baldo. At this point, the competitors will have successfully passed the halfway mark — but with tired feet, aching muscles and 301 miles still to go, anything could happen.
After reaching the halfway point, Turnpoint 6 lies 156 miles west at the one, the only: the Matterhorn in southern Switzerland. This extreme distance makes it the longest stretch between two consecutive turnpoints in the race. As if getting there isn't hard enough, navigating around one of the highest summits in Europe certainly will be.
In a final push, the hungry (and tired and delirious) competitors battle it out over the remaining 152 miles to reach Turnpoint 7 in Peille, a quaint hamlet in southeast France. Once athletes reach Peille, the timer stops and athletes only have to race each other in the final 1.3 miles during a victory flight over Monaco to the warm, blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Here, competitors touch down in style on a landing float to celebrate the accomplishment — and relief — of completing the world's toughest adventure race.
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