NOVA Red Bull X-Alps Blog: Prologue - 17.06.2021
A running course at the beginning with a 900-metre ascent is compulsory, then today, it is already foreseeable, there will almost certainly be only and fast flying. There is glory and honour to be won and for the first three an additional Night Pass for the X-Alps race. Time penalties will also be distributed. The time at the finish line after the winner becomes the waiting time in the morning on the second day of the race, i.e. on Monday, before it is allowed to start running. These time penalties will be micro-small today, that's for sure. It will be a fantastic day of flying in midsummer weather.
Everyone knows: Whoever runs up the mountain quickly and deploys the glider first at the Mooskopf has a good chance of winning. In fact, Chrigel Maurer (SUI) and Maxime Pinot (FRA) are among the first to take off, and together they only really turn on twice and fly within shouting distance of each other to the finish. Smaller and larger gaps quickly open up behind the two. There is a bit of luck involved. The launch site at Mooskopf is not ideally situated to the sun before eleven in the morning and the slope is short. You have to find thermals immediately. Some experienced pilots don't succeed, and even early starter Théo de Blic (FRA) has to land on the slope and run back up to the summit. Entering the thermals is tough at first. Alone and in smaller groups the pilots get away.
Bombing in on the ground on the course must always be prevented - that would be a real slip-up and a real time handicap today and a psychological handicap in real life after Sunday. You don't want to make any mistakes on a day like this, simple as that. Under the eyes of so many people. Flying low is tempting with the short distances, but risky.
A look at the NOVA pilots: Nicola Donini (ITA) wants to show his speed competition skills and at this point he is gliding low behind the leaders in fifth place. Théo de Blic (FRA) has to fly in the midfield after the second start, Ken Oguma (JAP) carefully takes the weak thermals above the start and takes up the race as third of the XENON pilots. In the lead, they took the first turn at Grafenberg without thermalling up and turned north to Hochgründeck beyond Kleinarl. It is obvious that the final glide to the finish will begin there. Twelve kilometres back via Wagrain to Kleinarl.
The race at the top: Chrigel and Maxime deliver a gliding race wing to wing. Dosing the gas. They need good thermals to get take-off height at the turn in the north. The Swiss stays higher than the Frenchman and turns in to keep control, Maxime always a few line lengths below Chrigel. Benoit Outters (FRA) in third place chooses a much lower line with full throttle. Will he find the thermals that Pinot and Maurer found outside before the turn? He will be second and last today! Everything in a small space: the majority of the wings can still be seen over the launch area, while the first two in the distance are already making their final approach towards the finish. Behind them Benoit Outters and Thomas Friedrich are low. The race is under control for Chrigel and Maxime. Benoit pays for the deep line and is caught by Thomas at the turn. Which of the two will make the important third place and get the extra night shift in the main race?
Halfway across Wagrain, Chrigel steps on the gas, over 60 km/h now, 66... six kilometres to go to the finish. Maxime holds back. Neither of the two can afford to land before the finish line. The announced north wind is not an issue. The light valley wind carries Maurer and Pinot to the finish. Austrian rookie Thomas Friedrich takes third place and the last available Night Pass. Benoit Outters goes all-in and glides deep under Thomas, can't quite get on the gas, the Belgian glides to within a metre of the finish in fourth place. Thomas forgets to run through the blue finish gate and is almost cheated out of his Night Pass. Loudly he was pushed through the compulsory gate just before Benoit. That was close!
The strong Swiss Patrick von Känel wins the duel against Nicola for 5th place, the clock is now only ticking for the run start on Monday. Still exciting to see how the athletes perform against each other. The Italian Aaron Durogati flies back from turn three to turn two Grafenberg and again to turn three - why? Is he playing it cool after he missed the thermal at the start and had to take off twice? Or did he turn too early at Hochgründeck? Théo finishes with a good time. Ken shows a mature performance in slope gliding and also comes flying ultra low to Wagrain Kleinarl. The 42-minute wait on Monday morning should not deprive him of sleep.
Everyone is at the finish, in a reasonable time, no outbombers. What a start! The stars win and bask in the light of public attention. The sponsors are happy to show off their draft horses. And everyone is happy. The competitors have shown their running skills in the group, have shown wing to wing what they can do in the air. The small faux pas at the start should only annoy those who thought they had a chance of a podium place – so, actually everyone :-)
NOVA colleagues travelled from Terfens and abroad to the countryside of Salzburg to accompany the Prologue and the race start on Sunday - on site, of course, in compliance with Covid regulations, with sufficient distance. Paraglider and harness developers, media teams, press people, NOVA celebrities, friends and fans. Everyone is happy about the great performances of Ken, Nicola and Théo on the ground and in the air. A Prologue as it should be, a celebration, a joy.
Text: Roli Mäder (NOVA Team Pilot)
Here is a video from the day that will make you feel the good vibes. You can find the Prologue 2021 results here.
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