NOVA X-Alps Blog: SUN 27.06.21
Really everything done right
In detail: Perfect weather timing helps the Swiss today. Very XC-flying conditions on paraglidable.com for the Southern Grisons. So, Chrigel can approach close enough the mountain giant Piz Palü to tick off this difficult turnpoint in flight. Cumuli waft around the summit at 3900 metres above sea level in a blue sky at a quarter to five. At icy heights, Chrigel can even continue flying on the right side of the mountain - towards Italy to Turnpoint 11 Kronplatz. And he keeps on flying and flying and flying. With a climb 2 m/sec, he crosses the border into Italy. Probably with a big grin on his face.
Chrigel's day timing was no less perfect: even before nine o'clock, when cross-country flights rarely start in Fiesch, he climbs below the Eggishorn in the first usable thermal. He escapes threatening glides in the middle of valleys, climbs out everywhere and can complete the route over four (!) high passes, some of which he has flown over several times in his cross-country and competition career. From nine in the morning to seven in the evening - ten hours, 220 kilometres as the crow flies from Fiesch to Merano. What a tremendous flight! One of his best in his long line of inspiring flights.
When detours lead faster to the destination
While Chrigel crowns his ingenious route with a wide arc to the north with thermal flying at icy heights, the next four pursuers opted for the more direct line through Piedmont and Lombardy. But Benoit Outters, Patrick von Känel, Simon Oberrauner and Maxime Pinot finally don’t really move forward in Val Vigezzo. They hike and fly under a dense cloud cover and inefficient thermals in the diffuse light of late afternoon. What a difference to Chrigel's epic flight.
Chrigel's time in Lombardy is short. He quickly leaves Bormio behind and crosses west of the Ortler into South Tyrol. What is there to moan about, whether it would not have been possible to go directly to Merano from an altitude of over 3000 metres...? Webcams already show broad clouds over the chain. More kilometres are no longer free everywhere. But the air is still unstable north of the Ortler, despite plenty of shade. Chrigel climbs well above 3000 metres again and is able to glide down the Vinschgau valley towards Merano. 15 kilometres before the city, his flight ends on the banks of River Etsch. In the end, he his lead over the chasers amounts to about 170 km!
History is being made again on the Simplon Pass
The Simplon has its eternal place in the history of aviation: one of the first daring Alpine flights took place over this high Alpine pass between Switzerland and Italy - with a powered airplane. In September 1910, Jorge Chávez Dartnell flew over the pass coming from Brig and thus became the first person to cross the main ridge of the Alps in a powered aircraft. He crashed on landing in Domodossola from a few metres above the ground and suffered fatal injuries.
Today, the Simplon Pass was Maxime and Benoit's undoing, not as disastrous as for Dartnell, but certainly emotionally very painful for the two ambitious Frenchmen. So, the Simplon now has its eternal place in Master Maurer's X-Alps success story as of today. It was here that France lost the battle to the cunning Swiss.
In Brig, the footpaths of the most-named favourites in 2021, Chrigel and Maxime, parted ways in the morning. At that moment, they were more or less ex equo – in the evening they were separated by a fabulous distance. That beats Chrigel's Titlis move two years ago by a long way. Because this time it is a day's victory, which is practically equivalent to an overall victory. Provided nothing crazy happens to Chrigel on the way to the Kronplatz and the finish on the raft in Zell am See. The weather forecasts also play into Chrigel's favour: little flying is on the agenda, more running from day to day.
The situation of the other pursuers
What remains for the Austrians, Germans, the other Swiss? A lot! Austria has its irresistible Simon Oberrauner in the four-man flying team on the border with the Swiss Ticino. Simon and Patrick von Känel completed an unparalleled catch-up with the ultra-high Monte Rosa South passage. They caught up with the French! Maxime and Benoit, who pushed Chrigel so hard for seven days in the chasing pack, are now under pressure themselves. Most likely, the X-Alps Prince 2021 will be crowned among these four.
Paul Guschlbauer and Tobias Großrubatscher (AUT 1 and ITA 2) are still pushing late today on the Monte Rosa route, but they won't make it to Piedmont. And then it will be difficult to make up ground tomorrow, because the four ahead of Paul and Tobias can tackle the tricky passage into Ticino early in the air. This section is tricky not only because of the valley wind problems that can play a major role there - the longer the day progresses, the more so - but also because of the various airspaces at Locarno Airport, which have to be flown under or around at rather low altitudes.
The weather forecast for the next few days is not such that these strong tacticians and pilots are in danger of losing their enormous lead over the midfield. Except perhaps through the night passes... So, speculation, one allows that today, a real moving day in the race. Anyway: the four are very strong in the race!
Yael Margelisch managed her magic move from the Vorderrheintal yesterday well today and is finely in the race for the Lake Geneva buoy. Her companion from yesterday, Laurie Genovese, is on the dangerous end of the event after Cody Mittanck pulled out (see below) because of the elimination every other day.
Théo de Blic back on the track
Théo de Blic seems to be taking yesterday's encounter with the cableway for goods quite well. But he has to start the day with a small timing problem: he takes off before noon high on the slope above the Furka Pass and the flight to Fiesch presents him with no problems. But as is the case for every athlete: the signboard for turnpoint 7 Aletschregion is down on the valley floor. The precious altitude has to be destroyed - that must hurt the heart - and about 1000 metres of re-ascent cost valuable hours of sunshine. From three o'clock in the afternoon, cirrus clouds start to gather over the whole of the Valais and the cumuli spread into a closed cloud cover. The thermals slowly die out as Théo uses all his tricks to fly twenty kilometres to the bend in the valley near Martigny. So, he is one of those who cannot cross the Rhone valley to Lake Geneva yesterday by flying - a clear handicap for the circumnavigation of Turnpoint 8 Dent d'Oche. Nevertheless, Théo's long march and flight from the Furka to four kilometres before Martigny has brought him closer to a number of people in front. To the rear end of the field he has what seems like a comfortable lead. But there are rumours that he committed an airspace violation! It could be close again... More on that tomorrow.
The not so good news from today
Another bad news for France: "Damien Lacaze (FRA 5) made a 5.4. rule violation at airspace LEYSIN (Lower Valais, note Roli). The Race Committee decided that Damien Lacaze receives a 12 hours time penalty, which he has to take subsequently to his next rest period." Annoying, yes, but he's doing well in the race, so that shouldn't put him in existential trouble given the current weather forecast.
At the back of the field, Cody Mittanck got it today - with an unforeseen end to the race. In Schächental, halfway from the turnpoint Säntis to Fiesch, the American, who was far behind the field, pulled out. The official announcement: "Cody Mittanck (USA2) has withdrawn from Red Bull X-Alps 2021 due to intense pain in his legs."
With greetings from the Bernese Oberland
Roli Mäder (NOVA Team Pilot)