NOVA X-Alps Blog: WED 23.06.2021
And how would the heroes traverse the wide Rhine Valley? Probably the same way they do many things during this race: they do something that seems impossible to the local pilots, and they do it with excellence. We shall see.
The weather: is in any case nothing for us ordinary pilots! The DHV predicts: "At first still cloudy, then clearing up, in the afternoon on the northern edge of the Alps swelling showers/thunderstorms. In the inner Alps foehny and somewhat more stable. In the late afternoon, a strong, front-like line of thunderstorms is expected to spread from Lake Constance to Austria!"
So, guys and gals: WATCH OUT!
Review on yesterday evening
As expected, opinions were divided in Lermoos: The Swiss double pack with Chrigel Maurer and Patrick von Känel supplemented by Aaron Durogati and Benoit Outters opted for the Inntal route. After a rather “sporty” launch in the lee of the Grubigstein (again nothing for Joe Average, we assume), they benefited from what could still be described as XC flying conditions.
Group North consisting of Paul Guschlbauer, Simon Oberrauner, Tobias Großrubatscher, and the two catching-up pilots Michael Gierlach and Maxime Pinot – aha, the Frenchman considered by many to be the biggest competitor to Chrigel is making up a lot of ground! – opted for the more direct northern line through the Lech Valley.
Nicola Donini and Théo de Blic were unlucky with the daily cycle. While the pilots behind them were able to catch up with good alpine thermals, the favourable weather window had closed after the two NOVA pilots had made the long way to Chiemsee and back to the signboard. "A stupid turnpoint", the two might have thought. Not so, however, Michael Lacher! The man from Allgäu was laughing up his sleeve, flying to the buoy and back in the afternoon in the sweltering heat – almost to the heels of Théo, who had been hiking in the flats for hours. For Nick and Theo, now comes the phase in which they have to fight and demonstrate mental strength.
A different kind of Swiss Day
This is how it went on today: It's almost an X-Alps tradition, that Chrigel leads the field into his home country all alone. Today was different. Patrick von Känel gave him a run for his money and the two Swiss crossed the Rhine and the national border almost simultaneously. Team SUI 1 and SUI 2 showed perfect timing for the day until the afternoon.
In horse racing, they say you can tell the winner at the start. That's exactly what Chrigel and Patrick did. They climbed at dawn south of the Arlberg to around 2700 metres. An early glide took them a long way and was perfectly timed with the thermals. For the next few hours, plagued by low clouds and wind, but persevering, they worked their way forward towards the Rhine Valley. Their route was ideally situated for the safest traverse across the wide Rhine valley to the Gonzen with a connection to the Churfirsten. From there, the cylinder of the turnpoint Säntis could be taken in a glide at best.
But then the Swiss Express came to a standstill. A low cloud-base and shadowing forced them both to the land a few hundred metres below the turning cylinder. Ascent on foot. And then came what was also different on this Swiss Day. The ever-present pursuers of these days caught up mightily!
Pinot turns on the turbo – smart Aaron
Maxime Pinot was finally able to shake off all the wrong decisions and bad weather he had suffered over long stretches. His route from the Lechtal via Feldkirch directly into the Toggenburg near Buchs was clearly faster than that of the two Swiss, as well as the again somewhat different route in the Inntal, which Benoit Outters and Aaron Durogati flew. Before crossing the Rhine, Maxime overtook compatriot Benoit. Then, beyond the Liechtenstein-Switzerland border, he almost caught up with Aaron.
But only almost... Because now the Italian had the luck completely on his side. He crossed low over the Rhine close to Maxime, found a strongly offset thermals in the flat valley and then somewhat calmer ones in the higher high valley of Toggenburg. It was just enough to overtake the two Swiss hikers in the air just metres from the turning cylinder on the slopes of Säntis. A magical X-Alps moment! So, the Swiss led the race safely and well into Switzerland, but the Italian took the lead comfortably and in style - in Switzerland. A small sensation, because it's been a long time since no Swiss led in Switzerland. And before Chrigel, it was often a Swiss in the long X-Alps history. In any case, we can't remember and would be happy to know more about it. Who can help?
Maxime, meanwhile, had to land at the beginning of Toggenburg, a few kilometres before Säntis. He again lost more than an hour to the new leader. Once more bad luck for the Frenchman. Yet, Chrigel should have more reason to worry. Or not... He has been flying competitions for about twenty years and has won many in infight with other favourites.
Hooray, X-Alps with excitement!
The wonderful thing for us couch potatoes is that things are finally going differently than so many times before. At the moment, the question is not: Who will take first place BEHIND Chrigel? The question is: Who will take first place? There is an international, broad leading group. Chrigel's home game is clearly spicier than ever. His Titlis move of 2019 - that was not possible elsewhere today.
A few factors spoke against it: low cloud-base, shading, wind, wind shear. Exciting for me (today Roli Mäder writes again from Switzerland), where it goes through with these conditions and rather bad forecasts for the next two days. Whoever decides which route to Fiesch: as in Austria and Germany, it's a matter of coming smartly from the foothills of the Alps into the high mountains. Many roads lead to Fiesch, especially with the announced low altitudes, windy conditions higher up, short flying hours and most likely long hours of hiking.
On the way towards Fiesch
Around six o'clock in the evening, eight pilots were already on the other side of the Rhine on Swiss soil, past the Säntis turnpoint or close to it. A real top crowd is its way over the high mountains to the paragliding Mecca of Fiesch.
After a glide into Toggenburg, Chrigel and Patrick and Aaron took off high above Lake Walen and set the course for their further route choice into Glarnerland. Chrigel in front kept finding magical climbs in almost completely shaded terrain and, in keeping with his status as champion, temporarily pulled away a little. But only "a little" and anything but "clearly".
More about the route in tomorrow's review, when it will be clear where the athletes have been sleeping. It would be nice for Maxime, after his super performance today, if he also managed the descent into Glarnerland. It's hard to say with the weather bubbling away.
So, let's skip the midfield today, which was thinned out a bit, and report from the very back instead.
Dawn for the NOVA boys
Nicola Donini, tired of hiking, crossed the Inn valley after looooong tactical waiting in the morning. When he took off, he was in last place (!) and had do make up important ground. The nerve of that boy...! He overtook Gavin McClurg and Nick Neynens and clearly got rid of the place at the end of the leader board. In fact, he found a connection with a loose group of no less than nine athletes heading for Lermoos, spread over thirty kilometres.
Théo de Blic once again swapped places with Nick in the internal NOVA duel. The Frenchman showed a willingness to hike and flew over the most difficult terrain with his outstanding glider control. Over the roofs of Josefsthal, he passed Schliersee Lake flying, hit the mountains south of Tegernsee Lake, still in the air, and almost caught up with the respectable group on their way to Lermoos. So, everything was back in the green for Théo. Many a tide can still turn and the ranking can change rapidly and clearly.
In any case, we are already looking forward to tomorrow. It’s so exciting!!
PS: This is the video of day 4. You can also watch more of our current clips on the Facebook playlist.