Pierre Carter in for Red Bull X-Alps 2013

Today Red Bull X-Alps announced the list of 31 athletes that have been accepted to compete in the 2013 edition of this challenging biannual run-paraglide event. Athletes run, hike and paraglide (when possible) a 900-kilometre distance through the Alps from Salzburg to Monacco. They have to navigate too, choosing routes between checkpoints. South African Pierre Carter (FEAT speaker, Oct 2010) will be on the start line up in Salzburg for the third time.

I hold Pierre somewhat responsible for FEAT coming into being. Back in 2009 I was in a job I really didn’t like and because I know the sister of the guy who was Pierre’s support for this event (James Braid), I found out about Red Bull X-Alps and I followed the race online and through James’ regular written reports. I was totally captivated. And it got me thinking, “This guy is an incredible athlete and no-one knows about him!”.

So, I resigned from the hateful job (I’d only been there eight months) and decided to go on my own again, focusing on athletes and writing publicity elements around them for their sponsors. My reasoning was that if the sponsors got more benefit from their sponsorship of athletes then they’d be more likely to keep sponsoring them and even increase sponsorship – like from product to cash. While this didn’t work – I couldn’t convince sponsoring companies to invest in PR to get them more from their athletes – the idea for FEAT began to take root. Pierre was a speaker at the first edition of FEAT in October 2010.

During the last edition of Red Bull X-Alps (mid-2011) I was again absolutely transfixed. I totally blew my bandwidth having the tracking on day and night. Thank goodness the race has a compulsory stop period from about 11pm to 6am or such. That’s when I slept too.

The stage that stands out really clearly is when Pierre logged something like 107 kilometres, on foot, in one day! And also when the pilots finally got some wind and they were taking off one-by-one and spiraling upwards on thermals. Actually,I blogged about this on the day and I even took screen shots of the spirals – so pretty. And then there was one of the much later stages when Christian Maurer flew something incredible like over 300 kilometres! And then he ‘wrote’ hello in a field by running around the field with his tracking device on – that was especially for us followers.

So, it is with great delight that I’ve received a release from Red Bull about the line up for the 2013 event. I recognise many of them from the last event.

Here’s the release:

The Red Bull X-Alps is pleased to announce that 31 athletes from 21 countries have been selected to take part in the world’s toughest adventure race next July 7 – an almost 900km race across the Alps from Salzburg to Monaco, in which competitors must either hike or fly.

The line-up consists of some legendary characters and many familiar names in the 10-year history of the Red Bull X-Alps. But there is also plenty of new talent keen to take on the world’s toughest adventure race – and challenge the two-time champion Christian Maurer (SUI1).

Comments Christoph Weber, race director: “Selecting the athletes was a really difficult task. We received a large number of applications from highly qualified individuals – world-class adventurers with very impressive flying credentials. The line-up promises to be even stronger than in previous years. It’s going to be an exciting race!”

Applications came from all over the world and include champion paragliders, Everest summiteers and explorers. One of the main names to watch will be the Nepalese adventurer Babu Sunuwar (NPL), competing for the first time. In 2011, the 29-year-old climbed Mt Everest (for the fourth time), paraglided from the summit, then kayaked to the sea, a feat that earned him the accolade, National Geographic ‘adventurer of the year’.

Other athletes coming from far away include Australian gold prospector Lloyd Pennicuik (AUS), back for a third time in his quest for a different kind of gold. Familiar names include Michael Gebert (GER1). Unsurprisingly, he is hoping to spend more time in the air this time around – in 2011 he famously hiked 991km! Another athlete famous for his capacity for endurance is Toma Coconea (ROM) who has competed in every Red Bull X-Alps to date. He is back for his sixth dose of suffering, pain and glory.

Some athletes bring impressive mountaineering talent – Antoine Girard (FRA2) has soloed K2 without oxygen. Others spring from a wide range of professions such as Stephan Haase (USA2) and Iñigo Gabiria (ESP) – both firefighters – to three-time athlete Honza Rejmanek (USA1), whose job as an atmospheric scientist gives him an analytical understanding of the sky.

Christian Maurer (SUI1) will of course be on the start line to defend his title. The Swiss flying ace, a former paragliding world champion, smashed the course record in 2009 and dominated the 2011 edition from the start. Will 2013 see a challenger to his reign?

Other names to watch include Max Mittmann (GER3), who will be competing for the first time. The 36-year-old finished 2nd, just one kilometer behind Maurer, when they raced against each other at Bordairline Interlaken. A big-wall and alpine climber who’s run a 2:50 marathon, Mittmann’s race strategy is to ‘enjoy the torture’. Another is Thomas Hofbauer (AUT3), 40, also a rookie. He has achieved several paragliding podiums including a first place at the 2012 Crossalps.

For the fans following the action, whether on location or via Live Tracking on the website, the Red Bull X-Alps will provide a feast of drama, action and adventure.

The confirmed entries are listed below:

1. Claudio Heidel (ARG)
2. Lloyd Pennicuik (AUS)
3. Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1)
4. Mike Küng (AUT2)
5. Thomas Hofbauer (AUT3)
6. Thomas de Dorlodot (BEL)
7. Max Fanderl (CAN)
8. Iñigo Gabiria (ESP)
9. Clement Latour (FRA1)
10. Antoine Girard (FRA2)
11. Victor Sebe (FRA3)
12. Jon Chambers (GBR)
13. Michael Gebert (GER1)
14. Lars Budack (GER2)
15. Max Mittmann (GER3)
16. Aaron Durogati (ITA1)
17. Peter Gebhard (ITA2)
18. Kaoru Ogisawa (JPN1)
19. Shoichiro Tadano (JPN2)
20. Pil Pyo Hong (KOR)
21. Ferdinand Van Schelven (NED)
22. Babu Sunuwar (NPL)
23. Pawel Faron (POL)
24. Toma Coconea (ROM)
25. Pierre Carter (RSA)
26. Evgenii Griaznov (RUS)
27. Christian Maurer (SUI1)
28. Martin Muller (SUI2)
29. Honza Rejmanek (USA1)
30. Stephan Haase (USA2)
31. Raul Penso (VEN)

The Red Bull X-Alps 2013 will be the sixth edition of the world’s toughest adventure race in which athletes must either hike or fly almost 900km across the Alps from Salzburg to Monaco in the fastest time possible. Every kilometer must be covered either on foot or flown in a paraglider. It’s a formidable undertaking and takes place in one of most breathtaking yet also unforgiving environments.

Each team consists of one athlete and up to two supporters. No technical or outside assistance is allowed. It requires expert paragliding experience and a very high level of endurance fitness – it’s not uncommon for athletes to hike up to 100km in a day. The 2013 edition comes on the ten-year anniversary of the first Red Bull X-Alps.

www.redbullxalps.com (also on FB and Twitter; Twitter is AMAZING to follow during the event)