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Clock Stops on the World's Toughest Adventure Race

Press Release / 06.07.2021See All Event Posts Follow Event
Patrick von Känel, Maxime Pinot, Benoît Outters, Simon Oberrauner and Chrigel Maurer (from left to right).
Patrick von Känel, Maxime Pinot, Benoît Outters, Simon Oberrauner and Chrigel Maurer (from left to right). / © zooom / Vitek Ludvik

It is known as the world’s toughest adventure race for a reason. Also, this year the Red Bull X-Alps did not disappoint. Over the past two weeks, 29 athletes from 15 countries attempted the most challenging course in the race’s 18-year history, a 1,238km loop around the Alps via five countries – Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy, before finishing again in Austria.

The lineup included the best hike-and-fly athletes in the world, but they were not just competing against each other but against an even greater foe – the weather. It threw everything at them, from scorching temperatures over 30ºC, to rain, thunderstorms, hailstorms and fresh snow in the high mountains.

“It’s been a great race,” says third placed Austrian athlete Simon Oberrauner. “It’s like a compressed year of flying and hiking experiences. If you want to have the most intense time you can imagine with a team, and if you like adventure and going into the unknown – because you cannot plan this race or the weather – you have to do this race. If you keep on pushing, hiking and flying you get progress and that is something so beautiful to experience.”

Race organizer Ulrich Grill, who created the race in 2003 together with the late adventurer Hannes Arch, said this year was particularly challenging for athletes. “It was a really tough race. Not only was it the longest race in the event’s history, but the second week was characterized by really rough conditions for competitors, forcing them to hike incredible distances on foot over the mountains. But that is part of the adventure – sometimes you can fly far in the air; at other times you’re forced to go on foot.”

One athlete who covered more kilometers than most was the French competitor Benoît Outters, who is known for his incredible endurance. In the past 40 hours of the race, he hiked an incredible 170km and 7,700 vertical meters to make the finish line late on Wednesday. In total he hiked an astonishing 597km in 11 days and flew 1,644km.

Grill added: “But the best part of this race has been to see it go ahead with so many athletes from around the world competing across Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy. After all the uncertainty of the past 18 months it has been wonderful to see the Red Bull X-Alps leading the way for the re-opening of the Alps to hikers, adventurers and paragliders! It’s a great thing to see.”

The race began Sunday June 20th in Salzburg and the start of the race was characterized by a heatwave that created soaring temperatures for athletes as they tagged the first Turnpoints of Wagrain-Kleinarl, Kitzbühel and Chiemgau-Achental. 

The six-time champion Chrigel Maurer made his first move at the end of Day two between Turnpoints Chiemgau-Achental and Lermoos, in the Tiroler Zugspitz arena. He climbed a 1,800m peak and managed an evening glide that gained him 20km on his rivals. 

But in contrast to previous years the chaser group reined him back in. Meanwhile, France’s Maxime Pinot, who was leading at Day one made a disastrous mistake on the approach to Kitzbühel and found himself in the middle of the pack. He would spend the next few days making a heroic comeback, clawing his way back to the front. During Day 7, he flew wingtip-to-wingtip with Maurer as they rounded the race’s biggest challenge, the Mont Blanc massif, Turnpoint 9. “My style is to attack,” Pinot said. “Plus, I was on home territory.”

For much of the day it was Pinot who led, leaving Maurer on the back foot. At the end of the day Maurer knew he needed to do something extraordinary to shake off the Frenchman. And that’s exactly what he did. Ignoring the weather forecasts that promised better weather in the south, he stayed north in familiar territory he knew well. But it was the fight of his life – at times the wind was blowing 50km/h and he suffered multiple collapses as he encountered strong turbulence. But the move worked; by the end of the day he was 150km ahead of Pinot. 

“The conditions were difficult, but I know what I can do with my wing,” Maurer said afterwards. He added: “Finally, when I saw the lead, I could relax.”

All that remained in his path to an historic seventh victory were the Turnpoints of Kronplatz, Italy, and Schmittenhöhe, overlooking the finish line of Zell am See, Austria. Maurer eventually crossed the finish line, a landing float on the water after 8 days and 6 hours. “It makes it really special to win like this so I’m really happy,” he said. 

Fellow Swiss competitor Patrick von Känel took second place, arriving a day later, while the Austrian athlete Simon Oberrauner took the third place, arriving ten minutes after von Känel. A clearly disappointed Maxime Pinot (FRA1) arrived an hour later. “Of course, it is disappointing, but I lost in the end and that’s the game. The others flew really well,” he said. 

Full a full breakdown of the results, stories, images, videos and more go to

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