Austrian adventurer, pilot and athlete Paul Gauschlbauer can’t believe come June 20 he’ll be competing in Red Bull X-Alps for the sixth time, and again chasing the Eagle across the Alps. “It means I’ve experienced more than 50 percent of the race’s history, which seems crazy somehow,” he says. “I have really lived and developed along with that race.”
Making a tough race tougher
The 37-year-old Suunto athlete landed in third place in the last three editions of the hike and paragliding race that starts in Salzburg and has, until now, ended on the Mediterranean Sea in Monaco. He is continuing to chase the Eagle, aka Chrigel Maurer, the generational paragliding talent that has won every race since 2009, and seems unassailable in his dominance.
But perhaps the 10th edition will challenge him in new ways. The race organizers – always looking for fresh ways to make the race tougher – have implemented what Paul says is the biggest change in race history; instead of making their way from alpine peaks to the Mediterranean Sea, the 33 competitors will travel a full circle starting in Salzburg, to Mont Blanc and then ending back in the waters of Zell am See, Austria.
“I think it’s tougher to make it to the goal because it’s longer,” Paul says. “We are always staying up in the high mountains. I always had the feeling in previous races that once we made it to Mont Blanc we’d basically already made it to Monaco, because the last stage was usually really fast, no more than a day from Mont Blanc down to the sea. Now we are arriving at Mont Blanc and we have to do the same thing one more time. It’s going to be really challenging.”
The longest Red Bull X-Alps ever
At 1,238 km, it’s the longest route in the race’s history, 100km further than 2019. “It’s a new chapter for the Red Bull X-Alps,” says race director Christoph Weber. “The race committee wanted to make the tenth edition of the race one to remember so we decided to break away from the past and design a completely new route; a route where athletes will be geographically closer together. The days when lead athletes enjoyed good conditions at the front while those further back suffered bad weather is less likely as they’ll all be experiencing the same weather. That will add an interesting dynamic to race.”
One watch for every kilometer
Suunto and Red Bull X-Alps have a long history of working together to help athletes push their limits. To celebrate the 10th and longest edition of the race, we are launching 1238 Suunto 9 Baro Titanium Red Bull X-Alps Limited Edition watches – one for each kilometre of the race. This rare watch has a titanium bezel with Red Bull X-Alps Limited Edition text on both sides and red ink-fill on top. Each one is numbered with a corresponding kilometre of the race. The Special Edition watch has a blue textile quick-release strap in two lengths with a Red Bull X-Alps and Suunto logo. An additional dual color silicone strap is included in the box. Snap one up here!
Paul and his support person are currently training hard to prepare for the race. The COVID-19 pandemic has made preparation more challenging – Paul and his whole family came down with virus and all fortunately recovered. “I've had a hard time preparing because there was really no assurance that we were really going to race at all, he says. “Now I hope it won’t affect the race anymore.”
Follow the incredible action live
With Red Bull X-Alps you can count on every single day involving rocky ascents, dizzying flights and crucial, strategic decisions – a challenge for both body and mind. With a more demanding route than ever before, Red Bull X-Alps 2021 will be full of drama, adventure, and high-alpine action. The winner will need to be smart, strong, a master of both planning and reactivity – and have a little bit of luck.
Tune in to the race along with millions of fans via its Live Tracking! Find an athlete from your country and support them from afar!
Lead images: © Nico Holzmeyer