This year’s Red Bull X-Alps could be postponed until August, according to an email sent out to X-Alps pilots earlier this week.
With the pandemic in Europe in a ‘third wave’ and cases rising in every country that the Red Bull X-Alps is set to race through, a start date of mid-June is looking questionable.
According to the email, race organisers have set a date of 12 April to make the decision on whether it will go ahead as planned on the original date.
The race is officially set to start on 20 June. Before that the Prologue, the one-day pre-event hike-and-fly race, is set to take place on 17 June in Wagrain, Kleinarl in the Austrian Alps.
Athletes typically start arriving in Austria one week ahead of the Prologue – only 11 weeks away.
If the race is postponed until August it will mean very different conditions on the ground and in the air. August is typically much hotter on the ground and can see stable conditions in the air.
With the FAI Paragliding World Championships already cancelled because of the pandemic, the Red Bull X-Alps is the highest profile event in the paragliding calendar this year. As a privately-run race it does not need to satisfy any bureaucratic rules and regulations from CIVL or the FAI, but it does need to be run in accordance with national guidelines and law.
The race route was announced 10 days ago and will take pilots from Austria to Germany, back into Austria, through Switzerland and into France and Mont Blanc.
Pilots must then go around Mont Blanc anti-clockwise, into Italy, back into Switzerland and then on through Italy again to race finish in Austria.
All of those countries are seeing rising cases of Covid-19 and several are starting to reintroduce national and local lockdowns. Cases have surged in France, Germany and Italy in recent days.
Lockdowns in Europe make it hard for European pilots to train properly for the race, while international travel restrictions make it difficult for pilots from outside the EU to travel into the region.
The email to pilots said a decision on whether the Red Bull X-Alps will go ahead as planned is expected on 12 April. No official public comment has been made by race organisers or title-sponsor Red Bull.