The Red Bull X-Alps 2021 started in a blazing hot Salzburg at 11:30am on Sunday 20 June. Twenty-nine athletes were in the final line-up, and it was twenty-year-old Tommy Friedrich (AUT3) who made it to the top of the Gaisberg, Turnpoint 1, first in just under an hour, to claim the ‘King of the Gaisberg’ crown.
The wind, which had been too strong to fly earlier in the day, had dropped to launchable levels (pilots were not allowed to launch until it dropped below 30km/h). Tommy was first off, quickly followed by all the other athletes.
The youngster had an astounding start to his debut X-Alps, having come third in the Prologue to win himself an extra night pass, along with Chrigel Maurer and Maxime Pinot whose arrival just one minute apart was testament to a very exciting Prologue race.
But the X-Alps is very much an ultra-marathon and not a sprint, and what happens in the first few hours is soon forgotten as the race continues. The weather for day one was hot and sticky: 30-degree heat to hike in on the ground, hazy, hot air, in this case peppered with Saharan dust to fly through.
Maxime Pinot (FRA1) was first to Turnpoint 2, Wagrain-Kleinarl, landing at around 6pm followed by Patrick Von Känel (SUI2) on foot.
The end-of play rankings when athletes stopped for the night at 10:30pm showed Markus Anders (GER2) in the lead, four kilometres ahead of Patrick Von Känel and Benoît Outters (FRA2), with Maxime and Chrigel just a few kilometres behind.
After his astonishing start, Tommy Friedrich had a more difficult day later, making some decisions in the air which set him back. “I should have waited a bit more maybe, it was a small wrong decision. It happens, it’s ok. It was quite difficult, there were shadows and high clouds.”
Also towards the back of the pack were veterans Gavin McClurg (USA1) and Nick Neynens (NZL1), both of whom were nursing injuries, and Tom Coconea (ROU) but as we have learned from previous editions, everything can change in the blink of an eye.
Day 2’s forecast is for flyable conditions in the morning, as the athletes head towards Turnpoint 3 Kitzbühel Hahnenkamm and then north towards Chiemsee, although overdevelopment is likely in the afternoon.
Athletes have a staggered start to Day 2, based on their Prologue times which means Chrigel sets off one minute ahead of Maxime and so on. Nick Neynens and Michael Lacher (GER3) were additionally penalised with a three-hour delay for their Day 2 start, by missing a Turnpoint each in the Prologue.
Watch the live tracking and see all the updates as they come in at redbullxalps.com.