Day 6 of the Red Bull X-Alps 2021 saw the action at the front heating up with a group of pilots chasing Chrigel Maurer down. But at the half way point of the race in terms of time it was Frenchman Maxime Pinot who finished the day in the lead.
The day that saw several changes of the lead, with first France’s Benoit Outters getting out front only to be hauled back in by Chrigel. Later in the day it was Benoit’s compatriot Maxime Pinot who, after an impressive fight back, was able to fly over the head of Chrigel on the final push towards turnpoint 8 at Dent D’Oche landing just ahead. The evening was spent hiking and flying towards the turnpoint with Maxime finishing the day just one kilometre ahead of Chrigel and Simon Oberraner (AUT2) with Benoit not far behind. No wonder one commentator asked “have we ever seen such a closely fought X-Alps?”
Behind them Italy’s Aaron Durogati was also closing in on the turnpoint just ahead of Swiss pilot Patrick von Kânel. Patrick, who had been closed to the lead earlier, had got caught out in the strong valley winds around Martigny causing him to lose time. “I’m back on the ground. Sometimes a single mistake can change a lot but such things happen. I managed to land in a tricky valley wind in Martigny – but my team and I already have a new plan about what to do next.”
Elsewhere at the back the day started with Nick Neynens (NZ1) being eliminated from the race. Nick had been struggling with an ankle injury but said, “I would have liked to continue. I usually get stronger later in the race and my ankle was getting better every day. But this year’s field is so strong that you can’t afford any mistakes.” We later heard that in true kiwi style Nick has decided to continue the route unofficially, “for the adventure.”
Italy’s Nicola Donini was also dealt a blow when he was slapped with a 48-hour penalty for infringing airspace. Rules state that this has to be served after the next rest period so he pulled his night pass meaning the penalty will be delayed to the morning of the next elimination. That puts the pressure on US pilots Cody Mittanck and Gavin McClurg who are at the back of the pack but just 11km behind the two women pilots, Laurie Genovese (FRA4) and Yael Margelisch (SUI4).
Further bad news came late in the evening when it was announced that Thomas Friedrich (AUT3) who had shown such early promise was withdrawing from the race because of injury. A hard landing at the end of his third flight of the day meant he had to be taken for a medical check-up. “Thomas Friedrich encountered an injury during a hard landing this afternoon, which makes it impossible for him to continue the race. Thomas decided to withdraw from the race. The whole Red Bull X-Alps community wishes him all the best for a fast recovery!” was the official statement.
Saturday is forecast to be a good flying day. With base up to 4,000m it could be the perfect chance for the lead pilots to round turnpoint 9, Mont Blanc, before heading back east towards the goal in Zell am See.
Watch the live tracking here.