The Red Bull X-Alps 2021 athlete line-up was announced on Wednesday 14 October – 33 athletes including 13 rookies and three women – and the questions started immediately.
Will Chrigel be able to do it again? He’s back, with old supporter Thomas Theurillat. This is the dream team that re-invented the X-Alps a decade ago, kicking it up a gear and showing what could be done: will their magic still work?
Or will one of the phenomenally strong, ambitious and hungry – oh so hungry! – French or Swiss pilots snatch Chrigel’s crown? Maxime Pinot, Benoit Outters and Patrick von Kaenel all have podium potential and want it badly.
Then, next story, what about the women? Three strong contenders this year in Laurie Genovese (FR), Yael Margelisch (CH) and Kinga Masztalerz (NZ). Laurie and Yael are two of the best female competition pilots in the world – Paragliding World Cup and World Championship veterans; but both are unproven in the Red Bull X-Alps race arena. Kinga, who won legions of fans in 2019 has the adventure flying background, but how will she fly against Yael and Laurie? There is no official women’s class in the Red Bull X-Alps, but this edition there is definitely a race between the women.
Veterans, well there are a few. The Red Bull X-Alps wouldn’t be the X-Alps without Romanian Running Man Toma Coconea. He’s been at this game forever, has seen the highs and lows and has grown through it. Now, a member of the Advance team (alongside Chrigel Maurer and Aaorn Durogati) he says he’d been focusing on his flying. His huge support team will be cheering him on from around the world, whatever happens.
Ferdy van Schelven is back; Nick Neynens (NZ) is back; Paul Guschlbauer (AT); Manu Nubel (DE); Ogi is back! He’s 60!; Gavin McClurg (USA); Cody Mittanck (USA); and of course, Tom de Dorlodot. Simon Oberrauner (AT) and Tobias Grossrubatschr (ITA) – the ‘rookies’ from 2017 are now on their third race. All these guys are veterans at this game, all back for more.
Rookies: Damien Lacaze is an outstanding adventure and competition pilot who has a real chance of doing well in his first race. Thomas Friedrich (AT) is just 19 and the youngest ever competitor. He’s been around this race for a quarter of his life – he helped support Simon Obberauner in 2015. His grin is infectious, but will he be able to grin all the way to the Mediterranean?
The surprises from Acro-landia: Italy’s Nicola Donini has been flying since he was a boy, the son of Paragliding World Champion Luca Donini he has paragliding in his blood. And Théo de Blic! Theo, the acro maestro who is never off social media has fought his way into the game. Will he rise to the challenge? Whatever happens, it will all be documented on Insta Stories in real-time. Spectators will be gripped!
Then there are the unknowns: Steve Bramfitt from the UK; Andrei Mashak from Russia; Dagfinn Graneng from Norway; Ken Oguma from Japan; Antonio Filho from Brazil; Dagfinn Graneng from Norway. All first-rate rookies with good backgrounds in flying.
Obvious pilots missing from the line-up? France’s Antoine Girard and Gaspard Petiot. Both have been at the top of the leaderboard in this race; now they have stepped down.
The Red Bull X-Alps is a phenomenal race and a brilliant spectator sport too. We’ll be watching closely until the race kicks off in June next year. From now until then the training regimes truly kick in. It’s packs on, heart-rate monitors on, and Red Bull for breakfast, lunch and dinner from now until next summer. Let the games begin!
The full line-up
Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1), veteran
Simon Oberrauner (AUT2), veteran
Thomas Friedrich (AUT3), veteran
Tom de Dorlodot (BEL), veteran
Antonio Filho (BRA), rookie
Maxime Pinot (FRA1), veteran
Benoit Outters (FRA2), veteran
Théo de Blic (FRA3), rookie
Laurie Genovese (FRA4), rookie (F)
Damien Lacaze (FRA5), rookie
Steve Bramfitt (GBR), rookie
Manu Nubel (GER1), veteran
Markus Anders (GER2), veteran
Michael Lacher (GER3), veteran
Aaron Durogati (ITA1), veteran
Tobias Grossrubatscher (ITA2), veteran
Nicola Donini (ITA3), rookie
Kaoru Ogisawa (JPN1), veteran
Ken Oguma (JPN2), rookie
Eduardo Garza (MEX), veteran
Ferdinand Van Schelven (NED), veteran
Dagfinn Graneng (NOR), rookie
Nick Neynens (NZL1), veteran
Kinga Masztalerz (NZL2), veteran
Michal Gierlach (POL), veteran
Toma Coconea (ROU), veteran
Andrei Mashak (RUS), rookie
Chrigel Maurer (SUI1), veteran
Patrick Von Kaenel (SUI2), veteran
Hanes Kämpf (SUI3), rookie
Yael Margelisch (SUI4), rookie
Gavin McClurg (USA1), veteran
Cody Mittanck (USA2), veteran