- The race start will be live-streamed on X-Pyr’s Facebook page from 9.15am local time, Sunday 26 June 2022.
The X-Pyr 2022 kicks off this weekend and it looks set to be one of the most action-packed ever.
Now in its tenth year this will be the fifth edition of the trans-Pyrenees hike-and-fly race.
Like all previous editions, the race will start in Hondarribia on the Atlantic coast and will finish in El Port de la Selva on the Mediterranean.
In between pilots must tag eight turnpoints over the 605.5km course line. This year there is literally a twist in the route – a giant ‘X’ in the centre of the course means pilots must go back on themselves to tag mid-race turnpoints before crossing the main spine of the mountain chain and continuing east.
“It’s longer, more complex, more international and more challenging!” organisers said.
Inspired by the famous Red Bull X-Alps and created by Íñigo Redin in 2012, the first X-Pyr had 13 teams and was 400km long.
This edition 45 teams – a competition pilot and their official supporter – signed up.
Top of the list is seven-time Red Bull X-Alps champion and three-time X-Pyr winner Chrigel Maurer.
He said he was looking forward to having “a real adventure race.”
He said: “The X-Pyr is the only competition which starts on the beach and ends on the beach. I like the adventure, to move into the wild and try to manage myself and have a good time with my friends – this is how it was in the past!”
Joining him at the elite level is Frenchman Maxime Pinot. His head-to-head racing with Chrigel Maurer in last year’s Red Bull X-Alps was a highlight. At one point it looked like he might be able to outsmart Chrigel the Eagle, but in a soul-crushing move the day after rounding Mont Blanc Chrigel outflew him and the rest of the pilots to stamp his authority over the race yet again.
Maxime, who has come second and fourth in the Red Bull X-Alps, second in the X-Pyr (2018) and won the Paragliding World Cup Superfinal (2014) will be keen to keep Chrigel in his sights throughout the race.
A former student of the French sports school in Font Romeu in the eastern part of the Pyrenees, he knows these mountains well and has competed in them many times. “Wild is probably the best definition,” he said.
While many will be focused on the battle between Chrigel and Maxime, there are many other extremely good pilots in the lineup.
Simon Oberrauner, from Austria, who was third in the Red Bull X-Alps last year, is taking part for the first time. He said: “I think it’s a very challenging area to fly because of strong winds and limited options for support. I have a lot of respect flying in the Pyrenees and I will try to prepare for the difficulties as well as possible.”
Former Paragliding World Champion (2017) and PWCA Superfinal winner (2018) Pierre Rémy meanwhile is not only one of the best racing pilots in the world, he’s on home turf. It might be his first X-Pyr, but he lives “in the middle of the mountains in the Pyrenees” and does 80% of his flying here.
Also on home turf, and also taking part in the X-Pyr for the first time, is Spain’s grandmaster of paragliding Xevi Bonet. Xevi has been flying and winning international paragliding competitions for 25 years. A regular in these mountains he said of the route: “The first and last sections are the most complicated, with small mountains and airspace. And if we fly in France we have to be careful – cloudbase is generally lower on that side and the breezes are very strong.”
As well as the elite racers, dozens of ambitious and expert pilots are also taking part. Many of them have flown in the X-Pyr before while lots have local knowledge.
Kinga Masztalerz is the only woman in the race and a first-time X-Pyr pilot. A veteran of the Red Bull X-Alps (2019), she said: “I can’t wait to explore the Pyrenees. My impression is they can be rough, hot and windy – similar to our New Zealand Southern Alps!”
The competition starts at 10am local time on Sunday 26 June and will be live-streamed on the X-Pyr’s Facebook page from 9.15am local time.
The race will finish one week later on 2 July. Leading pilots are expected to complete the course in about five days.
Unlike the Red Bull X-Alps, there is no “axeman” for the back markers – pilots keep going for as long as they can.
There will be three live tracking systems in operation during the race:
XCSkies is providing three levels of dedicated soaring forecast for the race