It looks pretty crazy from a distance, what the hand-picked X-Alps athletes are going for: 1,000 KM distance on the map, 70,000 M of ascend and descend, crisscrossing the Alps hiking and paragliding… We talked to SOURCE Athlete Thomas Hofbauer, and found out just how extreme this challenge really is. 

It’s two weeks to the big race. Thomas Hofbauer is one of three athletes supported by SOURCE that got invited by Red Bull X-Alps. He is relaxed – and fully aware of what he’s getting himself into. He is the two-time winner of the Boardairline series, a series of shorter paragliding and hiking-races in the Alps. He is full of respect for the ‘big one’ coming up.

The X in X-Alps stands for ‘crossing’ the Alps. But there’s also the X as in ‘extreme’. Hofbauer approaches the upcoming strenuous (and yes, dangerous) 1,000 KM challenge with highly professional physical and tactical preparation.


Thomas Hofbauer with his supporter checking out one of the Turn-Points (Vera Polaschegg)


It’s about preparation and physical strength

The athletes, hiking and flying the race with their paraglider, have to be on top of things at all times. The tactical objective, Hofbauer explains, is to fly as much as possible to get from A to B – but the hiking is just as decisive for the race.

Thomas is ready to hike 80-100 KM a day. But he adds: “Going for 100 KM a day means taking a higher risk of injury.”  Therefore he will start with a more controllable pace in the first days of the race. Hoping for some luck and good weather to paraglide a long way.


It’s about risk-management and flying skills

“Previous X-Alps winners covered about 2/3 of the distance in the air,” Thomas says, and he says it with a lot of appreciation. It’s about catching the right drift. It’s about judgment: “If you’re flying when you shouldn’t be flying, just to cover some extra KMs, you will end up in a tree on one of the first days.”

Of course it’s also about preparation and then choosing the perfect route. All the athletes scout as much of the route as possible in the months leading up to the race. But it’s impossible to cover the entire journey. With Google Earth, Hofbauer prepared six, seven, eight routes for every part of the race. Depending on weather and physical condition he hopes this will give him all the options he might need.


Some numbers: The rough distances and altitude gains of the race


Only two or three athletes get to finish the race

In the last years, only one or two athletes made it to the finish line – next to the winner. The book says: 48 hours after the first team gets to Monaco, the race is over. Some of the athletes didn’t even make it in time for the party, because they were too far away from Monaco to even cover the distance by car in time.

The race starts on July 7th in Salzburg. How long will it last? Two weeks? Three weeks? Nobody knows. It all depends on the weather – and of course on the athletes.

For more info, check out last month’s blogpost. We’ll keep you posted on our SOURCE Facebook page and here in our Source Outdoor Blog. Good luck to the SOURCE Athletes Lars Budack, Chrigel Maurer and Thomas Hofbauer – and to all their competitors! Have a great race!