Five-time winner looks back on most challenging victory to date

Christian Maurer is an expert in suffering but the Swiss competitor has never known a tougher X-Alps than his fifth victory.

Facing torrential rain and high winds at the start, the route from Salzburg to Monaco took him 10 days, 23 hours and 23 minutes to complete, astonishingly five days longer than his previous best.

Twice, he had to fly back on himself, on one occasion adding a further 15 kilometres to a journey which saw him fly 1,736 kilometres and hike 532km in total.

Speaking in the aftermath of a fifth win, Maurer, who also suffered with a knee injury on route, said: “It was the hardest one for me as the route was long and the first day was hard rain so I had to walk the whole time. With all that wind and rain, it makes it very difficult.

“Twice I had bad experiences and I had to fly back. I had to make the decision whether it was safe for me or not.

“So one time I had to fly on the flat 15km back, knowing I’d have to hike that back. It was the only route to safety.”

Despite the perils of the route, which saw him drop back to 21st at one point, he managed to take the victory by a margin of a relatively small two hours over nearly 12 days of racing.

Since finishing, he admits to resting and sleeping a lot during the day, struggling to stay on his feet for more than an hour before his knee gets sore and his legs tired.

But still fresh in his head is the sensation of victory. It is not something he has tired of, even at the fifth time.

“Getting to fly in at the end was a very emotional moment,” he said. “That flight was on high tension but, when I landed, it was the best feeling. I wanted to land on the beach to win and I could do that this year, and I could swim in the sea to celebrate.”

Despite his dominance in recent years, Maurer is adamant that it is never easy, even though there are times in favourable conditions when he has made it look so.

Having hiked over 500km – usually in the race he averages 300km – the toll on the body was bigger than ever, Maurer eating 10 power bars a day and up to 10,000 calories in any given 24 hours.

But perhaps the surprising factor is in how much sleep he managed to bank on the route.

“At the start, we wanted to push so there was not much sleep so I’d go to bed at 11.30 and wake up at 4.45am but, as we went on, I slept more and more, even 10 hours on one night,” he said.

“It’s a balancing act. With more sleep, you make better decisions, quicker decisions so that helps on the route.”

Despite the attritional nature of this year’s race, Maurer admitted to enjoying it more than any before, a target of his prior to the race start.
“This was a big goal because always I’m suddenly like ‘oh, it’s over’,” he said, “so I said I must enjoy it. I did that more by swimming in a lake, having pizza in a restaurant and talking more with my team.”

As for where the motivation comes from having been the dominant force in X-Alps now for so long, Maurer says he breaks it down to small steps rather than looking at the bigger picture.

And as for whether he returns to defend his title in two years time is another matter.

“Right now, I’m tired and my body hurts,” he added. “I will see if I’m fit and have good enough preparation but it’s an event I love.” ■

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