Nicola Donini and Formula 1 Paragliding

Nicola Donini and Formula 1 Paragliding
Monday 22 March 2021

1238 km and 33 pilots from 15 countries: the tenth edition of the Red Bull X-Alps promises to be memorable.

Considered by many as the hardest adventure race in the world, it officially starts on 20 June 2021. We will see athletes from all over the world testing their abilities to the limit in endurance hiking, trail running, mountaineering, and paragliding.

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Among the protagonists is Nicola Donini, a pilot born in Molveno and taking part in this competition for the first time.

"I have been a fan of the Red Bull X-Alps since I started paragliding and I have been dreaming of taking part for a long time," recounted Nicola to the race organizers.

Nicola feels very much at home in the skies. Born in 1996, he took his first solo flight at 11 years and in 2013 at just 17 he became the youngest Italian paragliding champion ever in both acrobatic and speed paragliding.

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“You have to train a lot for the acrobatic competitions, because the various manoeuvres are all difficult and you need to be perfect. In cross country instead it helps to have a feeling for speed, but above all you need intelligence and planning.”

Planning will be fundamental to reach the finishing line in the Red Bull X-Alps: every kilometre has to be travelled on foot or by paraglider and every day, before taking flight, the athletes have to assess the changeable weather conditions and decide where and when to take off.

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“Participating in the X-Alps is like Formula 1 racing, nothing can be left to chance. It is the highest expression of fitness, flying strategy, and adventure. Everything can change in a few hours, you have to struggle with bad weather and you have to plan out the day's strategy at least the evening before".

The route for the 2021 edition looks to be especially arduous: from Austria to Mont Blanc and back, through Germany, Switzerland, France, and Italy. There are 12 obligatory turn points for the athletes, 12 stages where they have to sign in on arrival in order to proceed to the next stage. Every 48 hours the athlete in last place is eliminated. The first that arrives at the finishing line wins the race, leaving the other pilots a maximum of just 2 more days to finish.

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Now that the route has been announced, Nicola's training is underway, with flying sessions, running, and ski mountaineering. “I am competitive by nature and my flying skills can take me where many others cannot reach. This, combined with the perfect organization of my fantastic team, who are supporting me in my preparation, logistics, and route planning, will help me reach the finishing line.”

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