It’s been a fast paced lap around the 2015 X-Alps route over the last month, with lots of flying and familiarising with the mountains, which will serve us very well for the race (X-Alps Reconnaissance).

Of course the weather is always going to be different but being able to recognize the main geographical features, having a feeling for the valley winds system and what kind of weather to expect were principal aims from my side.

I now feel I can imagine much of the route in my head which will mean I can do most of my navigation in the air without relying on instruments. The other side of the coin is that we have spent lots of time in the Jucy van, getting used to operating in race mode and bit by bit getting everything organised so we are ready to go.

Meeting at the home of our southern Germany based supporter Nils Kretschmer in early June, we headed straight down to turn point 4, under the shadow of the towering limestone cliffs of Germany’s highest mountain the Zugspitze. We weren’t quite organised yet but the weather was good and you have to capitalise – the previous month had been very wet indeed and several teams had struggled with their own route reconnaissances.

I flew every day as we made our way to beautiful Annecy in the northern French Alps. After some rain we had a brief window to fly around Briancon, one of the key points to pass amongst the intricate valley wind system of southern France.

This was arranged through our sail plane (glider) contacts and was really good value, my understanding of this area was consolidated along with previous experience flying here in past years.

With more rain I did some road walking to test the water, we will see but I hope with good management we will be fine during the race. Of course my strategy is to fly whenever possible.

Back to Germany where we made further arrangements to smoothen the operation and we delivered a talk to the local German paragliding club, a small promotion for New Zealand of course.

Finally three amazing days in the region between Zugspitze and the start, before we went to attend the obligatory briefings – and of course the weather became unbelievably epic. Still we managed to get away to fly the first part of the race and the weather will hold for the start of the race.

Yesterday's prologue was quite hot at 30 degrees but over the coming days it is forecast to reach 37! Our additional supporter Dan Meyers (an Australian expat volunteering to drive) has arrived this week and has proven his worth already with his practical knowledge and makes a great addition to the team.

We are feeling well prepared as much as it is possible to be prepared and are looking forward to the start in Salzburg this Sunday (or Monday in NZ) Watch live tracking, but remember that Austria is 10 hours behind NZ - so there may be a few late nights if you’re watching progress! And here's the online Red Bull diary.

Nick and Louis

Photo: Joshua G
Bonus video: Interview with Tom de Dorlodot

Meeting in Annecy in the lead up to Red Bull Xalps 2015 we caught up with Tom de Dorlodot. He certainly is no novice when it comes to vol biv, with the enviable career as a paragliding professional exploring all kinds of exotic locations around the world. So you can imagine that us kiwis were quite chuffed with the high praise he had for New Zealand, reminiscing of his trip before the last X-Alps with fellow competitor Ferdy van Schelven (NED). As an xalps veteran we also got some insight into his tips for newcomers - well worth a listen.

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