Right now, some of the world's top paraglider pilots are training hard all over the globe for Red Bull X-Alps 2015, a 645-mile hike-and-fly battle from Salzburg, Austria, across the length of the Alps to Monaco.
If you're a hot-shot adventure paraglider, this has been the number one event in your upcoming calendar since the last edition ended in 2013 — yep, it's so tough it's only held every two years.
To discover how they've been preparing, we asked this year's competitors to send us some of their training footage. The result was incredible: a selfie-stick smorgasbord of breathtaking imagery. Hit play below and prepare to be inspired as they take you on a paragliding tour of the world.
With just under 100 days to go until the start gun fires in the old quarter of Salzburg, it's fair to say that the athletes taking part have been revving up their training. They're charging hard and raring to go.
“I'm training, training, training,” says U.S. athlete Gavin McClurg, competing for the first time. “I've got this ex-Delta Force guy as my fitness coach and he's been working on me since October. I'm doing a ton of strength and aerobic training.”
In the last couple of years McClurg has been flying from the snow-capped peaks of Alaska to the rain-soaked valleys of Colombia to big adventure flights across the Sierras. More recently he made an epic 400-mile crossing of the Canadian Rockies with Red Bull athlete Will Gadd, which helped earn the pair a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year nomination.
“I'm feeling really strong,” he says. ”I can't imagine anyone's been training as hard as me.”
It's fighting talk from the American, but he's not the only one training hard. Frenchman Nelson de Freyman (at 23, the youngest competitor in the field) says he's ready, and with youth on his side says he can take on the more experienced pilots.
“Last year I spent four months in the Rockies and we made some big vol biv [French for "flight camping"] flights, and we were really alone [he clocked nearly 1,500 miles of flying]. It was wild country; I learned a lot. Earlier this year I was flying in South Africa.
“I don't need to eat or sleep a lot," he adds. "I can survive on two to three hours a night.”
Other athletes featured in the footage include adventure legends Tom de Dorlodot and Paul Guschlbauer who have big plans to complete their Adriatic crossing adventure that they were forced to abandon last year.
Related: Is this the scariest takeoff ever? Watch Paul Guschlbauer launch from Angel Falls
We also see Frenchman Antoine Girard, who came third in the 2013 Red Bull X-Alps, and Samuel Vurpillot, competing for the first time. There's also the self-styled lone wolf adventurer Dave Turner, who's already made two hike-and-fly crossings of the Alps.
The next few months will see the athletes hone their fitness and research the route of the race. When they all come together for the first time in July, it promises to be a spectacular showdown, and you'll be able to follow all the action live.
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