The biggest and toughest snowkite race in the world, the RedBull Ragnarok was held at the Hardangervidda Plateau in Norway.
This year saw 350 participants battling it out in arguably the hardest edition yet. To complete the race riders had to complete 5 laps of approximately 15-20Km, fighting not only each other but also the challenging terrain and erratic elements.
With winds shifting in strength and direction from location to location the race became a battle of strategy and the right choice of kite.
Peter Lynn teamriders Felix Kersten and Bruce Kessler came in 2nd and 4th respectively, putting 2 new Aero V2’s in the top 5
When we arrived at the race area Friday morning there was 0 wind so we had to hike all our gear through the deep snow to the starting zone. The wind forecast was about 20kn for the morning and was forecasted to go down to 0 in the afternoon, so I was already expecting a difficult race if we could start at all.
About 30mins before the start winds picked up and I took my 14m Aero V2 and arrived on the starting line just in time. I had a really good start and immediately found myself in the front field of 350 competitors.
Right after the start I noticed that I was already overpowered and with my 216cm downhill skis on hardpacked snow I was feeling it was going to be hardcore today. This prediction came true because after just 300m I had a hard crash at full speed, I don’t know how many times I flipped like a ragdoll but people behind me said they thought I wasn’t going to get back up..
In this crash my camelback tore and my 2lites of water started to slowly drain. Anyway, I got up and saw that Jonas Lenkweiler had also crashed just 10m behind me. I continued the race in probably place 100, until the first gate I managed to pass some 70 riders and found myself in30th position. At the first gate it was really busy and I don’t really know how I pushed through. On the way to gate 2 and 3 I passed some more riders and then we had to go upwind towards gate 4, and to make matters worse the wind started to die down. Suddenly I was in front and catched up with Florian Gruber who was in the lead at this time, but the wind now dropped completely so everyone had to walk. Only my team mate Bruce Kessler managed to keep his kite in the air and took the lead.
Now me and Jonas were launching our kites again and we’re headed towards gate 4. At some point I was just wondering where he went because I followed him together with Bruce (we had all the coordinates but my GPS didn’t work..) I think it might even be better to race without the GPS as every time you looked down to see you needed to take you eyes off the course and kite, and you couldn’t really afford to lose any concentration on what you were doing. It was really hard to ski in this snow and safely navigate the terrain.
I noticed Jonas and Bruce heading further west and I though that couldn’t be right and I made the decision to take a more eastern course. I turned out I was right and already passed the gate by 750m NW, oops. 2 minutes later I arrived at gate 4 in third or fourth position and was now heading to the final gate. Close the this gate was the changing area and I decided to switch my 14m up to the 18m Aero V2. After a quick change I managed to go through the gate in second position. At gate 1 I was really close to Jonas who was leading but then my second accident of the day happened. I was going halfwind going downhill when a tubekite suddenly dropped out of the sky and crashed right in my face. I saw stars for a moment and I can’t say how I got back up and continued, I just did. Just 1 Km later I was going downhill and still not 100% recovered I twisted my right leg/ski at 60kmh and lost the ski, so I had to walk back to get it. Suffice to say that going uphill on one ski sucks.
I was still in second place and pushed onward and started to feel overpowered again. Before starting lap 3 I changed down to the 16m Aero and from there on it was a close fight between me and Florian and after gate 2 he managed to pass me. At this point I didn’t want to take too much risk and just chased Jonas and Florian. Upwind my kite was way better than theirs but uphill I lost time because I didn’t have enough groundpressure as the Aero is tuned more towards hydrofoiling where one doesn’t need this.
Finally in lap 4 I managed to catch up with Florian on the upwind tack, and Florian was only 20sec behind Jonas. Very close to gate 4 Jonas tried the line everybody took but I decided to take a different approach and because I was so close to Florian I said to him to take our line further before turning, this turned out to be a good decision. At the final gate Florian was now in the lead with me only 15sec behind him!
So, one last lap of pushing. I tried everything bu t couldn’t catch Florian and then between gate 2 and 3 the wind started to die off again. Now Florain had the advantage with his 21m kite VS me with my 16m. The distance between us got bigger and bigger, I was looping and looping, tried to walk tried everything to overcome this ‘no wind’ zone. I passed many competitors that had their kites on the ground and were probably still on their 2nd or 3rd lap.
At the end I finished only 2 minutes behind Florian and Jonas was only 3 minutes behind me. The top three players only 5 minutes apart over a 5hr race is pretty close!
I’m going home with mixed feelings. I really wanted to get onto the podium again but it didn’t work out entirely as I wanted this time. The first two laps I was battling in front with the top three guys but halfway round three my feet started to hurt really badly and I just couldn’t keep pushing as hard as the others. I did manage to keep my fourth position but unfortunately on the last leg of round 5 the wind completely died and I had to walk the remaining stretch. This made me cross the finish line only a few minutes over the time limit.
All that said, getting in a fourth place in a field of 350 competitors is still a pretty epic result! And as always I had a great time up there meeting up with so many good friends. For next year I will train more and even harder! Can’t wait to see you all again at the starting line of the RedBull Ragnarok!
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