Of the 350 kiters who competed in the race, just eight finished, with Felix Kersten and his skis cruising to victory.
The German was head and shoulders above the snowkiting competition in Norway in the longest Red Bull Ragnarok race ever. The 2017 edition of the race is the seventh time it’s been held, having started in 2010.
Ragnarok is the biggest, and arguably toughest, snowkite competition, with competitors from nearly 30 different countries coming together to complete the five lap course – a total of 130km (81 mi) – within five hours. There are four categories – men’s ski and snowboard, and women’s ski and snowboard.
The difficulty of the race seemed to have been ramped up given that the number of participants who completed all five rounds of the course dropped from 25 in 2016 to eight in 2017. It’s also longer, with 30km (19 mi) added this year. Of all the kiters in Haugastøl, the youngest was just 16 years old, while the eldest was a mighty impressive 59.
Competitors were fortunate that the event was bathed in glorious weather, and small storm winds with top speeds nearly reaching 100km/h (62 mph) ensured the course was raced at an exciting pace.
Kersten was in imperious form in the men’s ski category, claiming his second Ragnarok title. His race time – three hours 40 minutes – proved to be nearly 27 minutes faster than the second placed finisher.
He said, ‘This was far harder than previous Ragnaroks. I’m totally done and totally happy. This was a really tough and crazy race. On the top we had 40 knots and sometimes in the valley we had almost zero. The best experience is that I’m still the fastest.’
The men’s snowboard event was won by Switzerland’s Jonas Lengwiler, despite the fact he only started snowboarding two months ago. Ordinarily a skier, Lengwiler has two fourth place finishes to his name on skis, but this was his first attempt on the board.
He explained, ‘It’s incredible. It’s a really tough race, really long and has gusty wind. Every year is tougher, this year with really strong wind. It’s really nice that I can win. Next year I will start again and try to win with skis, that’s my goal.’
In the women’s event, the ski category was won by British athlete Stephanie Bridge, beating two Norwegians to the title, while the snowboard category was won by the Latvian, Aija Ambrasa.