With a gradient in places of 80% and multiple daredevil drops, the iconic Streif ski slope on the Hahnenkamm mountain in Kitzbühel, Austria, is regarded as the sport’s most notorious downhill.
This past weekend, however, saw runners – not skiers – racing down its insanely-steep slopes, as we staged the first-ever inov-8 Descent Race.
Starting from the ski gate at the top of the mountain, brave competitors from across Europe propelled themselves down the slope at 30-second intervals to the finish line 110 vertical metres below.
Between them and the end point were a series of red and blue ski flags, which runners slalomed their way through in two heats. Their times for each heat were added together to decide the final results.
Around 200 spectators lined the sun-kissed course as runners hurtled down the hill at bewildering speed, getting to grips not only with the gradient but also the rough underfoot terrain.
Thrills and spills on The Hahnenkamm
The men’s winner was local speedster Daniel Hauser, who clocked times of 55:36secs and 54:65secs (total time of 1min 50:01secs. Second place went to fellow Austrian Balthasar Laireiter, who completed the course in 55:79secs and 56:91secs (total time of 1min 52:70secs).
Rounding off the podium places was Ted Mason from the UK, who clocked 59:38secs and 58:98secs (total time of 1min 58:36secs). Super-keen to part in this innovative event, Ted, who is a renowned fell runner, travelled by car all the way from Yorkshire, England, to test his downhill skill and bravery on the course.
MUDCLAW G 260 tops the podium
The women’s winner was Lisa Kröll, another local to Kitzbuhel who used her knowledge of the terrain to good advantage. Lisa ran the course in 1min 24:89secs and then again in 1min 22:18secs (total time of 2mins 47:07secs). She wore prototypes of the MUDCLAW G 260 shoes with graphene-enhanced rubber grip, which should be available to buy before Christmas.
Lisa finished comfortably ahead of her nearest rivals, with fellow Austrian Mona Ritter in second place (1min 49:09secs and 1mins 41:21secs for a total time of 3mins 33:30secs) and Veronika Heinrich from Germany in third place (2mins 05:52secs and 1min 49:42secs for a total time of 3mins 54:94secs.
All three of the female medalists ran quicker in the second heat than the first, with two of the top-three men doing likewise. The majority of racers also ran faster in the second heat, having gained confidence following their first run down the hill.
The world’s toughest grip
inov-8 Product & Marketing Director Michael Price said: “This was an innovative world-first. Never before has a downhill running race been held on the legendary Hahnenkamm.
“To tame the world’s toughest downhill, racers needed the world’s toughest grip and we were delighted to see so many of the competitors in inov-8 footwear. Indeed, we even had some racers who, having slipped most of the way down the hill in heat one, returned to the top and changed into pairs of inov-8 X-TALON 230 demo shoes for heat two.
“It was a fantastic day in a stunning mountain setting under clear blue Austrian skies. We’d like to thank all the hard-working organisers and volunteers for making it possible and, of course, the racers who put on such an entertaining day of high-octane sporting action.”
More videos from inov-8 Descent Race
Check out our Instagram videos of the fastest three runners, plus the quickest female, down the course. The video of Ted Mason is below. Follow these links to watch the videos of Daniel Hauser, Balthasar Lairiter and Lisa Kroll.