For the past month and a bit, I’ve been pretty focused on training. I got back from the bouldering World Cup in Vail on June 7th and since then have been trying to re build my resistance and endurance. I also went on my trip to Mallorca for a week which was another nice break. I know many people usually ask me why I don’t climb outside as much as I can, and it is because I understand the importance of training. When you’re in bouldering shape, competing in a lead world cup is one of the hardest things to do. I knew that if I wanted to feel strong in Chamonix and even have a shot of making finals, I’d have to be fit.
I therefore dedicated myself to endurance training. I started climbing around 5 days a week with 2 of those days being double sessions; one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. I still did boulder training once a week to keep up my power as well. I had the chance to move to Chamonix for this past month and it has really paid off. When I got back from Vail, I moved to Chamonix with my girlfriend Mathilde Becerra and met up with local climber Romain Desgranges. He lives in Chamonix and competes on the French National Team. He the reigning French lead champion for 2012 as well. He had already set a handful of hard circuits a few months back to train on in preparation for his Nationals and of course the lead world cup season.
When I first started trying these circuits, I was getting shut down pretty fast. I could still do about 30 moves before getting pumped but then it was like running into a brick wall. I just couldn’t hold on any longer. The first week of training here was the hardest and I just had to remember that in time it would come. Fast forward a few weeks and I was doing a couple of those circuits back to back. I redpointed one of the harder circuits and there remains only one circuit that I haven’t done. Maybe next week?
As the world cup came closer and closer, I began to feel better and better. I was excited at the fact that another lead world cup was fastly approaching. The last competition of this magnitude would have been the last world cup of 2011 in Barcelona. I managed to finish 5th place after an excruciating long finals route. The one thing about Chamonix is that I’ve never made finals here. It is usually because I’m still in boulder mode. Because Chamonix is usually so early in the season, I’m so concentrated on bouldering that I don’t have time for lead. This year was a bit different with Vail being over a month before this competition.
The competition finally came and qualifications were on the Thursday. There was a new wall for this competition which will actually be the same wall for the world championships in Paris later this year. Mathilde put the photos of the wall HERE. The wall is much better than the old wall and much more fitting for my climbing style. The old wall had a roof in the middle that always kind of threw climbers out of their rhythm. The new is more overhanging but with better angles.
Qualifiers were pretty straight forward and flash format. The two climbs were similar in grade with our right route being a bit harder. I managed to flash both qualifiers which put me in good spirits about my training. Along with me, another 8 climbers topped the right route and 12 on the left. Semi finals were in the afternoon of the 13th with finals at night. I had topped both qualifiers but would go 5th to last or something. After previewing the route, I was pretty excited; the route went more or less straight up the wall. There were plenty of volumes which meant a few heel hooks and compression style. The top part looked the hardest with a weird sloper and a spicy finish.
After what seemed like 4 hours, I finally got shuttled to the wall for my turn to climb. I started my climb and knew I’d have to climb fast. It has always been my climbing style to climb fast, and I wasn’t going to change that. I got halfway up the route before feeling tired at all which is exactly what I aim for. There was a tricky sequence at 2/3 of the climb but I managed to find a very tricky knee bar to get one of the clips. After clipping and rest, I went up the slopey bit that I thought would be hard. It turned out that the move was quite easy and I was within the last 10 moves of the routes. I rested a bit before tackling the end but felt super good. The last few moves were hard, but because I wasn’t so pumped yet, it felt like I was just bouldering with a harness on. When I hand foot matched with my heel to do the last move, I knew I was going to top. With the heel in, it was harder to initiate the movement with my hips than actually grab the final hold. I clipped the chains and knew I would advance to my first finals in Chamonix.
When I got down, someone said that I was the first to top which made me feel great about my climbing performance. After all the climbers had passed, only one managed to top the route, Jakob Schubert. He topped the route, but after a video review, he had flagged his foot behind a volume and weighted a bolt up near the top. He was given a score just before he stepped on the bold, but wasn’t enough to make it to finals… An appealed was filed, but the final decision was that he used the bolt…
After another 3 hour break, I was once again in the isolation with only 15 other climbers this time. After the semi final round, I was also the only one to officially top, and was now in first place. It was weird going last in finals, it hasn’t happened since being a Junior… I don’t care about going last, and I knew that if the semi final route had been the finals, I would’ve won already! We went out for preview and our route was on the other side of the wall, following a similar line to the girl’s semi final. After previewing and getting back to isolation, I was very excited. The route looked like it fit me very well, and I just wanted my turn to come quickly. I warmed up just like I did for every other round and waited for my turn. They shuttled me to the wall a good 45 minutes before my turn which was a bit annoying, but oh well. I waited as 7 or 8 other climbers climbed while trying to stay warm. I mostly just paced back and forth, listening to my music and remembering sequences in my head of my route.
Just before climbing, I was super excited. I could tell there were thousands of people watching and from what I could hear; no one had topped the route. I knew Sachi Amma was in first with Ramonet in second and within reaching distance from the top… I took a couple of deep breaths while waiting for the liquid chalk to dry on my hands and walked outside of the little tent where we started. As my name was announced I gave a wave to the crowd and started looking at the route. I stared up at the route for a good 20-30 seconds before doing anything, just taking it in. As I walked towards the starting holds, everything was quiet and I was in my zone.
I started up the route, and the first 4-5 clips were very hard. I got up to a big volume hold at 1/3 and I wasn’t feeling so hot on the route anymore. The match was hard, and I could feel myself getting tired. From there, I tried to speed up if I was going to have any chance of making it up near the top. The middle section was much more suited to my style, and I got through it quickly. I got up through 2/3 of the route, and fatigue started to set in. It was hard to get to the campusing part of the route and let my feet swing into the air. The actually campusing part of the route was very easy, although I knew it was going to get hard, and probably pretty fast.
The route did not disappoint, and the next 2 moves were very hard followed by a very hard clip. I managed to get the clip, but now came the sloper bit, and I was pumped. I was not only pumped, but tired. Fighting the pump, I managed to grab each sloper and stretch my other hand for a split second before moving on. One move after another, I felt as though I would fall at any second. The next hold just kept coming and soon I was looking left towards what I thought would be the last “rest” before the top. The hold was awful, and it was far away. I managed to get out to the hold and match, before realizing I wasn’t going to be resting here. I did the next move up to a volume and realized this hold wasn’t as good as I thought either. I tried to rest each arm once or twice, but it wasn’t helping anymore. I locked off to the next hold and hoped it was good. It wasn’t bad, and I crimped it hard. I looked out right, and there were no feet within reach. My elbows were near my ears by now, and I had one more option up my sleeve. I shifted my left hand from a gaston (shoulder) to a sidepull to get my center of gravity a bit higher. Sometimes it helps you do the next move, but this time it did not. I knew I was going to fall, only one more option, jump…
I threw myself at the next hold making sure I got a positive off my right hand. Without the minus (-) in the scoring, I barely had to touch the hold to secure my plus, but I still did. As I sailed through the air, I felt good, and I pumped more than even I could imagine. The route had destroyed me, from start to finish, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to win. I was still happy and had the same grin across my face. As I was lowered down to the ground, I was waving at the crowd as always. Shortly after, I heard the announcer say that Sachi had won, Ramonet in second and I would complete the podium by finishing 3rd.
I was over the moon, to finish 3rd in the first world cup of the season is awesome for me. As it turned out, one more move would’ve even put me to 2nd, although it wasn’t even close to happening… Sachi had secured the victory by doing another 3 moves on top of me. Sachi has also been on the podium at a lead world cup 12 times without getting a victory so this was his first one. He even came 3rd in the overall rankings last year…
I was so happy for Sachi and when I went over to congratulate him, he looked as happy as ever. He said it had taken him 5 years of world cups to finally win one, but there he was. After a quick interview with ifsc.tv and a few signatures, we were getting ready to do the podium and I couldn’t help but smile. On the podium, as the Japanese anthem was playing, I was overjoyed for Sachi and for myself at the same time.
I thought to myself that only one month ago, I was standing on the podium in 2nd place at the Vail world cup. I also thought to myself that this season has just started with the Paris World Championships somewhere in the middle. It was still raining by the time everything was done and the awards ceremony was followed by a fireworks display and a live band. The world cup in Briancon is in only a week, and starts on the 20th! Don’t miss it and if you’re not around France, don’t forget to check out the live stream at IFSC.TV