During the past 3 weeks, I’ve been immensely busy. After the Puurs world cup, I competed in 4 International competitions, 3 of them being in Asia.
The first was the 24 heures du mur in Oloron St. Marie. This is a competition that I’ve been going to for a few years. It’s a 24 hour scramble lead format with one finals route at the end. You have 24 hours to get the best 5 routes. This year, I flashed the top-5 hardest routes over the span of 10 hours of so and I went into finals in 1st place. My girlfriend Mathilde Becerra also qualified in 1st place alongside me! During the finals, I was the last one out and I made it all the way to the last move before falling. On the last move, I realized my foot was a bit low but I couldn’t move it without the fear of falling. I tried jumping for the last hold but missed it be a mere centimeter. I jumped high enough to tickle the hold, but wasn’t accurate enough to stick it. There was also some sort of Go-Pro for the audience fixed on the last move and I’m still trying to find the footage! After I finished climbing, I got to watch Mathilde cruise her finals route and win her first 24 heures du mur as well. Big congratulations to her!
We left Oloron around 9pm and made the 3 hour trip back to Toulouse. We got back around midnight; I re-packed my bags, slept for 4 hours and went straight to the airport to fly to Seoul, Korea to start the Asia trip.
I met up with the Austrian team in Frankfurt after a nice afternoon in the business lounge. Amongst the Austrians were Jakob Schubert, Mario Lechner, Kathi Posch, Katha Saurwein, Magdalena Rock and team manager Heiko Wilhelm. The also have a really good team page on Facebook with even better pictures! It’s mostly thanks to Heiko that I have ANY pictures of me competing at all these events. On top of that, if I couldn’t travel with them to Asia, I don’t know if I would even have the courage to do it myself last year or this year; a big thank you to them!
We spent the day traveling through an airport somewhere in China and arrived in Seoul sometime in the afternoon. We took the same bus as last year back to the same hotel. We had a couple of days to climb, rest and then make our way to the competition venue. For our climbing day (because it was a national holiday everything was closed) Jabee Kim was nice enough to open his family gym “The Ja’s”! It had an awesome environment with a good setup for bouldering; I even got to try the new Grand Theft Auto V that they had setup!
The day before the competition, we made it Mokpo for the technical meeting and registration. The place where they have the accommodation is a really nice football (soccer) training center and every athlete had the option of a single or double room!
The qualifications were the 11th and they were very easy. I topped both of them along with another 16 or so climbers. The semifinals was where the first interesting part came in. I was one of the last climbers out and we knew the route wasn’t going to get hard before 2/3. I started the route quickly and after a couple of minutes I was up near the top. I made it to a funny move where I actually managed to find a scrunchy no-hands rest. In this no-hands, I managed to pin my chalk bag and rope against the adjacent feature. It took me a couple of tries to clip the draw and do some rope management but by the end I had the draw clipped and I was feeling good. I did another few moves and then tried a big dyno for the last move. When the results were posted I was the only climber to have topped the semis and I went into finals in first place. Here’s the video queued up to where the route gets kind of interesting, enjoy!
In the finals, I again climbed pretty well although my left arm got very pumped at about halfway. It was pretty cold this night and the first part of the route wasn’t very hard. I got to our “rest” but it turned out to be bad. After the small rest, I almost fell on a hard move out the roof, I could feel my power feining. I climbed another two moves before falling on a hard move out to a pinch. On the move where I fell, I knew I was supposed to put in a high heel hook but I thought I might fall while putting it in. The move to the pinch was enough for a third place finish in finals so I was very happy. As it turned out, I tied with Jakob Schubert in the finals but beat him in a count-back to semifinals. It’s always nice when you’re the only one to top the semis and it actually comes into play! First place went to Sachi Amma of Japan and second place went to the winner of the 2012 Mokpo WC Hyunbin Min from Korea!
Next competition is the masters in Haiyang, China
The day after Mokpo, I spent the whole day traveling to China and another few hours on buses. By the evening I was in Haiyang China at a 5 star hotel. I had a quick dinner and just relaxed. The next day was a full rest day so I spent that day playing video games, resting and eating. While in China, Facebook and Twitter were blocked so my communication with the European and North American world was a bit more limited.
The competition in Haiyang for the lead climbers was all on one day, the 15th. We had one onsight semifinals in the AM and the finals a few hours after that. On the first route of the day, my fingers went pretty numb, I climbed poorly and I fell off just above the last lip, around 6 moves from the top. I placed 3rd which was good. Stefano Ghisolfi climbed a few moves further than me and Hyunbin Min touched the last hold. I decided to prep a lot more for the finals as fingers going numb is one of the worst feelings. For the finals, I warmed up longer and much more effeciently. I was the third to last out and I touched the last hold. The last few moves before the top were quite hard, but I didn’t know if they’d be hard enough to make the last two fall before the last move. As I thought, both Stefano and Hyunbin climbed the route well and also both fell on the same last move. Because of our tie in finals, the first route in the morning was the deciding factor and I placed 3rd. Although I was bummed that it came to a route where I felt like I didn’t do my best, I’m always happy being on the podium which is the case yet again here.
After a Speed day on the 16th, it was onto the last world cup of this trip in a different city in China. Although we were just moving cities, it took a 2 hour bus ride, 2 hour flight and another bus ride to get to our new hotel! Luckily the new hotel was nice, similar to our previous one and I felt nice at home again. A day later, I met up with the Austrians who had decided to stay in Seoul and skip the masters in Haiyang.
During our rest day, I relaxed as much as I could; doing 3 competitions in 10 days is quite tiring. It’s not just the competitions that are tiring but mostly the traveling; on top of that we’re not eating food that we’re used to and at the beginning we were dealing with a change of 7 hours from European time. I’m quite used to it by now, but it’s not always easy!
Qualifiers were the 19th and I topped them both. We all thought they were going to be really easy like in Mokpo but they were actually a bit more technical and they were less double tops than the previous. During the semifinals, I climbed worse than anticipated. We could tell the bottom of the route was pretty hard but I wasn’t expecting what I climbed. I always start the routes quite fast because if the moves are easy I’d rather just do them quickly so I can save energy for the top. When I realized that I couldn’t move quickly because the moves were actually quite hard, it makes my rhythm stop as well. I hate climbing like that, but I know sometimes I just have to suck it up. For most of the route my rhythm was broken and by half way I was starting to feel tired and pumped. I also knew climbers were falling near a double undercling move; when I got there, I clenched my teeth and tried extra hard. When I fell, I was pretty sure it was enough for finals. The picture here is my screaming on a move just after the “crux” move to make finals.
The finals were also somewhat of an adventure, a good one at that. During preview we thought it looked like a pretty cool route. We were worried that the start would be hard similar to the semifinals. We figured once we got into the roof the moves started to look really cool. They had an alternating start so I went out third last of all the competitors. From the sounds of it, all of the guys were getting into the roof and near the end of it. We couldn’t tell exactly what move they were falling at but that was our feeling. I started my route and felt good. There weren’t any stopper moves at the beginning and the vertical section in the middle was easier than what I had anticipated. While making a move just before the roof, I felt a foot break while I was bringing up my feet. I looked down quickly to see half of the hold fluttering towards the ground. I could’ve called a technical but I was already through the “nervous” part of the route and I felt good, I continued.
In the roof, I found a small knee bar rest. I took the time to go back and forth to rest up and get psyched for the hard section. I climbed towards the right and was soon only a few moves before the end of the roof. There was a really hard move off a big sloper and another really hard cross after pulling the lip. I made another hard move into an undercling that was actually a jug. Although it was a jug, it was an undercling and there were no feet. From there I previewed a heel hook so I started bringing it up. By the looks of it, a heel hook would never stay on the hold so I decided just to toe in. I brought my left foot up as a small toe hook and knew it was time to let go with my right hand. As soon as I let go, my plan didn’t work. I was too pumped to hold my body tension and my body started falling towards the left. I looked up and flailed my arm but the hold was too far and I was aiming at the wrong spot. I was falling with a grin across my face. I was happy and I wasn’t going any further. To my slight disappointment I wasn’t in first place. I could barely comprehend how Sachi had completed that move, but he had and he stayed in first place. I found out I was in second place but I was already happy knowing I had climbed pretty perfect on the finals route. Jakob was the last finalist and he fell a couple of moves before me to take the bronze medal. Because there isn’t a replay for the competition, I still don’t understand how Sachi did the move! When I fell I thought the move was impossible but he found a way, congrats! I took a silver medal which was the first one in lead this year.
I also finished my Asia tour with my best lead performance in 2013 and 3 podiums in total. Happiness all around I’m always happy to be standing on the podium and I managed to do it 3 times this trip. I feel so lucky and happy all at the same time. I know that these things also don’t happen without the support of my family, my friends, my sponsors and my fans. Thanks to you all!!!
I’ve now made the return trip back to France and I’m trying to rest up. The next competition isn’t quite as far as the last few, I only have to travel to Valence which is still in France. The competition is on the 1st and 2nd of November; they’ll be live streaming through Youtube for it so I’ll set up the streams on my website homepage.