French Boulder NationalsThis past weekend, I had the opportunity to go to my second International Nationals of the year; the first being ABS Nationals for the US. The competition was held in Millau, France where the Petzl Roc Trips in Europe have been held a few times. I was in Millau for the first time for a Roc Trip and I have great memories from this relatively small town. The biggest thing in this city is actually a huge viaduct which spans two big mountains. The viaduct is higher than the Eiffel Tower is tall! All the chit chat aside, I was there for the French Boulder Nationals 2012. Mathilde and I made the 2.5 hour drive to Millau Thursday night in preparation for Friday morning qualifiers. The place where they mounted the walls was nice and they had seating as well across the way. [singlepic id=338 w=500 h=240 float=center] Mathilde had qualifiers in the morning and I sat in the audience taking pictures and cheering her on. [singlepic id=334 w=350 h=240 float=right] For her qualifiers, she flashed the first, 2 tries on the second, 4 tries on the third, a few tries on the 4th, and couldn’t do the final slab boulder. She finished qualifiers with 4 tops in 9 tries which put her in 14th position. She wasn’t overly enthused with her result but she hadn’t made semifinals last year, so it was a plus! [singlepic id=335 w=500 h=240 float=center] After the girls went, we waited a few hours and then I was back in isolation trying to warm up. Because I don’t have a national ranking in France, I went almost last among the men. I ended up having an awesome qualification round by flashing 4 of the boulders and falling once on the second boulder and quickly doing it second go. I felt really good during the round which was more important than anything else. [singlepic id=341 w=500 h=240 float=center] [singlepic id=342 w=500 h=240 float=left] Semifinals were Saturday morning with finals scheduled for the night. Friday night, we went and ate a quick dinner at the Geant food court, then watched a couple episodes of Fringe and just crashed. We knew Saturday was going to be a big day, and we needed our rest! Saturday morning was semifinals iso with men and women together. Since Mathilde qualified 14th and I qualified tied for 2nd, she would go out hours before I would. I helped her warm up a bit and wished her good luck as she left isolation. I found out after I had completed my round that she was unable to top any boulders. The semifinals for the women were extremely hard and you only ended up needing two tops out of the four boulders to make finals. Mathilde came really close on the last boulder, but couldn’t stick the clutch dyno. [singlepic id=337 w=400 h=240 float=center] In isolation again, I waited another hour and a half before going out myself for my semifinal round. I knew it would be 4 boulders with the standard 5 minute circuits. I came out for the first boulder and got my butt handed to me. My first try I fell before the bonus, then second try barely got it, and third try fell on the last move. I did not do the first boulder. [singlepic id=340 w=300 h=280 float=right] I went back to my waiting chair a bit rattled and didn’t know what to think. I tried to keep my head in the game and just take it one boulder at a time. I couldn’t change the fact that I hadn’t done the first, so tough luck, keep on going. I managed to flash boulder 2 and 3 and then got my butt kicked on number 4 as well. From what I was hearing from the cheers and the general audience was that no one had done number 4. I was just hoping as I came out into the crows that only 2 boulders would be enough for finals. It turned out it was, and I was in 3rd place headed for the finals! [singlepic id=339 w=320 h=400 float=right] Finals were a good 4 hours later, so Mathilde and I went to get some lunch, ate nice and slowly, watched more Fringe and while Mathilde took a nap, I listened to music and just tried to relax in the shade. I personally think that the semifinal round is the hardest. Once you’ve made it to finals, you know you’re a strong climber and the worst you can come is 6th. I love that feeling and everyone was feeling pretty good in isolation. Once finals isolation opened, I went in and started getting ready. Presentation was at 5:45, and since I had done semis in the morning, I knew I wouldn’t have to warm up much. We went over to the competition venue and I did most of my warm up over there. Presentation came around and all the finalists were buzzing a bit. The atmosphere was great, dark venue, with spotlights for the climbs. The one thing I really wish they’d have done is put Men’s and Women’s on the same boulder. That way, the audience doesn’t have to look back and forth. The way they did it, the men’s first finals was all the way on the left, and women’s on the right. I guess you could argue that everyone has equal viewing room, but I find it annoying to have to look back and forth. [singlepic id=330 w=420 h=240 float=left] The first men’s boulder was more or less one move, one dyno. It was a massive sideways dyno off two volumes into a hold I had never seen before. To make it slightly harder, the hold was hidden and from where you jumped from, you couldn’t see it, but you knew it was there! I qualified 3rd so went out 4th knowing that everyone before me had done the dyno. It took me a few tries, but I managed to stick the dunk. I almost did it first try, but didn’t get my fingers wrapped around the back side of the hold. The second problem was all the way on the far right and it was symmetrical. It started on two pinches, then were two volumes, one on the left, other on the right, then two pinches with equal screw ons for the thumb and finishing straight up on a pocket. You could cut the boulder in half and fold it in on itself perfectly. I can safely say this was not a very fun boulder to climb on. I always felt awkward and second guessing my methods. The first move was easy, but to get up over the volumes was hard. To top it off, the last move was hard because the finish hold was a sloper. I managed to take down the beast in 3 tries, but it wasn’t beautiful… So far, I had done the two problems along with what I thought another 3 competitors. Onto the 3rd… [singlepic id=332 w=400 h=240 float=right] The 3rd boulder problem was the most straight forward. It was easy to read and had two moves on very small crimps. It then went out left to a pinch, and then I thought just right hand up and finish. When I actually climbed the boulder, it turned out a lot different than how I imagined it. The first 4 moves were as I remembered. Out left crimp, cross over crimp, out left to sloper pinch… Then things got weird. I couldn’t go up right hand, so I thought, ok, obvious bump again. Then once I bumped up again, I didn’t think the pinch was good to just grab and throw to the finish. I started getting nervous and didn’t really know what to do. I brought up my right hand to the structure out right and saw the finish hold was close enough to heel hook. I figured I might be able to do some sort of toe hook shenanigans and pull myself over. Once I got my toe hook out there, it was bad news as it wasn’t the bucket toe hook I had imagined and I couldn’t reverse it from here. I was stuck, I thought to myself, better keep trying this ridiculous method. I slowly switched from toe hook to heel hook until finally I got my hips far enough to the left. I grabbed the bottom of the finish hold and knew I wouldn’t fall now. [singlepic id=331 w=500 h=240 float=center] A few more foot moves and I could grab the finish hold with both hands. The audience was a bit baffled by my performance on the 3rd as I more or less did it feet first for the last few moves. Even I was a bit confused on what had just happened, but at the end of the boulder, I had finished 3 of 3, and I knew I was doing well. When we went to the last boulder, I knew only me and Guillaume Glairon Mondet had done the 3rd. This put us in front, but if some of the other climbers did the 4th and we couldn’t, they would come from behind and beat us. There’s always that chance so you have to stay on your game. I also knew Guillaume had taken many less tries than me on the first 2 so he was in the lead. [singlepic id=333 w=400 h=240 float=center] The 4th boulder was very hard, compression with a dyno finish. I knew Guillaume hadn’t done the boulder from the crowd’s reaction which meant that if I did it, I’d win. I knew it’d be hard and I went out confident. I flashed the boulder up to the last move, but couldn’t clutch the final hold. It was another big sideways dyno and although I touched the final hold, I hadn’t even begun to try and control the swing before I knew I was falling. I tried the boulder another few times, but the fatigue of the day was starting to set in. I was tired… I got up there another two times, but had worse attempts in sticking the last move. I finished my finals with 3 boulders in some 8 tries but with a big smile on my face. One last wave to the crowd and I was done… sweating and gasping for air. I was very satisfied with my finals performance, I had kept it together for the first 3, and it turns out that no-one completed the last boulder. Guillaume won, I came second and Olivier Hequin took third place. Full results can be found HERE. I grabbed many of the photos from semifinals and finals off the climbing gym’s website. The gym is called Couleur Caillou which stands for coloured boulder. For me, it’s time to head back to Canada. Open Lead Regionals this weekend, followed by my proper TDB Canadian Bouldering Nationals the week after! Gotta love traveling 🙂
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