The Climbing Works International Festival (CWIF) is once again upon us and this year is a big one: the tenth anniversary of the festival and so it is fitting that the competition will be more exciting than ever before. The Climbing Works climbing and data geek for the weekend, Matt Bird picks out the seven things to look out for this weekend.
1. Can anyone or anything stop Shauna Coxsey becoming champion for a fifth time?
Ever since Shauna Coxsey took the female CWIF champion in 2012, she has not showed any sign of handing it away. If anything, her grip on the title has only tightened. Coxsey has finished top of female qualifications for the past two years and last year she improved on that by finishing top of the Semi Finals on her stroll to the 2015 title.
So what about her competitors? The strongest challenge will come from Melissa La Neve, who has come out on top 5 times in 24 meetings. Petra Klingler beat Coxsey to the top spot at Haiyang in 2015, but that was the only time Klinger came out on top over Coxsey since she came onto the IFSC scene back in 2010.
The biggest threat to Shauna? Well there are the perils of Acro-Yoga.
What do you do when you've finished the qualification boulders?Posted by Shauna Coxsey on Saturday, February 13, 2016
2. Is this the strongest male line up ever assembled at CWIF?
2016 may well have the the strongest field of male climbers assembled at CWIF. Jimmy Webb, Jan Hojer, Sean McColl, Rustam Gelmanov and Dave Barrans will all gunning for the title.
Looking outside the leading lights, talent is in abundance. The entire Swiss team is here. The Firnenberg brothers are here. You have guys who have sent multiple trad routes at E8 and above (Neil Mawson, Jordan Buys). Jorg Verhoeven could easily make the finals should he find the E8s he chooses to solo after qualifications not that taxing
Bright young British talent come in the form of current BIFF champion Jim Pope and former BIFF champion (and 80s heart throb) Louis Parkinson will both be looking to show what they do when they use their feet.
3. The chasing pack is getting stronger
In the mens side it is getting tighter at the top. The diagram below shows that in both the mens and womens sides of the draw the pack is improving year on year with the average score creeping up. In the mens competition, the top 25% had a scoring average of 200 pts compared to 155 in 2013 showing just how competitive it is to grab a Semi-Final spot.
Over on the female side of the draw, the points gap between the upper echelons is wider than the mens but it is closing each year. With a record number of women entering the competition this year hopefully the trend will continue.
5. A chance to catch a glimpse of a bright new dawn for British Female Bouldering?
Aside from Coxsey and established competitors such as Michaela Tracy and Leah Crane, there is a new generation of female talent coming through packed with potential.
Tara Hayes has had a stunning start to the competition season, winning the British Universities Championship and grabbing second place in a strong field at Superbloc so it will be intriguing to see if she can continue her form at CWIF. Molly Thompson-Smith is injury free and looking strong as seen by taking the BIFF title from the La Sportiva Legends champ Janja Garnbret. Add Jen Wood and Gracie Martin into the mix and CWIF will be an ideal place to see how the next generation are coming on.
6. Competition experience versus Outdoor prowess.
One of the unique aspects of the CWIF compared to an IFSC round is that it pits competition climbers against those who more usually ply there trade on real rock.
In the red corner you have #teamplastic. Whilst clearly no slouches on real rock, Jan Hojer, Shauna Coxsey, Sean McColl all have recent and regular experience on the IFSC circuit and will be perfectly accustomed to a competition environment and the tactics required to score a win.
And in the blue corner, you have the #teamrealrock. Jimmy Webb will be arriving at CWIF fresh off the back of a quite frankly absurd trip to Fontainebleau snatching quick ascents of several routes at 8A and above and multiple 8Cs. A 2nd place in the USA Bouldering nationals show that Webb can clearly handle himself on plastic but he lacks IFSC experience compared to Hojer, McColl et al, making it compelling viewing to see if he can repeat the exploits of Alex Megos.
However, Nalle Hukkataival appearance at CWIF in 2011 casts a cautionary tale for #teamrealrock. Hukkataival arrived following stunning trips to Rocklands and establishing the iconic Livin Large (8c) and was widely expected to lay waste to the competition: he did not make the finals.
7. Will the champion need a perfect final?
In 2015, both Alex Megos & Tito Caleyron both won CWIF by flashing all four problems. With the strength of the mens field this year it is highly likely that the ultimate winner will have to do the same.
If anyone hopes to challenge Coxsey in the womens side of the draw then they may well need 4 tops and 4 flashes. Coxsey achieved 4 tops in 6 attempts in 2014 and 4 tops in 5 attempts in 2015.
All this will be after a Semi Final which will need to be brutal in order to split such a talented pack down to the final 12 competitors.
Watch out for more information coming later in the week...