Just five days after the World Cup in Hamilton and the athletes were back into the thick of the action; this time in the clean, luxurious mountain town of Vail, Colorado.
Vail is better known for its winter sports enthusiasts but every June it plays host to a summer games of bouldering, mountain biking, kayaking and other sports that nestle under the "extreme" category.
What makes Vail a unique event on the circuit is the altitude. Vail sits in the heart of the American Rockies at an elevation of 8150 feet; not only will the winner have to work hard to complete 13 boulder problems over three rounds but also find strategies to combat shortness of breath and getting pumped very quickly.
Compared to other rounds athletes tend to have less attempts on boulders; flashing problems matters more here than anywhere else on the circuit!
Most of the athletes that had competed in Canada made their way over the border and the good news was that current World Cup leader, Dmitrii Sharafutdinov had managed to acquire a visa and so could compete over the weekend.
Qualifiers went off without a hitch and all the regulars proceeded onto the semis with the exception of Jan Hojer. Jan fell off his longboard earlier in the week and had a suspected broken bone in his foot; his left ankle was heavily bandaged and luckily he had a bigger shoe that he could wear, however you could see that it really affected his confidence and he finished in 28th.
Semis were a funny round - last weekend the women's had been too easy - this time the setters seemed to go way too far in the other direction. Out of a possible 80 tops for the women only 5 were made and Shauna Coxsey managed to qualify for the finals in 6th position with only two bonus holds in two attempts! Anna, Alex, Akiyo, Juliane and Angie Payne were the others to make it through.
The men's seemed equally as hard until the big guns came out-Kilian and Shaun qualified first and second managing all four problems with Jorg Verhoeven sneaking in in sixth place with two tops in three attempts and all four bonus holds. Between was the Russian duo of Dmitrii and Rustam and American climber Paul Robinson.
The twelve finalists would have a few hours to replenish their energy levels before having to go back into isolation while the rest of the semi-finalists could enjoy a cold beer or maybe an ice cream or maybe both!
The men's final quickly became a two (Russian) horse race and with problem two not getting a top it would be a three bloc final. Dmitrii in the end proved the better of the two getting three tops in five attempts, just two attempts behind was Rustam and two problems behind was Jorg for his second podium in a week! Good work to the Dutch man!
The women's was slightly more exciting with five of the girls climbing the first three climbs in relatively few attempts; it would all come down to climb number four. Shauna and Juliane gave everything but looked fatigued on the steep techy problem. This left the door open to Alex, Akiyo or Anna. First up was Alex and she topped it on her second attempt, the crowd went wild, could Alex win her first title in four years?! Next up was Akiyo and she had flashed the previous three climbs giving her six attempts of this bloc. Surely she would be triumphant?! I didn't think it would even be possible to have six attempts! Just to make it exciting Akiyo decided to drop the climb five times and run the clock to zero; pulling on and the pressure was on. Surely she wouldn't do it on her sixth attempt but Akiyo stunned the crowd and dealt perfectly with the pressure; a top to put her into the driving seat with just one to go.
Now if it was any other athlete I would say the places had been decided but you can never underestimate Miss. Stöhr. She had used up some attempts on previous problems and so had to top within three attempts to win on bonus' holds. Attempt one and two and Anna looked nervous and not her normal springy self; she was trying to static a move that just needed a little pop. Frustration was bubbling but this seemed to flick a switch in her head. Next go and she popped through the move, overshooting the hold but somehow still hanging on, from there it was game over. Anna was on cruise control, she looked like she had energy to spare, how fit is this girl?!!
Topping out she didn't know she had won; utter surprise and elation covered her face when she was informed! How they cope I don't know, but they do!
This week's blunder goes to Jan Hojer and a lesson for the kids out there - don't go longboarding the week before a World Cup competition!
The wonder is a harder call as I don't remember seeing any particular or out of the norm feats of human strength or insane technique......... wait a minute. Problem three in the men's qualifiers had copious amounts of kneebars involved but American Daniel Woods decided to go old skool and burly; no kneebars - well he attempted to use them, but it didn't work!
That's it for a while now, the athletes get almost two months off to climb outside, train or just have a bit of down time before Munich on 24th/25th August.
Final Results: Team GB Results:
1st: Dmitrii Sharafutdinov and Anna Stöhr. 4th: Shauna Coxsey.
2nd: Rustam Gelmanov and Akiyo Noguchi. 11th: Mina Leslie-Wujastyk.
3rd: Jorg Verhoeven and Alex Puccio. 13th: Dave Barrans.
4th: Sean McColl and Shauna Coxsey. 14th: Leah Crane.
5th: Kilian Fischhuber and Julian Wurm. 21st: Diane Merrick.
6th: Paul Robinson and Angie Payne. 32nd: Tom Newman
32nd: Tom Newman.
37th: Ned Feehally.
42nd: Jon Partridge.
Here is a video of the Competition:
David Mason is UKC's World Cup Reporter, feeling passionate about getting the results of both Team GB and other participants heard in the UK to boost competition climbing's profile.
David is no slouch on the bouldering front either; with many hard boulder problems up to Font 8B and a flash ascent of Simba's Pride (E8) to his name.
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