2017 Studio Bloc Masters event review
When I received a message inviting me to the 2017 Studio Bloc Masters competition in Germany I jumped at the opportunity. Along with the CWIF in Sheffield, Studio Bloc Masters is the major pre-season warm up event for many of the top IFSC athletes and a rare chance to test themselves against a strong international field.
A week ago at the CWIF we had a huge number of top Brit’s competing alongside a strong Italian crew and a global field including established stars like Jorg Verhoeven. This weekend at Studio Bloc we lost the Brits and Italians but gained the Austrians, the Slovenians and of course a huge number of locals.
Qualifying at Studio Bloc is scramble style, with 80 boulders to attempt during the 7 hour session. your top twenty counting as your score to progress you to semi’s. Awesomely the routes are roughly colour coded into groups of 20, with the hardest 20 being black, through to the easiest being red.
On the second day of competition the top 20 climbers lined up for the World Cup format semi-finals, many still sore from the long session of the afternoon before. Not helping as well was the adjustment of the clocks for daylight saving, meaning an hour less sleep for the climbers, thankfully with a 11.30am start no one was late to isolation.
In the end 20 guys and 19 girls lined up for semis, strong young Slovenian Tjaša Slemenšek having injured her ankle late in qualifying and being unable to continue. Hopefully she’ll be back in one piece soon!
For the women, semi-finals was a brutal ordeal. With the first problem being relatively easy and the next two uncompletable on the day it came down to the 4th boulder, a technical slab with committing moves along its length. This tricky end to the round spelt the end for some super experienced and strong climbers including no less that Anna Stöhr and Jule Wurm who had both progressed high on the powerful second problem with unlocking the top sequence.
The last climber out was Janja Garnbret of Slovenia who had looked on a different level all weekend, but she realised the danger she was in, and the stress of the situation was painted across her face. Thankfully, with a last ditch effort she committed to the last hard move and stuck it, drawing an audible sigh of relief from the crowd. Joining her in finals would be local stars Lilli Kiesgen and Monika Retschy along with Fanny Gibert and two of our “Stars of The Circuit” contributors Staša Gejo and Chloé Caulier.
The men’s semi-finals also threw some curve balls with the “German style” setting proving the undoing of some big names. Rustam Gelmanov couldn’t gel with the style at all and ended the round without a single bonus to his name, while his strong countryman Alexey Rubtsov also surprised many including I’m sure himself by failing to progress.
Unlike the girl’s set, every problem saw tops and it was a predominantly tall and powerful group moving through to finals, the slightest being Chon Jongwon who struggled early in the round then snuck back into the finals field, surprising himself as he thought he was stuffed after a tough start to the round.
Alongside Chon it was the German pair of Jan Hojer and David Firnenburg, joined by Austrian star Jakob Schubert, the French Jeremy Bonder (who is also quite small but seemed to levitate up the semi’s problems) and Slovenian favorite Jernej Kruder.
For finals Studio Bloc was packed to capacity. Featuring a huge comp wall the gym allows the setters lots of scope to get the climbers moving around and by scattering the finals problems along the whole width of the wall they achieved this.
The women were faced with a tricky set, three of the four problems being slabby to vertical, with only the last punching up through a steep section of wall. This meant the problems in general climbed slow, with the first especially being extremely technical around a volume arête. This problem featured a jump start, something I’m definitely keen to see less of (preferably none of) in competition. I singe move could’ve been added for the climbers to jump into the position where they started and it would’ve diminished the how morpho the move proved to be. The problem was started successfully by everyone but took diminutive Belgian Chloe Caulier 7 attempts to establish on the start. One she had established she flashed the remainder of the problem, but the results of course show her on 7 attempts, something that could’ve, but thankfully didn’t, come back to haunt her.
Along with Chloe, the only other send of the route was by Fanny Gibert, with the rest of the field failing to negotiate the arête.
The second problem, pushed the climbers through a gentle overhang on big compression volumes. Fanny again sent and was joined by Janja, who looked frustrated on the problem but was able to unlock the sequence as the 4 minutes ran down.
The third problem was a long wandering traverse through a corner. Set to be visually spectacular in came in a bit easy with several flashes and all of the women reaching the top.
This left only the powerful dynamic 4th problem which again saw two ascents. A superbly assured climb by Fanny Gibert which took her to victory and another ascent by Janja, who again looked uncomfortable but pulled it out. You’d have to speculate the weight of expectation is getting to her. In reality, as Chloe failed to top the problem Janja’s place was already secured, something that would’ve been different without the jumpstart on F1. If that had been counted as a flash it would’ve really heaped the pressure on Janja.
The men in general got a steeper set, with a solitary slab second problem. This meant faster attempts but the complexity of the problems left the guys burning attempt after attempt on most problems.
The first problem stuffed a couple of climbers low, with Chon Jongwon in particular unable to unlock the opening sequence. Most eventually made it to the two duel texture balls on a rounded, undercut volume. The problem finishing with a powerful muscle up. Only local hero (and insanely strong) Jan Hojer was able to secure the top.
The second problem was slab trickery on volumes. It proved maybe a little soft with everyone except Jakob Schubert able to unlock the sequence with relative ease.
The third problem looked great, powerful shouldery moves on crimps screwed to volumes making it very much a pure power problem. This problem saw several ascents, including an incredible effort by Chon who’s opening sequence was crazy powerful.
The last problem saw the order jumbled. Super hard steep pinches led to a crimpier top. Chon nailed the ascent, and with it a place on the podium. What place that was to be would be decided by the efforts of Jernej Kruder and Jan. Jernej topped, taking the lead by a single bonus and meaning all eyes were on Jan who was climbing last. Unable to unlock the pinch sequence Jan slipped to 3rd position on the day behind the elated Jernej and Chon.
Studio Bloc put on a superb competition, and learning from watching the CWIF a week earlier, the setters were much better equipped for setting to the new 4 minute standard. This rule change really is going to influence how the setters approach finals problems this year.
Next stop on the tour is the IFSC World Cup in Meiringen, Switzerland in just over a week, if the first two competitions are anything to go by it’ll be an amazing season. Bring it on!
For a full album of Studio Bloc Masters finals get across to our smugmug page!