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Eiter and Puigblanque win Rock Master 2005

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Angela Eiter and Ramòn Julien Puigblanque win the 19th Rock Master at Arco.

Rock Master 2005 ph Giulio Malfer

It was truly special Rock Master. It's difficult to get rid of this sensation. I waited for the colours and emotions to dissolve, for the twentieth edition since that first combined Sport Roccia '86 with Bardonecchia to fade. I waited for the celebration (revelry) effects in Pio's bar to fade. In short, before drawing conclusions I tired to digest three intense days of evening shows, pilgrimages to Massone and competitions at the Climbing Stadium. To tell you the truth it took a while for things to come into focus, but the impression I have is always the same: it was truly special. In all honesty I'm also unsure as to whether I'm completely impartial or not. I've been writing about the Rock Master for months (for the book, the press office...). Could there be a conflict of interests? Then I decided no, also because I felt it almost pretentious to talk about conflict of interests and anyway, here in Italy it seems as if these things don't count for much these days. And then again, for a Rock Master such as this one it really is worth concentrating a bit and gathering one's thoughts.

I’ve said it was special. Even if saying why, finding the true reasons, isn't such an easy task. It is obvious that it was special for the spectacle offered by Angela Eiter and Ramon Julian Puigblanque, true winners of this 19th Rock Master here in Arco. The Austrian star was quite simply perfect: top on the on-sight with a slight shudder on the "demanding" traverse at half height, followed the next day by a regal top on the after-work route. Her third consecutive Rock Master victory had been predicted long off - other than the World Championships she has won every competition this year - but one thing is certain: the crowd’s standing ovation after her victory top will remain in the Master's history books. It was a crowing tribute to this young star. An emotional, all-involving explosion of joy, just like when Ramon Julien climbed up his after-work route. The reigning European Champion called the shots on his fourth appearance in Arco, ascending with such a overwhelming rhythm that the crowd clapped in time with his ascent. Something never seen and heard before.

And we had never seen so many champions at the same time at the Rock Master. There were many who rendered it legendary: Lynn Hill and Stefan Glowacz, Patrick Edlinger and Luisa Iovane, François Legrand, JB Tribout, Liv Sansoz, Laurence Guyon, Aña Ibanez, Cristian Brenna, Alberto Gnerro, Stefano Alippi. And there were many who have dedicated their entire passion to sports climbing, such as Heinz Mariacher (incredible!), Marco Ballerini, Heinz Zak, Marzio Nardi, Rolando Larcher, Rosanna Manfrini. The list could continue endlessly. And their presence played an important role in rendering this event unique, in the purest form.

As my friend Nicoletta said, seeing them there, mingling with so many other climbers, walking up through the Massone (or Gethsemane?) olive groves before climbing together (beneath the burning sun), waiting for the competition to begin... this was special and great. One of the many pieces of the memory puzzle not to be forgotten. Like the Edlinger-Glowacz duet on Friday evening with Stefan who, in response to Leonardo Bizzarro’s question about the famous ex aequo in Rock Master '88, replied convinced that Patrick was the victor that time. "Le blonde" replied "Yeah, well who cares, the important thing is that we're all here..." Or like Lynn Hill and Angela Eiter who try to understand who is smaller (or greater?) while they pose for a photo which unites the absolute protagonist of the first six Arco Masters with the current dominator of the competition.

There are plenty more anecdotes to recount, but to avoid feelings such as those from the book "Heart", it's probably best if we return to the strong emotions of the competition. For example those provided by the superb Sandrine Levet, the only athlete capable of contrasting Eiter's dictatorship. Her highpoints were just a couple of holds short of the top on both routes and Sandrine as always spent all she had to give. One doesn't know where she taps the strength from and on the after-work route she seemed to give it even more than she physically could. A truly superlative Levet performance which resulted in a just second place. Maya Vidmar climbed superbly too, starting from provisional eighth after the on-sight, recuperating 4 positions with an incredible comeback on the after-work route. So incredible that, for a brief moment, it looked as if she would steal third place from the more constant Olha Shalagina, the recently crowned Bouldering World Champion who is also making a name for herself in Lead competitions.

Rock Master 2005 ph Giulio Malfer

Jenny Lavarda's performance was exciting, too. This time she really gave the impression of being capable of a podium position and her fifth place is definitely worth not ignoring, but a more careful control of the competition would certainly have reaped her higher rewards. But Rock Master is also this: it's hard to control one's emotions. Young Katharina Saurwein knows a thing or two about this, especially after seeing her provisional third place disintegrate to seventh overall as a result of her disappointing second round. And Marietta Uhden knows plenty about emotions too. Combating in her final international competition the German climber fought like a lion, much to the crowd's delight. Uhden finished sixth, while Alexandra Eyer and Martina Cufar completed the rankings, both somewhat beneath par. The women's competition was great. I'd even dare say it was nigh perfect , for the way in which one athlete after the next climbed higher than the other, continuously raising then highpoint until the grand finale of Levet, just a step away from the finishing holds and, immediately afterwards, Eiter, her top and glory. Spectacular!

The men's competition was certainly no less spectacular, with six athletes in the running for victory after the first day. For the Rock Master this is a rare, unique situation. I've already mentioned Spanish Puigblanque who recovered two positions on Sunday for his gold. Mister Evgueni Ovtchinnikov's Saturday climb was extraordinary, netting him provisional first before settling in second overall on Sunday. The usual, incorrigible, extremely strong Tomasz Mrazek deserves a mention too: although there were no excesses as seen in past editions, this authentic competition cyborg once again gave the impression of finishing beneath his capabilities. Both on Saturday and on Sunday the double World Champion climbed with startling ease to just within a few holds of the top, before getting mixed up in simple mistakes. But this is how he is... one thing is certain though: few are as strong as him. One who gets close though is the current World Cup leader Flavio Crespi, just a whisker from the podium and possibly even the first historic Italian victory. His fourth place came about after recuperating one position and this is certainly a good result, even if it is shared ex aequo with Jorg Verhoeven (the young Dutchman produced a great first Rock Master). But seeing the ease with which the Italian climbed we all hoped for the best. This means that - finger crossed - we can console ourselves with the World Cup...

Talking of consoling oneself: even if he missed out on his fourth consecutive victory, Alexandre Chabot didn't look in the slightest bit shaken with his two position slip to sixth place overall on Sunday. But we all know, Chabot is no longer the man who wins absolutely everything, or no longer alone at the absolute top and then again, as he told us, he had just come from an intense training canyoning... Patxi Usobiaga, one of the favorites, was probably less happy with his result and his climb on Saturday paved the way for eighth overall, one behind Maxim Petrenko (7th) and one ahead of Luca Zardini (9th), highly tense as ever in Arco. A somewhat under par Christian Bindhammer finished 10th, ahead of Sylvain Millet 11th, while the youngest new entries Fabrizio Droetto and Timo Preußler finished 12th and 13th respectively. Though judging by Fabrizio's smile the experience must have been superb. And it is nice this way because by now I think it's clear that it was a great event, also from a competitive point of view and from the beauty of the routes set by Leonardo Di Marino and Donato Lella. Perhaps the most beautiful and spectacular Rock Master of recent times. Ask the athletes or the public to be believed!

Rarely has one felt such an intense feeling as this year. And not only in the classic Rock Master. Also in the Duel, won as usual by Tomasz Oleksy from Poland who beat the new flying entry Manuel Escobar from Venezuela. And the two Sint Roc Bouldering Contests were enticing, too, with both coming to the wire on the final problem. Melanie Son danced into first place on last problem, while an inspired Kilian Fischhuber grabbed gold beating Loic Gaidioz with an exciting first-go send. The feeling between the crowd and athletes was intense, and many will remember the Finnish magic, a.k.a. Faille Hukkataival, on the incredible slab invented by the usual goblin Jacky Godoffe.

Talking of magic, I'd almost like to add that this was a magic edition. But I'll avoid doing so, because at this point you'll really think I'm an embedded journalist. What is certain however is that there was passion. Perhaps because there were so many veteran climbers around?

See you next time!

Vinicio Stefanello


RockMaster Trophy- men
1. PUIGBLANQUE Ramon Juli·n ESP
2. OVTCHINNIKOV Evgueni RUS
3. MRAZEK Tomas CZE
4. CRESPI Flavio ITA
4. VERHOEVEN Jorg NED
6. CHABOT Alexandre FRA
7. PETRENKO Maxim UKR
8. USOBIAGA Patxi ESP
9. ZARDINI Luca ITA
10. BINDHAMMER Christian GER
11. MILLET Sylvain FRA
12. DROETTO Fabrizio ITA
13. PREUßLER Timo GER

RockMaster Trophy - women
1. EITER Angela AUT
2. LEVET Sandrine FRA
3. SHALAGINA Olha UKR
4. VIDMAR Maja SLO
5. LAVARDA Jenny ITA
6. UHDEN Marietta GER
7. SAURWEIN Katharina AUT
8. EYER Alexandra SUI
9. CUFAR Martina SLO

Duel women - Ennio Lattisi Trophy
1.EITER Angela AUT
2.SHALAGINA Olha UKR
3.VIDMAR Maja SLO
4. LEVET Sandrine FRA

Duel men - Ennio Lattisi Trophy
1. CHABOT Alexandre FRA
1. VERHOEVEN Jorg NED
3. USOBIAGA Patxi ESP
4. PETRENKO Maxim UKR
5. CRESPI Flavio ITA
5. MRAZEK Tomas CZE
5. OVTCHINNIKOV Evgueni RUS
5. PUIGBLANQUE Ramon Julian ESP

The Roberto Bassi Trophy was awarded to Flavio Crespi as the best Italian athlete two years running

Portfolio Giulio Malfer
Expo The North Face
Expo La Sportiva
News archive Rock Master 2004

Photo: Rock Master 2005 (ph Giulio Malfer)

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