Following three World Cup lead events in as many weeks, patterns are beginning to emerge.

At the start of the weekend’s event in Briançon, France, one revelation was the phenomenal consistency that the Austrian team has had this season, with standout competitors Jakob Schubert and Jessica Pilz looking stronger than ever, each holding victories in previous competitions. The boulderers have been less successful, who are dabbling in lead as preparation for the Olympics. In fact, no boulderers aside from Japan’s  have posed much of a threat to the lead contingent so far, though all-arounders like Akiyo Noguchi and Janja Garnbret continue to perform at the top of the pack. Finally, there continues to be a theme of progress for U.S. Olympic hopeful Ashima Shiraishi, who is getting more comfortable and more confident with each successive event.

Shiraishi had a solid women’s qualifiers round on Friday morning, as did season favorite Janja Garnbret of Slovenia and a number of French competitors, including Hélène Janicot, Nolwenn Arc, and Manon Hily. In the men’s division, Qualifiers saw Sean McColl’s well-publicized return to the lead discipline. McColl, who has focused mostly on bouldering this year, admitted to being nervous at the start of the round but rallied for a smooth climb on his second route. Italy’s Stefano Ghisolfi and Germany’s Alex Megos also wowed the crowd with strong performances.

By Friday evening, it was clear that the IFSC is in the midst of a generational shift. The men’s semi-finals lineup featured newcomers like Japan’s Taisei Homma, still a teenager, as well as veterans like Romain Desgranges—well into his 30s but showing no signs of depreciation. The key to success for all men on the burly semi-finals route of volumes and slopers was finding intermittent rests. 22-year-old American Sean Bailey was able to do this, and the commentators even noted how “incredibly comfortable” he looked on the wall’s steep midsection prior to falling. Although Bailey’s highpoint was not enough to advance to the Finals, it set an early bar for the ensuing competitors. McColl, similarly, did not advance, but he indicated at least being glad that a recent shoulder injury didn’t flare up.

The most impressive performance in the men’s Semi-Finals was that of Slovenia’s Domen Škofic, who managed his time well on the route despite not finding the strategic respite that the commentators called “the thank God kneebar.” Škofic fell a few moves shy from the top but, by advancing, kept alive his hope of reaching a podium for the first time this season.

Mina Markovič, Škofic’s Slovenian compatriot, climbed well in the women’s Semi-Finals. While there were reports that she got into a shouting match with her coach following Qualifiers, any lingering frustration was not evident; she appeared focused before getting pumped on the headwall. In fact, three other Slovenian women advanced to the Finals along with Markovič—Vita Lukan, Mia Krampl, and Garnbret.

On commentary, Charlie Boscoe and Mike Langley wondered whether Shiraishi’s short stature would pose a problem for the reachy moves on the women’s semi-finals route. However, not only did Shiraishi cruise through the crimps of the midsection without any issues, she employed a high heel hook to smoothly move beyond the lip of the headwall—a spot that had proven to be a crux for previous competitors. By the time Shiraishi pumped out on the open-hand slopers near the route’s top, Boscoe and Langley were wondering whether the subsequent Finals would see Shiraishi’s first-ever World Cup event victory.

The men’s Finals got underway on Saturday night with an enjoyably old-school route: no funky handholds or requisite body contortions, just a lot of crimps prompting resistance-style movement up the wall. Switzerland’s Sascha Lehmann and Japan’s Hiroto Shimizu proceeded through a lower section of football-shaped volumes but struggled in the field of large yellow volumes farther up. Ghisolfi, fresh off his victory at Chamonix the week before, made it higher but fumbled with a quickdraw clip and could not pull through the headwall’s crimpy traverse.

The route’s traditional style suited Megos, who has outdoor sends of old-school classics like Biographie and Hubble. He moved effortlessly through the yellow volumes that had stymied other competitors, smeared at the top as he worked through the headwall’s crimps, and barely missed sticking the sideways lunge for the top (1:03:02 in the livestream). It was a remarkable effort that the last competitor of the heat, Škofic, could not match. Megos’ highpoint of 45+ thus marked the decorated German’s first win on the World Cup stage. Second place went to France’s Desgranges. Bailey’s 10th place finish was the highest of the American men, with Kai Lightner at 41 and Drew Ruana rounding out the top 50.

Markovič kicked off the women’s finals route, a sequence of connected wedge-shaped volumes, with an impressive performance. She used a wide right foot to get her body nearly horizontal (2:02:34 in the livestream) on the lip of the headwall. Her score of 39+ wasn’t enough to earn a medal, but it showed marked improvement from previous events this season. Shiraishi followed Markovič, but succumbed to a big move off an undercling sloper. She finished in fourth place, as she had at Chamonix the week prior. A spot on the podium continues to elude Shiraishi, but her consistency thus far—she's made Finals in every event she's competed in—has been impressive.

The women’s Finals became a nail-biter after Austria’s Pilz topped the route with two competitors still on deck. Belgium’s Anak Verhoeven was not able to duplicate Pilz’s top, which left the door open for the last climber—Garnbret—to pursue victory. Under the spotlights, Garnbret made easy work of the volume sequences, and when she dynoed for the top, she did so from an even lower foothold than the one Pilz utilized (2:39:08 in the livestream). Garnbret has won the overall title for the last two years, and another theme that has emerged this season is whether she’ll be able to repeat that outstanding feat. So far—with the victory at Briançon—she’s a contender. Of the American women beneath Shiraishi, Claire Buhrfeind placed 32, Sophia Kwon 50, Maya Madere 51, and Magie Hammer 62.

There was no Speed portion during the weekend, although a Paraclimbing Cup made its debut earlier in the week and featured a number of categories. It was marked by exciting performances from Great Britain’s athletes—particularly Abigail Robinson, who won the women’s Visual Impairment discipline, Matthew Phillips, who won in the men’s Forearm Amputee category, and Hannah Baldwin, who won one of the women’s RP (Limited Range, Power, Stability) disciplines. France’s Thierry Delarue earned a victory in the AL category as a leg amputee, as did his compatriot, Lucie Jarrige, in one of the RP events. Additional winners are listed below.

The IFSC’s World Cup blitz continues next week (July 27-28) with an event in Arco, Italy. See our 2018 Climbing Competition Calendar for the full schedule.


Men’s Lead

  1. Alex Megos (GER)
  2. Romain Desgranges (FRA)
  3. Domen Škofic (SLO)
  4. Jakob Schubert (AUT)
  5. Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA)
  6. Thomas Joannes (FRA)
  7. Sascha Lehmann (SUI)
  8. Hiroto Shimizu (JPN)

Women’s Lead

  1. Janja Garnbret (SLO)
  2. Jessica Pilz (AUT)
  3. Anak Verhoeven (BEL)
  4. Ashima Shiraishi (USA)
  5. Mina Markovič (SLO)
  6. Vita Lukan (SLO)
  7. Mia Krampl (SLO)
  8. Nolwenn Arc (FRA)

Men’s Paraclimbing

  • AU-2: Matthew Phillips (GBR)
  • Visual Impairment B1: Matteo Stefani (ITA)
  • Visual Impairment B2: Giulio Cevenini (ITA)
  • AL-2: Thierry Delarue (FRA)
  • RP-1: Korbinian Franck (GER)
  • RP-2: Behnam Khalaji (IRI)
  • RP-3: Alessandro Neri (ITA)

Women's Paraclimbing

  • Visual Impairment B-2: Bigail Robinson (GBR)
  • RP-2: Hannah Baldwin (GBR)
  • RP-3: Lucie Jarrige (FRA)

Previous 2018 World Cup Events