Warming temps and the Easter long weekend did not stop a deep field of the region’s best from signing up to pull on plastic as the Tour made its way back to Coyote Rock Gym in Ottawa for the 2009 MEC Tour de Bloc Eastern Regionals.

Knowing that the top climbers were coming into town, chief setter Jody Miall and his team went to work setting a qualifying round that tested each competitor’s strengths. “Qualifiers were set a little harder this time as I wanted to make sure that the best all around climbers made it through to finals,” said Miall.

A mix of comp savvy veterans and up-and-coming talent threw themselves at the more than 50 problems set to weed out the top eight men and the top six women who would move into the final round later that night. After the qualifier it was Bonnie De Bruijn, Erin Ford-Zieleniewski and Mellissa Lacasse who secured the top three spots for the women while Yves Gravelle dominated the men’s field, followed by Sebastien Lazure and Simon Villenueve.

The finals started well for the women with four of the six finalists (Ford, De Bruijn, Lacasse and Amanda Berezowski) topping out on problem number one. Problems two to five were a different story however, shutting down all of the women. Even though the subsequent problems failed to see any completions, the setters still managed to separate the field without any need for tiebreakers. Ford-Zieleniewski managed to bag another title, making her one of the Tour’s most prolific winners. An on-form De Bruijn secured second place and Lacasse barely beating out Berezowski for third.

It looked like the men were in for the same rough time, as problem number one denied all but one competitor with Villenueve managing the sole ascent. Things started to heat up on problems two (Villeneuve, Gravelle, Lazure and Izzy) and three (Van Ryan, Villeneuve, Tash Zielinski and Izzy Friedman) seeing multiple top-outs. Problem number four saw Chris Muzzillo and Ayo Sopeju send their first and only problems of the round with Zielinski, Villeneuve and Gravelle adding to their tallies.

With Simon Villenueve (four tops) holding the lead entering the fifth and final problem it was the last chance for young upstarts Friedman (three tops) and Zielinski (three tops) to stake their claim for top spot while hoping for Villenueve to stumble. Friedman was first up but failed to make progress on the round’s last problem, leaving it to the wiry Zielinski to put pressure on the veteran Villenueve. Zielinski did not disappoint as he managed to solve the fifth problem and force a momentary tie for first place. It was up to Villeneuve to take the title but he seemed to run out of steam, failing to clinch problem five.  Top qualifier Gravelle finished strong by completing the last problem of the finals.

A count back was necessary to determine the winner and once the chalk settled and the points  were, calculated one-time Ottawa local and now Calgary resident Simon Villenueve walked away with the eastern regional crown, signalling his return to form just in time for nationals. Zielinski put everyone on notice with a strong second place finish (one fall separated the top two) and local hard-man Gravelle rounded out the top three.

No doubt these top finalists will feature as protagonists at the Canadian Bouldering Championships in Montreal on May 16 and 17.

  1. Simon Villenueve
  2. Tash Zielinski
  3. Yves Gravelle
  4. Izzy Friedman
  5. Sebastien Lazure
  6. Ayo Sopeju
  7. Chris Muzzilo
  8. Travis Van Ryn
  1. Erin Ford-Zieleniewski
  2. Bonnie de Bruijn
  3. Melissa Lacasse
  4. Amanda Berezowski
  5. Melanie Mercier
  6. Elizabeth Maltais

-Andre Cheuk