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Can Anyone Beat the Russians at the Ice Climbing World Cup in Denver this Weekend?

Russian ice climbers are blowing everyone else out of the water.

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For a country with a modest “1 result” when you search for ice climbing on Mountain Project, Russia sure is bringing the heat—er, freeze?—to the competition ice climbing stage. Colorado, an area about 1/64th of the size of Russia, boasts 729 ice climbs on the Proj, yet the U.S. team—68% of whom have lived in ice-climbing dense areas in Colorado—is one of many countries that can’t seem to hold a candle to team Russia.

The ongoing 2018-2019 Ice Climbing World Cup Tour is comprised of six competitions worldwide—all culminating in the competition in Denver, Colorado, on February 22 to 24.

This series is a part of the larger UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour, which is the official competitive ice climbing season, comprised of the six World Cup competitions, the UIAA Ice Climbing Combined Championships, and the UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships, which will take place in Kirov, Russia, March 8-10th.

U.S. athlete Kendra Stritch placed seventh in women’s speed in the competition in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and Kevin Lindlau, also of the U.S., placed the same in men’s lead in Cheongsong, South Korea.

Russia, however, has claimed 76 top ten finishes in finals in the five events leading up to Denver (this includes five World Cup competitions, as well as the World Combined Championships, which took place December 15 and 16 in Moscow, Russia.)

The women’s speed team alone has swept the finals round in every World Cup leading up to Denver.

Russian speed climber Anton Nemov has placed among the top four in men’s speed throughout the five World Cup Tour competitions so far, four of those being first place. Equally impressive is his teammate Nikolai Kuzovlev, who has won men’s lead at every stop along the tour, save for his second place finish in in Saas-Fee. Maria Tolokonina also has six victories under her belt going into the Denver competition—five in lead, one in speed.

In short, round six of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup Tour this weekend, the Russians are dominating the overall season standings. Kuzovlev is comfortably ahead in men’s lead with 480 points—153 points ahead of South Korea’s Park Heeyong in second. In men’s speed, Nemov and Vladislav Lurlov sit in first and second with 455 and 361 points, respectively. Maria Tolokonina is first in women’s lead with 440 points, with Shin Woonseon of South Korea in second with 364 points. Tolokonina is also tied for second place in women’s speed, along with her teammate Natalia Savitskaia. Both have 326 points, only slightly trailing first place Ekaterina Koshcheeva, also of—you guessed it—Russia.

With as many as 15,000 people expected to fill Civic Center Park this weekend in Denver, the Ice Climbing World Cup rages on in full force. Team USA is taking 18 athletes—eight women and 10 men—including Kendra Stritch and Kevin Lindau, alongside the long-time competitor and coach Marcus Garcia, with his Durango-based youth team. Check in with Rock and Ice for updates, footage and results!

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