Excitement mounts for the first ever UCI sanctioned Pump Track World Championships which are being held 17-19 October at the Swiss Bike Park in Köniz-Oberried, close to Bern, Switzerland. It’s a simple format that puts skill, stamina, technique and nerve to the test. Olympic BMX racers, mountain bike champions and newly qualified pump track riders are amongst nearly 100 competitors from around 30 countries going head-to-head on a fair, if not level, playing field...
What is pump track?
Born out of skateparks, home to countless BMX enthusiasts and often used as a way to develop mountain bike handling skills, pump tracks are made up from a series of connected rollers and berms. What’s special about them is that the riders don’t need to pedal – the ‘pump’ refers to the rider’s body thrusts, pushing the bike into motion. It’s the skillful use of the track’s contours to move quickly from the gun that is the crux of the competition.
Any rigid bike works on a pump track so we see a good mix of riders from BMX and mountain bike backgrounds, with a shared skillset that comes together on the pump track. At Köniz there’s a new Velosolutions Pump Track with a total length of 300m, and an area of 1600m2. There are thousands of pump tracks – in different shapes and sizes, some dirt, others asphalt – all around the world. And so it’s no surprise that the UCI World Championships this year feature riders from so many nations.
And the pump track race format?
It’s beautifully simple – and that’s part of what makes it so watchable. Timed qualifying sessions determine a running order. From there pairs of riders go head-to-head in knockout-style heats until the last two men and the last two women remain, who fight it out in their finals for the rainbow jerseys!
2018 saw the first Pump Track World Championships, hosted at the Jones Center in Arkansas, USA, where of the 67 BMX and mountain bike riders competing it was two Swiss riders – David Graf and Christa von Niederhäusern – who took the men’s and women’s titles. Both are back this year for the formalised UCI event, and on home soil the quality of the international competition visiting them is intense.
UCI President David Lappartient said: “We aim to meet the expectations of a public that enjoys a show and to make our sport even more popular with the younger generation.”
How the finalists qualified
There have been 25 qualifying rounds already throughout 2019, right around the globe, giving these UCI World Championships its uniquely international feel.
From Chile in February, Bruno Lavagnino was the men’s winning qualifier and Renata Urrutia the women’s: “All ready for the grand finale of the @redbullpumptrackworlds next stop Switzerland Bern.”
In March, from Shenzhen, China, winning qualifiers were Nong Zheng and Wang Si Yangzi. In Manila, the Philippines, Jerich Farr and Lea Denise Belgria. While in Roma, Lesotho, we welcomed winners Mohapi Mosito and South African Georgina Grassie.
Winners of April’s qualifier in Lainate, Italy, were Giacomo Fantoni and the Austrian Vanessa Kager:
“More than ready to ride a pumptrack properly again🔥🥰.
So excited to be able to ride the World Final track in Bern this week. It’s going to be epic🤘❤. ”
Meanwhile in Wellington, New Zealand, Connor Mahuika and Shania Rawson were the fastest. And at the Mittersill, Austria qualifier in May, Poland’s Marcin Rot and Czech Republic’s Michaela Hájková were amongst those to earn their ticket to Bern. Leavenworth, WA, USA it was Tommy Zula celebrating. As was Payton Ridenour: “Touchdown in Switzerland for the @redbullpumptrackworlds final this weekend!!!🇨🇭(ps @eddyclerte815 told me I was rad😎) #bmx #bmxracing #pumptrack.”
Fastest Swiss qualifiers in Gempen, looking to follow the 2018 World Champions, were Tristan Borel and Nadine Aeberhard. While Germany’s Philip Schaub and Kristina Madarásová of Slovakia were amongst the quickest in Füssen, Germany, in June. In the Latvian qualifying round at Riga, Eddy Clerté of France, last year’s beaten finalist, hit hot spot - and he’s raring to go in Bern: “Landed in Switzerland, already saw a lot of things that i don’t see often and i love it 🙌🏼.”
Vineta Petersone of Latvia was the winning women’s qualifier.
July’s two qualifying rounds in South Africa saw Adrien Broustal of France, Kane Herbert and Hannah Stiebel of South Africa, and Stefanie Grossman of Namibia, hitting fast times. In Bali, Indonesia, it was two Australians who went quickest: Jye Hombsch and Danielle Beecroft. While in Kivoli, Estonia, it was two Latvians: Arnis Petersons and Justine Zonne, who won.
Come August and in Great Britain, Mark Ducat won the men’s, and the women’s went to Dagmara Polakova. In Nanaimo, Canada, it was Ben Leslie and Violet Cejalvo. At the Dutch round in Roosendaal, Frenchman Mateo Colsenet won the men’s. The 2018 second and third placed women – sisters Laura and Merel Smulders, who went head-to-head in the semi-final – aren’t competing this year but Carmen Vermeulen represents The Netherlands after winning in Roosendaal. In Järvsö, Sweden, Max Fredriksson beat freeride star Martin Soderstrom into second place while Elina Davidsson won the women’s.
September was busy! Boris Ponomarev and Olga Romzaikina were the fastest Russians in Izhevsk. In Hyperbad, India’s Rajnish Kumar and Britain’s Sarah Murray were winning qualifiers. Austrian four-cross specialist Hannes Slavik and Slovakian Kristina Madarásová won in Leogang. In Fujairah, UAE, setting the pace was Kuwait’s Mansour Safran and Britain’s Tara Atkinson: “Here I go! Can't believe I get to do this again! Going to be super fun and I'm so excited for what @redbullpumptrackworlds and @velosolutions have planned for the riders this weekend! ”
In Gaston County, USA, Keagan Nelson took the win from the 2018 World Championship bronze medalist Barry Nobles, and Shealen Reno was the women’s winner. The competition was fierce in Lyon, France: and it was French BMX champion Thibault Dupont whose cream rose to the top. And Mathilde Betrand – who just missed out on a podium at the 2018 World Championships, won the strong women’s field.
But the starting list for the finals on Saturday 19 October aren’t yet complete - because there are more places to be earned at the Last Chance Qualifier (‘LCQ’) round on the Köniz track on Friday 18th. Then we’ll really all be ready for the finals the next day.