9 reasons why all riders should aspire to reach the Pump Track World Finals
© Dan Griffiths
It's not just about racing at the Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championships. Find out what sets this event apart from other races and why you should add it to your bucket list.
Riders from all across the globe converged in Lisbon, Portugal for the second-ever Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championships Finals on October 17. In some disciplines the world champs is only about winning that coveted rainbow jersey, but the Pump Track World Finals are so much more than just getting the rainbow stripes.
Find out what you could expect if you win a Pump Track Qualifying round and the golden ticket to the World Finals. Here are nine reasons why this isn't your average biking event and why any rider should aspire to get to there.
It's the ultimate rider experience
The Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championships is a week long rider-centric experience. From the moment you win your local qualification round and receive a coveted all-expenses paid invite to the World Finals (wherever in the world that may be) the Velosolutions team are on hand to make sure you have the best race experience possible.
After being flown into the host destination, you arrive at the riders hotel, where you get to mingle and make friends with other competitors. Meal times are all held together, whether that's at the hotel, on-site or out in the host city.
At the track riders have their own area separate from the fans where they have access to a physio, caterers, mechanics and a chill-out zone. When not putting laps in on the track, there's a full list of activities to get involved with; riders in Portugal got to go on a Lisbon city sunset boat tour, sip drinks at an exclusive rooftop bar, head to the beach for a day of surfing, relax with yoga sessions and have a Red Bull Rampage viewing party. All this for winning your local Red Bull Pump Track World Championship round.
There's always new people to meet
Most race scenes have the same rotating rider list appearing at different rounds. Not so much at the Pump Track World Finals. With qualifiers held in different countries year-on-year, there's always a mix of new faces thrown in. 59 competitors arrived in Portugal from 19 countries, including riders from Lesotho, Argentina, USA, Colombia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Italy and Belgium.
Your bike, your style
BMX vs MTB is always a hotly contested topic at pump track races and there were constant discussions in the riders' area weighing up the pros and cons of 20" wheels against 26" wheels. However, as noted by Payton Ridenour: "When we come here there's people on dirt jumpers, people on BMX bikes on park bikes, people from different countries all over the world and it's just awesome to see everyone come together and were all so different, but then we get to do something we love together."
One rider removing himself from the BMX vs MTB debate all together was Niels Bensink, who created a custom 22-inch bike of his own. Take a look at it in the video below.
There were also fresh wheels for Khothalang Leuta, star of the film The Fastest Girl in the Village, who received her very own Specialized P3 Dirt Jump bike and helmet from Specialized. She'd been previously training and riding on borrowed bikes from the community bike club at her village's local Velosolutions Pump Track in Roma, Lesotho.
There's just as many girls as guys
A lot of mountain bike races typically have a much larger male field than women's field. Not when it comes to the Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Finals, though, with this year's race actually having more women than men racing. 32 male and 34 female entrants got to ride.
As a women's winner and men's winner comes from each local qualifier there's always a good balance of riders. Track side there was also the support of Swedish contingency Women and Wheelz, who came to ride and bring the stoke factor. With the prize money for winners also being equal, there's no reason for women not to get involved.
Share the stoke, share the skills
The Portuguese finals had everyone from Olympians, Crankworx riders, track cyclists, 4X racers, BMXers, mountain bikers and the first woman who ever landed a Backflip. It also had riders from more remote parts of the world who had, until now, never had the opportunity to race anywhere but their local tracks.
With such a mix of backgrounds and passions, riders were always on hand to help out and give advice to those who were newer to the sport. Local kids were also in for a treat, as they managed to get an afternoon riding and learning from the best in the athlete-run training sessions, as giving back and getting more people stoked on bikes is a key Velosolutions ethos.
Get to explore the local area
If you've ever taken part in bike races, there's a high chance you spent a lot of time on the track, working on your bike or resting and refuelling. There's often little time outside of training and racing to actually explore the local area. Because the Red Bull Pump Track World Finals is a five-day experience however, and not just confined to a weekend, riders got the time to visit the city, go on a sunset boat cruise and head to the beach for a day of surfing – all of which was included in their ticket to the World Finals.
You don't need a team
Unlike the UCI MTB World Championships, riders don't have the support of their own team pits, mechanics or team coaches at the races. Instead, everyone gets to share the resources on site. The riders area is one big shared section with mechanics on site ready to help out anyone who needs it, a physio to soothe sore muscles, spin bikes to warm up and chill-out zones to relax and chat to other competitors. So, you don't need the support of a full team to enter and it doesn't matter if you show up alone. There's all the support you need at the event.
There are plenty of locations to practice
It doesn't matter if you don't live near the mountains or endless bike trails, there are Velosolutions Pump Tracks popping up in all corners of the world. With founder Claudio Caluori constantly looking for new locations to build and to help expose new riders to the sport, there's chance that there may be one in a city near you. Take a look at where your closest pump track is here.
You never know where it might take you
Before coming to the Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championship Finals, Khothalang Leuta (winner of the the Lesotho round) had never been outside of South Africa, or ridden anywhere but her local Velosolutions track.
Winning her local round gave her the opportunity to fly in a plane for the first time, see the ocean for the first time, race against competitors from all over the world and she even got her very first pump track bike from Specialized.
Elated with her trip and experience, Leuta spoke about being able to get back to her local pump track and pass on her new skills: "I'd never imagined that I could be here [in Europe]. I've seen that sports can change people's lives and I want to give others that same chance."