Recap: Red Bull Pump Track Worlds

October 15, 2018 by  

David Graf of Switzerland wins the  first-ever Pump Track World Championships

By Brian Strieby

In action sports Red Bull is known for putting on some very innovative events, so last year when details came out about a pump track world championships, with qualifying events all over the world, and a final, there was a lot of interest.

Pump tracks have been popping up all over the world, and have became a great venue for a broad spectrum of riders. Young or old, race, street, or mountain bike, all you need is a set of wheels to have fun.

Red Bull tapped into this rider base with no limits on wheel size, or proficiency for their series, and had a class for the ladies also.

When the news started started showing up about the first event held in Indonesia, I was excited to see that the event looked like a blast, the pump track was rad and well built, and had attracted a lot of riders on a bunch of different bikes. At that point, one had to wonder, what kind of bike would have a advantage: BMX, or a mountain bike?

I knew I had to get in on this new format, so in May, after begging for time off work, made my way down to the event in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The first thing that became apparent was that these events were extremely fun. There was a pretty relaxed attitude, even to the point you would find yourself cheering for the rider you knew you were going to be going against in the next round.

It also demonstrated the ability to pull riders that were relatively unknown into the spotlight. This was demonstrated there when a rider wearing a flannel shirt by the name of Keagan Nelson beat out Free Agents Alex Bob to go head to head with Tommy Zula. Zula took the win on his mountain bike, and it started to look like the bigger wheel size might have a ever so slight advantage. It was hard to judge, but looked like Tommy might have been able to win on your grandma’s bike.

The final event of the series went down this past weekend in Springdale, Arkansas. I decided to make the short 12 hr drive in a desperate attempt to qualify at the last chance qualifier the day before.

The surrounding area has become a biking mecca of sorts, with a USA BMX track nearby, and a vast mountain bike trail system funded by the Walton Foundation. WalMart’s corporate headquarters are in nearby Bentonville.

Velosolutions had been taking care of designing and building all of the pump tracks for the events, and had just recently finished building the track.

When I arrived for practice and started riding the track, I was very impressed. This was the most technical, smoothest, and well designed pump track I had ever seen. All the features were excellently designed, including the back to back, tight, steep triple berms, and some steep, deep “consecutive rollers” that only a hand full of riders were jumping. The corners could hold so much speed it was scary.

It quickly dawned on me what a truly world event it was when realized how many countries and the depth of talent from a variety of biking disciplines that were represented.

Brian Strieby at the Red Bull Pump Track World ChampionshipsLet’s be honest, it’s not every day when you have a mix of past BMX Olympians, the current Elite Women BMX World Champion, assorted other Elite Men and Women BMX racers, Mountain Bikers that race enduro, riders that race both MTB and BMX, hardcore Mountain Bikers, dirt jumpers that have never raced, and one washed up vert ramp riding vet pro BMX racer (above…the photo was Carruth’s idea)–all at the same event.

Rain started to fall as the time trials got under way for the LCQ. Barry Nobles won on the men’s side, securing him a spot for the final the next day. He had failed to qualify at an earlier event with a wreck that, as he told me later, allowed his competitor that day, a rider that was over 50 years old, to move on in qualifying, a dream come true for him.

Jordan Scott won the women's LCQ at the Red Bull Pump Track World Championships

Jordan Scott won the women’s LCQ at the Red Bull Pump Track World Championships

The Worlds final that kicked off the next day truly-was a world championship event, with riders from far from locations around the globe. Red Bull had poured-in a ton of support for the top riders, with paid airfare and hotel rooms to get them to the event.

On the men’s side, the field of 40 was narrowed down to 16, with one hour to put your fastest time up.

You got to do a rolling start to get up to speed before starting your time. Later in qualifying and all the way to the final events, the format was different, with riders going head to head starting from a dead stand still.

This format was a little controversial, with some of the mountain bikers making the argument that the BMX bikes had more of an advantage off the start. All the participants were having a blast and having fun with fist bumps and hugs after races, despite the light rain that had set in.

Tommy Zula had the top qualifying time till the French rider Eddy Clerte posted a faster lap. The Swiss ride of David Graf was looking good, as well.

Clerte made it to the final round to go head to head with David Graf. Barry Nobles almost made the final, but in the semi round against Graf, he was ahead at the half way mark but a bobble in the triple s-corners kept him out of the final.

In the final race, David Graf and Eddy Clerte lined up, the starting gun was fired, and Clerte slipped his petals, costing him the title of world champion and three thousand five hundred dollars in prize money. Graf rode to an easy victory and became the first-ever pump track world champion.

Christa Von Niederhausern wins the Womens World Final at the Red Bull Pump Track World Championship
On the woman’s side, it was cool to see the rainbow jersey of the current UCI BMX Elite Women World Champion, Laura Smulders. She ended up in the semis going head to head with her sister Merel, with Merel winning and moving on to face Christina Von Niederhuasern (above) in the final lap. Von Niederhausern prevailed in the finals for the title.

It was really cool to participate in an event like this. Red Bull did a great job of marketing the series and put a lot of work into it. The pump tracks are top notch, the format is great, letting you race riders you would have never otherwise had competed against.

There is talk of the series making a comeback next year, so if you missed out this year, keep your eyes open for next years series details.

I think this style of racing has potential to become a force to be reckoned with. Even though BMX racers took the top spots this time around, I’m sure the question as to what bike size is faster is far from over.

It was fun racing with people that I usually don’t race with. It was crazy to see how good these riders were. There is a 16 year old kid on a jump bike from Scotland just killing it, then moments later, pro BMXer David Graf.

It’s not about classes or age or the bike you ride, it’s relatable to a whole family. It’s amazing that it gets so many different types of riders together. Coming to this race I was just super excited to see where I was against other riders, both male and female. If they bring it back to the States in 2019, I’ll definitely be there.

Editor’s Note: Strider Bikes was set up at the event, to introduce the next generation of riders to the two-wheeled lifestyle. News will have some photos and a brief recap of their experience later in the week.

Highlights from the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ)

Highlight reel from the Final Day:

Red Bull Pump Track World Championship Results

Men’s Podium
1. David Graf (SUI)
2. Eddy Clerte (FRA)
3. Barry Nobles (USA)

Women’s Podium
1. Christa Von Niederhausern (SUI)
2. Merel Smulders (NLD)
3. Laura Smulders (NLD)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Dan Griffiths / Red Bull Content Pool
Jordan Scott Photo: Ryan Fudger / Red Bull Content Pool
Brian Strieby Photo: Ryan Fudger / Red Bull Content Pool
Christa Von Niederhausern Photo: Ryan Fudger / Red Bull Content Pool