Photo Epic: Pump Track World Championships

Oct 20, 2021


The third ever Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championships is wrapped up for another year. The event has come a long way since its beginnings in 2018 where we saw the first World Championships in Arkansas, a joint Velosolutions and Red Bull endeavour which would later become recognised as an official UCI event.

As with just about everything else in 2020, Covid royally f*cked last years event and so the 2019 winners, Tommy Zula and Payton Ridenour reigned World Champs for an additional year, meaning the riders that came up short two years prior in Bern were coming into this event even more determined to dethrone the running champs.

Photos and Words by Dan Griffiths.

Rider briefing with Olympic & UCI show caller, Max Cluer, before practice gets underway.

Tommy Zula's Airbourne rig gets the once over before Saturday practice.

There's a lot to get right on the pump track and the smallest of mistakes will cost you the win. Everybody was on track early Saturday morning getting things dialled in before the afternoon itinerary began.

There's some serious pump track talent coming out of the states... exhibit A, Cole Suetos, now the 14th fastest pump track racer in the world.

Exhibit B, the reigning champ, Tommy Zula.

Another one from across the pond, Collin Hudson, showing that even in the run up to World Champs there's still time for fun.

Riders travel from every corner of the Globe to take their shot at the World Title. Columbia's Miguel Calixto was on reserve for the 2016 Olympics in Rio and was racing in Lisbon last week alongside girlfriend, Vineta Pētersone; Latvian National Champ and Tokyo 2020 Olympian.

Morning practice over, next on the agenda as part of the Velosolutions rider experience... surfs up.

For most it was their first time on a surfboard so we chose to give Nazaré a miss this time around and settled for a slightly more mellow spot just down the coast.

With briefing finished and the riders now fully trained surfers it was time to catch some waves... still, you'd be forgiven for not setting your expectations too high.

I mean... I suppose you could call it character building.

If anything, it was a great bonding experience.

Successfully standing... Aiko Gommers would go on to achieve other great things come Sunday.

Merel Smulders showing that her talents extend beyond Tokyo 2020 bronze medals.

Khothalang Leuta takes a breather before another battle with the waves.

Regardless of performance, nobody on the gram has to know how well the actual surfing went.

Sign up... it's race day.

Nothing like the iconic Velosolutions red stripe and UCI rainbow to let you know it's time for business.

The riders line up for practice - one last chance to dial things in before the big show.

And we're underway - T-minus 2 hours to racing.

Overlooked by the humongous Vasco da Gama bridge, much to my disappointment it doesn't offer pedestrian access, so birds eye perspectives were off limits.

A reminder that just because it's race day that doesn't mean you can't bring the style too.

Mother to three daughters, Cory Coffey is killing it, balancing motherhood with her role on the USA Cycling National Team. Fun fact, in 2001, at the age of 19, she was the first woman to ever land a backflip in competition and has since won two World Championships in Freestyle BMX.

There were plenty of familiar faces over the weekend, Adrien Loron went home with P9.

Lunch break before the real work starts, Bon Appétite.

First up is qualifying for the round of 16.

Twenty odd minutes to set your best time and then pray you've made the cut.

If all goes to plan you're assigned one of sixteen plates and it's go time for the knockout rounds.

Observing Eddy Clerte throughout the week it was very clear he meant business. At just 23 years old, the level of professionalism that he gives to his racing is unmatched and if anybody was deserving of the stripes it had to be this guy, we were all rooting for him.

The Women are off. A slow lap to introduce the final 16 to the Portuguese crowd before the timed runs begin.

Racing was... intense.

Aiko Gommers at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
Payton Ridenour at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
The Women's final would come down to these two; 17 year old Aiko Gommers and reigning champ, Payton Ridenour.

16 women knocked down to 8 and it was time for the men to get underway.

German Philip Schaub showed early on in the field that he was one to watch.

Eddy Clerte at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
Meanwhile Eddy was living up to expectations.

Mistakes on track knocked Tommy out of the competition earlier on than expected but he remained in good spirits.

Pump Track racing is some high intensity sh*t and unfortunately for Niels Bensink some serious cramp in the final 4 cost him his chance at a win.

Niels Bensink at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
We were gutted for him not make the big final but we did get to see a final lap from him to finish his World Champs experience with honour.

Aiko Gommers and Payton Ridenour at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
Down to the final two men and women, first up was the battle between Payton and Aiko.

Payton Ridenour at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
Payton was looking really strong and would hope for a repeat of her 2019 victory.

Aiko Gommers at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
But Aiko wasn't here to mess about and it was an intense battle that could certainly have gone either way.

Aiko Gommers at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
At the finish just 0.350 seconds separated Gommers from Payton.

Aiko Gommers at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
Aiko Gommers at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
With the hard work out the way it was well earned victory lap for the new World Champ.

Aiko Gommers and Payton Ridenour at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
Sportsmanship at its finest, despite the obvious disappointment, Payton was stoked for Aiko.

The final race was about to get underway; Eddy Clerte would battle Philip Schaub for the title.

There was a tension in the air, we all knew what was at stake, it was laser focus for the last two riders.

Phillip Schaub at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
Philip was up first, you could see the determination in his eyes, he left nothing on the track.

Thibault Dupont at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
28.920 was his time but would it be enough?

Eddy Clerte at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
Eddy has been plagued with bad luck in previous years... 2018 in Arkansas saw him slip a pedal in the finals run against Olympian, David Graf and at Bern in 2019 he popped his shoulder out the day before finals... he went on the next day to take 3rd. This final run would determine whether he went home disappointed... or World Champion.

Watching his run there was absolutely no doubt that he was here to win and yet he still sailed over the triple on the second straight like it was nothing... a huge hit that few were taking on even during practice.

Eddy Clerte at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
It was an immaculate run.

Job done. Third time was the charm, two seconds up, Eddy crossed the line World Champion.

With whatever energy was left, he bolted straight into the arms of his dad, Mickael... after two years of disappointment, emotions were high.

Eddy Clerte at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
Catch your breath, you've just won World Champs, it's interview time.

Gold Medal at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
And stand for the National Anthem of Belgium... Aiko Gommers is united with the rainbow jersey.

Eddy Clerte and Phillip Schaub at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
The all important champagne showers, that's when you know it's real.

Top 3 Winners at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
The top 3. For the women, it was Christa Von Niederhäusern in 3rd, Payton Ridenour 2nd and Aiko Gommers 1st. For the men, Thibault Dupont took 3rd, Philip Schaub 2nd and Eddy Clerte 1st.

Eddy Clerte and Aiko Gommers at the RedBull UCI Pump Track World Championships in Lisbon Portugal.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2021 Pump Track World Champions, Aiko Gommers and Eddy Clerte.

Full results here.

Photos and Words by Dan Griffiths.


46 Comments

  • 28 5
 watching this event was more exciting than rampage.
  • 19 3
 How come none of them ride clips? Is it UCI mandated to be on flats? Seeing most clipped-in for BMX racing, I would expect to see the same here!
  • 2 1
 Interesting observation......
  • 17 0
 even the playing field.. everyone in clip less crocs..
  • 10 0
 It's a rule to ride flats in this race.
  • 5 0
 rules are no clips.
  • 8 7
 why would you even need clips with no pedaling involved?
  • 2 0
 Rule book says only flats.
It also says either long pant or knee guards, why Eddy ran none of them?
  • 4 0
 @qblambda: Hate to be nitpicky but the rules state that long pants or knee guards are _recommended_

There aren't really that many mandatory rules:
* wheelsize 20"+
* 1 brake
* no clips
* no automatic transmissions, motors etc
* no pegs
* shirt, shoes mandatory
* helmet mandatory (fullface mandatory for the world finals)
  • 4 0
 @bennorz: pants and shorts optional
  • 2 0
 @bblaney372: #nekkidpumptrack
  • 1 0
 #flat pedals win medals
  • 6 0
 Do the mountain bikes compete with the bmx bikes? Looks like all the top dogs are on the smaller bikes why would anyone ride a 26"?
  • 6 0
 In other races (including last years worlds) mountainbikes win too. It is nice to see both stand a chance here.
  • 5 0
 @vinay: In 2019, there was only 1 of 6 (Zulas) MTB on podium. On most tarmac pumptracks riding 26" is a handicap.
  • 4 0
 do the MTB rules require a suss fork like crankworks? could shave a couple pound with a rigid
  • 1 0
 @Mateo-s: Yeah, I also included the qualifiers, not just the finals.
  • 2 0
 Always wondered that too. I ride a 26" at the pump track for the wider margin of error. When I've borrowed 24" rigids though the difference in speed is enormous, and down to 20" it's a big shift up in speed again.
  • 2 0
 @mobiller: that's cool. I'm currently on a 24" rigid specifically for P'track
  • 4 0
 @mobiller: On my BMX (20") I'm also a whole lot faster at the pumptrack than on my hardtail mountainbike (26" wheels). Someone said me it is because of the suspension fork but indeed I also think it is because of the wheelsize. Smaller wheels interact more with the terrain. So bigger wheels may smooth out things when rolling into a big mess of rubble, but smaller wheels actually allow you to extract more speed from the terrain when you ride more actively. As there is no rubble on a smooth tarmac pumptrack, I'd also say there is no point running bigger wheels. In the days of "backyard pumptrack" features in Dirt magazine, people were not rarely riding these on 16" wheels. Yet Tommy Zula opted for the bigger wheels as, from what I understand, he thinks that once up to speed they can go faster. I can't tell (and obviously aren't as fast as Tommy) but why not have Ben Cathro do a comparison? He's great at showing two riders going through sections and illustrate who's faster. That should settle this discussion.
  • 2 0
 @vinay: definitly truth in that. I'd add that yeah bigger wheels will hold speed in momentum but where on a pump track do they have the time to gain that speed/momentum. Add that we know that a smaller wheel will accelerate faster and are WAY more agile in being light weight. Plus grip and rollover are a zero sum an you get 20" being the fastest size for P'track.
Before I set up my 24" rigid I did consider a cheap race 20" BMX but, my aching back, old man reaction times an balance put me off :'D
  • 4 0
 So happy to see that Khothalang Leuta made it to Portugal. If you haven't already seen the Red Bull feature on her, google her name and have a box of tissues handy. Super, SUPER inspiring.
  • 8 1
 Should be no chain too.
  • 2 0
 As far as I know, the place where they beginn to ride is much earlier than the time starting point. If one rides these tracks fast, I would say, you lose time by pedaling, because you would have to either:

- Slow down to be able to pedal between those rollers or
- Pedal in such an inefficient way, that you lose speed, compared to pumping.
  • 2 0
 @NinjaskinShinguards: Yeah plus because this race is open to all, I think that most the people competing in these qualifiers aren't quite used to riding without a chain. Even though pedaling won't help you much, it can be scary when a rider pushes down on the front pedal and it spins without resistance with the risk of a crash. Rather just leave it on. It may not help someone when going fast but it could save us some nasty OTB crashes.
  • 3 1
 Just a thought I had while reading through captions, if anyone cares to read. Regarding Eddy:

"...the level of professionalism that he gives to his racing is unmatched and if anybody was deserving of the stripes it had to be this guy."

I'm not so sure that I agree that professionalism = deserving of a win. I do think Eddy earned his win, and massive congrats to him - he was consistent on track, pulling the triple, and ruthlessly fast. Something feels weird to me about him "deserving" the stripes though, and I can't put my finger on exactly what.
  • 4 0
 What a nice advertisement for Slovakia!!! Thank you :-)

ep1.pinkbike.org/p6pb21508941/p6pb21508941.jpg
  • 2 0
 Man ,Clerte looks ripped, no wonder he’s a champ.
Cant see how anybody would be able to look forward to competing w/him. Dudes a brick house.
Was this televised?
  • 1 0
 It was on the redbull site/app. I think you can rewatch it. Good racing.
  • 2 0
 What are these shoes of Adrien Loron?
ep1.pinkbike.org/p6pb21508956/p6pb21508956.jpg
  • 5 2
 *WHAT ARE THOOOSE
  • 2 3
 Judging by the thickness of the sole I’m guessing they are special ‘tall’ shoes for short people.
  • 1 0
 @colincolin: Ja wohl!
  • 1 0
 @bennorz: Thank you.
  • 1 0
 Great Event! Great coverage!
Cool to see @Cole_Suetos getting some coverage. Great kid who loves riding his bike (he also crushes it on MTB)
  • 2 0
 Wondering why eddy is wearing golf gloves instead of mtb-gloves
  • 1 0
 was wondering same thing...maybe the full leather wrap gives more grip?
  • 1 0
 He is. Not sure why the preference, but that's it. I'd have assumed football (NFL) receiver gloves would be gripper than golf, but who knows.
  • 4 0
 straight to the driving range post race, no time to change. tee times are tight these days.
  • 1 0
 Bmx pump track world's by the looks of it...looked ace
  • 1 0
 one of the best sportsformats, ever.
  • 1 1
 Love these events. I only hope the new Los Angeles track will host one!?
  • 1 0
 Check the @growcyclingfoundation homepage
  • 1 0
 @VersusTires: yes that’s one one I was referring to.
  • 2 2
 I see short shorts are still a thing in mainland Europe

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