Photo: Chasing Rainbows – Pump Track World Championships 2022

The fourth edition of the Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championships is wrapped up for another year. Last week, riders from 21 countries and 5 continents travelled to Santiago, Chile, for a shot at the rainbow jersey.

The series first emerged in 2018 as the brainchild of Claudio Caluori and his team at Velosolutions. Springdale, Arkansas, hosted the first World Final, where Christa von Niederhäusern and David Graf were crowned the founding Pump Track World Champions.

The following year, the series was officially recognised by the UCI, and riders have been chasing those rainbow stripes ever since. Excluding a Covid-induced hiatus in 2020, I’ve had the privilege of documenting the series each year since its birth, and every time we return, the series only proves to be bigger and better than the last.

In 2021, we saw France’s Eddy Clerte and Belgium’s Aiko Gommers claim the World Champs title in Lisbon, Portugal, and this year they were amongst 65 riders, battling it out again, this time in the Southern Hemisphere.

Photos and Words by Dan Griffiths.

Welcome to Santiago, Chile – Home of the 2022 Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championship Final.
Riders had a few days to relax and explore the city before practice started on Wednesday.
The course was tighter and steeper than previous years, and most opted for BMX over MTB. Still, there were plenty of doubles and triples to be found.
Although this year steered heavily towards BMX, MTB wasn’t exactly in shortage either. Hyper’s Bas van Steenbergen was one of those holding it down on the big wheels.
This year’s course was shorter than last year’s in Lisbon, but it still finds room for eight berms and six straights, equating to a lap time of between 23 and 26 seconds on average.
On Thursday evening, practice ended with a “best trick” comp. Unfortunately, a flip, 180 to half cab was not enough to claim Scotlands Mark Ducat the win.
A technical transfer put last year’s World Champion, Eddy Clerte, on top but his heart was set on the real prize on Saturday.
The series brings competitors from every corner of the globe, and this year’s final saw riders from 21 countries and 5 continents. Payton Ridenour travelled down from the USA after claiming her ticket at the Texas qualifier in July.
Caroline Buchanan was in Santiago fresh off the back of a Queen of Crankworx title in Rotorua. Earlier this year, she had claimed her ticket to the World Final after a win at the New Zealand qualifier in Gisborne, but of course, she was here on behalf of Australia.
Mark Ducat was one of two riders representing the UK. He and Connor Hudson were both here on 26-inch.
Residing in the UK but native to Poland, Agnieszka Pomaranska works as a Graphic Designer at Endura, but this week she was representing them on the bike after a win at the Skelf Qualifier in Scotland.
In Lisbon last year, cramping in finals put Niels Bensink out of contention for the win. This year there was no doubt he was hungry for redemption.
Seeding runs took place on Friday evening, so come Saturday, finals number boards were already allocated. Boasting the number one plates were Eddy Clerte and his teammate from the Czech Republic, Sabina Košárková.
Number board handover was the last job before the short, final practice session kicked off.
Pump tracks hosting World Champs get the subtle addition of rainbow stripes. If you see those, you know you’re in business.
Just look at those curves. The World Champs course is ready for action.
The practice was underway, and two single-minded racers would be presented with these trophies in just a few hours time.
First came lunch.
Followed by riders briefing, presented by UCI Race Commentator Max Cluer.
The riders connected with the crowd before zoning in for finals.
Anaia Istil repping it for #PumpForPeace – Claudio Caluori’s passion project provides pump tracks and cycling opportunities for underprivileged communities.
Shortly afterwards, the final rounds began. The first 32 would be cut down to 16, 8, 4, and finally, 2, where the men’s and women’s World Champions would be crowned.
The women’s round of 32 saw only 30 competitors, but the field was stacked with some seriously fast racers. Last year’s World Champ, Aiko Gommers, and 2018’s World Champ, Christa von Niederhäusern, were among those in the top 5 of seeding.
Once the round of 32 begins, the cutting down process is short and snappy. Unfortunately for ‘Aga’, she didn’t make the round of 16, but she had only positives to take away adventures in South America.
Syd and his team from Moto Sheets keep track of the timing at most of the pump track qualifiers, and when it comes to World Champs, there’s no better man for the job.
Payton Ridenour won the 2019 World Final in Bern, Switzerland, and claimed the rainbow stripes. Payton, and her good friend Carly Kane, were among 10 Americans competing on the weekend.
Carly scored 7th in qualifying and was a contender for a solid result in finals. Unfortunately, just 11 minutes after the last photo, Carly took a big slam, knocking herself out. She left the hospital with a concussion, but things could have been much worse.
Eddy Clerte led the charge in the quarter-finals.
Ryan Gilchrist of Australia qualified 2nd in seeding but finished 10th in finals, despite being less than a second off the fastest time of the day.
Miyanda Maseti, of South Africa, saw a horrific crash in finals resulting in a broken jaw. Fortunately, we’ve heard that the surgery was successful with no complications, and she’ll be flying home shortly.
Buchanan fought hard on the big wheels until the quarter-finals when Christelle Boivin proved faster on the BMX.
As the rounds worked down, the women’s number one qualifier, Sabina Sabina Košárkova, held her position.
Switzerland’s Tristan Borel finished 9th, but less than a second set him back.
Eddy Clerte went fastest in the quarter-finals over Niels Bensink by a mere 0.217 seconds.
To everybody’s delight, we later heard that his scans had returned ok, with his brain intact and no broken bones.
In the semi-finals, the 2021 World Champ, Aiko Gommers, put down an impressive 26.025-second run.
Still, Vineta Petersone wasn’t going to let the win go easy.
Vineta scraped a 0.155-second lead over Aiko and would later beat her in the B-Final by an even finer 0.06 milliseconds.
With Eddy out of the competition, it left only Thibault Dupont in the B-Final, and he saw off the World Finals with a solo lap of honour.
Two more races would determine who went home in the rainbow jersey. Sabina Kośárková was the first to step up for A-Finals, as race director Johan Lindstrom gave her the final fist bump.
It was a 25.743-second final run for the girl from the Czech Republic, but would it be enough to keep 2018’s World Champ at bay?
Christa von Niederhäusern had gone fastest in the round of 8, the quarter-finals, and the semi-finals and would only need to hold it together for one more run.
0.157 milliseconds separated the two finalists.
Back on top. The 2018 Champ reigned again.
Trackside, the celebrations had only just begun.
But one more race remained. It was a battle between USA’s Alec Bob and Netherlands Niels Bensink.
Alec had gone fastest in the semi-finals, but would he be able to hold it together for one more round?
It was a time of 23.201 for Alec. His fastest of the day, and only one man had one quicker – Eddy Clerte. With Eddy out of the competition, it was looking promising for the USA.
Niels would be happy to make it to the finals after cramping forced him to pull out of the competition early last year.
Having come up short year after year, he was no doubt hungry for that rainbow jersey.
Both men left nothing on the track, and as Niels crossed the line, there was no saying who would take it.
Just 0.30 milliseconds separated it. Niels Bensink scraped a victory in the final battle, and you can see just how much it meant to him.
A win well-earned.
A warm embrace for the two freshly crowned champs.
After trackside celebrations, awards ceremonies commenced.
Your top 3 women – Vineta Petersone, Sabina KošárkovÁ, and Christa von Niederhäusern.
Your top 3 men – Thibault Dupont, Alec Bob, and Niels Bensink.
Niels Bensink and Christa von Niederhäusern – your 2022 Pump Track World Champions.
The award ceremony concluded with champagne showers.
Peace out, Santiago.