Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championship hits La Neuveville
Situated on the shores of Lake Biel, La Neuveville has preserved its urban structure, dating back to medieval times. Towers, adjoining houses, alleys and fountains mark the small town, whose primary income at the time was from vineyards, watchmaking and private educational institutions. Today, La Neuveville is a city of culture and gastronomy, linked to the fame of its wines and the starting point of many excursions.
Located a stone’s throw from the lake, the 900m2 Velosolutions Pump Track was inaugurated in 2021. Equipped with two identical routes, a green line on the vineyard side and blue on the lakeside, its playful mirror design made for some great racing this weekend.
Multicoloured houses populate the main street, and an open stream runs through the centre. To wander through the narrow paved streets of the old town is a pleasure – just try not to fall in.
Grape vines hang from the old buildings, reminding us of the town’s past.
Talk of this weekend’s race was prominent throughout the town.
It seemed like every man and his dog would make their way trackside on Saturday to witness the action unfold.
Many riders arrived on Friday afternoon for some last-minute practice before Saturday’s final and an obligatory rip around town.
Remember the stream from earlier? It didn’t take Tristan Borel very long to find it.
Amongst the competitors, this weekend was Anaia Istill, a 2x world finalist and teammate of last year’s World Champion, Eddy Clerte.
There were plenty more familiar faces on the entry list this weekend, including last year’s World Champion, Aiko Gommers.
Minus a couple of rain showers, the weekend was HOT… as such, the ice cream stop was non-negotiable.
Also racing this weekend was Michael Bias – he’s French-based with Irish ties, but he’s come all the way from New Zealand to race BMX in Europe.
After a busy afternoon hopping over streams, somebody decided Tristan Borel needed something a little more than ice cream to cool down.
Meanwhile, everybody else opted for a dip in Lake Biel.
The following night saw heavy rain that continued right into the morning.
The morning sun baked down on the asphalt, and the track was soon ready to ride.
Race registration involves timing chip handover – an integral part of the timing system – losing one of these will cost you 85 euros.
A lot goes into timekeeping at an event like this, no-less a UCI event. German-based, South African Syd from Moto Sheets keeps track of timing with this beefy set-up.
The day starts with a three-hour open practice session, allowing the riders to get to grips with the course.
Frenchman Thibault Dupont was one of many putting down morning practice laps – there’ll be more on him later.
Last year’s second-place world finalist, Phillip Schaub, was here on Saturday, putting it all on the line for a golden ticket to the Chile finals in November.
La Neuveville brought an enthusiastic crowd, and autographs were in high demand – Christa von Niederhäusern had her work cut out.
The pump track is fast and fun but can also be an unforgiving beast.
No joke – after a huge slam on one of the turns, this guy went to the hospital with headaches persisting – a telltale sign of concussion.
Aiko Gommers, came all the way from Belgium to race in Saturday’s qualifier.
A win at one of the qualifying rounds guarantees you an all-expenses paid trip to the World Finals – Anaia Istill is one man with a good shot at that.
The curves of the Velosolutions course were looking very inviting over the weekend.
Another shower after practice left the course damp ahead of finals – fortunately, this was short-lived under the baking Swiss sun.
Riders have some time to relax in the riders area over lunch before getting backcinto the action – Eloïse Donzallaz caught up with good friend Robyn Gommers – a twin of Aiko.
After practice, there’s an interlude for rider briefing delivered by the race director and good times bringer, Max Cluer.
32 men and 8 women were to go through to the finals.
Riders are handed their new plates, and it was Tristan Borel going into finals with the #1.
Aiko took the #1 plate into the finals for the women.
Saturday also saw the Swiss champs take place – the award ceremony took place just before lunch, with Tristan Borel and Christa von Niederhäusern taking the gold medals.
Before the eliminating rounds began, there was a celebratory rollout of the final 32 men and 8 women for the crowd.
Fans of all ages filled the stands to watch the riders battle in the finals.
A few moments later, they were underway.
Most riders can be seen focusing and visualising the course in their heads before dropping in for their race runs.
Michael Bias went out earlier than he would have hoped, but he fought hard until the end.
The elimination rounds move quickly – 32, 16, 8, 4 – and before you know it, you’re into the finals.
Aiko Gommers was knocked out in the semi-finals by Christa von Niederhäsern and would battle it out with her sister, Robyn, in the small final.
Anticipation was high for this sister vs sister showdown.
The times were in – and they were close – but was it Gommers or… Gommers?!
Aiko reigned in the small final, beating her sister by just 0.002 of a second – a gap so small you can’t even begin to comprehend it.
Next came the women’s big final, where we saw Christa von Niederhäsern.
The new Swiss champ was hungry for a shot at that Chile finals ticket.
But first, she would have to get past Léa Brindjonc.
Léa put a fast end to that, beating Christa by just 0.010 of a second where it mattered most.
In the men’s small final, Anaia Istill would go up against Tanguy Grandjean.
Both men left it all on the track.
But Anaia came out on top, beating Tanguy by just under a second.
In the men’s big final, we saw Thibault Dupont.
But his work wasn’t over yet.
His competition – was Tristan Borel.
Tristan had already won Swiss champs earlier that afternoon and would be keen to continue this streak.
But the winner… was Thibault Dupont.
Thibault had already claimed his Chile ticket at an earlier round, so this time the privilege was passed onto Tristan – and we can’t wait to see them fight it out for the title in a couple of months.
Your women’s top 3 – Aiko Gommers, Christa von Niederhäusern, and Léa Brindjonc.
Your men’s top 3 – Anaia Istil, Tristan Borel and Thibault Dupont.
And… the aftermath.
It would be an insult not to wrap up the day with one last dip in the lake.
And maybe just one more for the sake of elegance.
Or two more if Tristan had anything to say about it – clearly seeking vengeance for his dunk in the village yesterday.
Until next time!