Gaston Gazette, Dashiell Coleman
A trio of bikers watch others bike along on the pump track during the Gaston County Parks and Recreation’s third annual Annual BikeFest Sept. 29, 2018, at George Poston Park. [MIKE HENSDILL/THE GASTON GAZETTE]
A BMX tournament has its sights set on Gaston County.
The Red Bull Pump Track World Championship will host its second U.S. qualifier at George Poston Park Sept. 21-22. That means two days chock full of high-stakes racing at the parks’ newly built pump track.
“It’s a big deal,” said Brandon Black with Gaston County Travel and Tourism.
The Red Bull Pump Track World Championship got started in 2018 with more than 20 events around the world that apparently drew out more than 2,000 athletes across 19 countries. There won’t be nearly that many in Gaston County in September. Black said that as of late May, about 40 people had already registered. There’s room for 240 — 120 male riders and 120 female riders.
Another big event, the seventh and eighth rounds of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, are happening in nearby Rock Hill, South Carolina, the weekend before the Red Bull event.
“I think we’ll get a lot of those riders as well that will maybe stay over and come back,” Black said. “It’s a good biking community.”
As of late May, the tourism department didn’t yet have an estimate on how much money it would cost to host the event. Any such money would come from the hotel occupancy tax collections that fund the department.
Pump tracks are unique: They don’t cater to people who are using pedals to keep moving. Instead, dips and rises in the course allow cyclists to “pump” by shifting their weight around in order to keep momentum.
The Swiss company Velosolutions designed the track, which is the first of its kind in the region. The 10,000-square-foot track was built last fall after about $250,000 was budgeted for the project.
"The pump track is very popular — even more so than we thought it would be," said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Hart. "We have regular users on the pump track as young as 2 as well as people 60 years old and over."
The Red Bull event — and the pump track in general — is just the latest in a series of bike-friendly developments at Poston Park. The park, which is near Lowell, has more than 10 miles of trails for mountain bikers. At least 7,300 people used the bike trails at Poston in 2018, though that number comes from a counter at only one trail entrance, so there may actually be more riders.
Poston’s also home to the annual Bike Fest — which this year will coincide with the Red Bull event. Bike Fest is a celebration of cycling and outdoor recreation, and it typically features music, food, bike demos and trail rides. There’s also the possibility that this year’s event will allow beer and wine sales: The county just approved such sales on a permit-by-permit basis at Poston and Dallas parks with events like Bike Fest in mind.
“Bike Fest usually has hundreds of people show up just for that,” Black said. “This year we’re taking it up a notch. It’s a sweet event. We’re pumped about it.”
But, Black stresses, anyone is welcome to try their skills.
“Anybody can register,” Black said. “You don’t have to be a pro.”