You can always be sure to find BMX rider Mike Day wherever a riding skill challenge is being laid down, and when Red Bull Pump Riders came up on the calendar in Brazil, you can bet he booked a ticket as soon as he heard about it.
We caught up with the Olympic silver medallist before the event and asked him about the art of ‘pumping’, where riders use both basic and advanced skills to pump around a track, building up speed and moving from start to finish without pedaling at all.
So Mike, tell us what you’re expecting to find in Brazil at Red Bull Pump Riders.
As always, I’m expecting to find a great venue and lots of fun to be had. Red Bull knows how to throw an event better than anybody and the party is never far away.
What's your opinion of specially-built pump tracks like the one they've put in place down in Brazil?
I can’t wait to ride it because it looks like a crazy set-up. Pump tracks in general are known for their tight turns, the kind of turns you don’t normally find on a traditional BMX track. I’m excited to race on these turns because it will be the first time I have competed on a track like this for a while.
What training have you been doing ahead of the event?
I've been making daily trips to the U.S. Olympic training center and riding on the special Supercross (SX) track they have there. Also, I've been putting in plenty of hours in the gym in preparation for the SX series.
"You need so much speed and the turns are so tight, it’s possible to get into trouble real quick."
What are the key things to consider when riding on a pump track?
The most important thing is maintaining your speed and that is so difficult on these small tracks with so many tight turns. The best method I have found is to carve up every turn. The quicker you can get through the turns the more ‘straightaway’ speed you will have for the other sections of the course
How do you intend to tackle the unique nature of this circuit that challenges you to race against your competitors on side-by-side tracks?
It’s going to be strange, for sure. I have found in practice that slower is actually faster on a pump track. You need so much speed to get around and the turns are so tight, it’s possible to get into trouble real quick. One mistake and you are done.
Is this your first time in Brazil?
Last time I was in Brazil was back in 2007 for the UCI World Championships. It’s great to come back now with Red Bull and get to ride once more in such a rad country.
For any kids starting out in BMX, why would you recommend them to practice pumping?
It’s a great idea to start practicing pumping. The more you pump, the better you will get at gaining momentum on a track. Also, controlling yourself through tight turns will quickly become second nature after practicing pumping. If you can master the pump then riding a regular BMX track will be easy. No doubt about it, pump tracks are the hardest things you can ride.
"I’ve been checking out a few of the local riders and these kids can fly!"
How excited are you to be a part of Red Bull Pump Riders, the first world championship to recognize the art of pumping?
It really is an honor to be chosen to compete in this event. I’ve always liked the skills part of riding and racing and have always thought of myself as a ‘skill rider’. I love doing these one-off events that help to showcase my individual style.
What are the differences and similarities between pumping and the type of riding you are used to?
It’s completely different. A regular BMX track is much wider and longer than a pump track and this track in Brazil is no exception to that. The track we are going to race on is super fast and has so many tights turns, totally different to what I’m used to. This is what makes it such a great challenge for me and lets me know I’m going to enjoy the day. I think I have the track figured out but the true test will only be when we are out there racing.
Who are the other riders at Red Bull Pump Riders who you think have a chance of winning the gold medal?
I’ve been checking out a few of the local riders and these kids can fly! It’s really cool to see such interest in the sport in Brazil and to see just how super-fast these kids can ride.
Finally Mike, what else have you got planned for 2011?
My main focus right now is getting myself back up to speed from my recent back surgery. I’m loving being able to ride my bike pain-free once again! I have lots of races scheduled for this year and I couldn’t be happier to be back on my bike. My main goal this year is to do well at the World Championships in Denmark. After that it will be time to dive into Olympic qualifying for London 2012.