Stan's athlete Tommy Zula took the very first pump track rainbow jersey in 2019 when the UCI added the high-speed discipline to their world championship event list, with some help from premier pump track builders Velo Solutions and partner sponsor Red Bull. Unfortunately, when the time came for Tommy to defend the jersey in 2020, the event was canceled due to the pandemic. The silver lining? Tommy got to wear the jersey for an additional year since his title was unchallenged!
While competing last month, Tommy finished first place at a qualifying event held at the Gaston County VeloSolutions pump track in North Carolina, securing him a spot at the World Championship event to be held in Santiago, Chile this November in addition to a prize of the expense-paid trip.
We caught up with Tommy to talk competition, training, and bike setup ahead of his opportunity to win the rainbow stripes once again, check it out!
Stan's: What's going through your head as you compete against other riders on the clock, and how's it different than traditional elbow-to-elbow racing on a BMX track?
Tommy Zula: Really what's going through my mind is just focusing on nailing the lap and hitting all my marks. The skills from BMX translate over to pump track racing very well but I feel like pump track is an even faster pace and you're not worried about getting your line taken so you can just focus on yourself more.
Stan's: How do the VeloSolutions tracks feel compared to dirt pump tracks?
TZ: The dirt pump tracks vary from one to one with the soil always being different everywhere we go like Innsbruck vs whistler the dirt is so much different and that always has you fighting to find the best traction as on the VeloSolutions track is always mint but no give so a mistake is more costly and you lose speed quicker on the asphalt.
Stan's: It must have been a huge letdown to lose the opportunity to defend the rainbow stripes in 2020, how did that affect you?
TZ: Yea, not competing in 2020 was a wild one. Coming off some of the best 2 years of my career. I was on a roll like 3-4 big pump track wins all in a row, everything was clicking then absolutely nothing for over a year. It was a huge adjustment for me.
Stan's: Between now and November's World Championship finals, what kind of training will you be doing to be ready for another WC title?
TZ: Well I can't give you all my secrets lol but a ton of pump track riding, dirt jumps, trail bike sessions with my friends, and maybe some skateboard shreds with my dogs! But when it comes down to the actual training I do a little bit of everything. Weights, running, gravel bike, but nothing set. I just wake up and go with whatever I feel like doing that day.
Stan's: Can you tell us a little bit about the bike and anything about it that makes suited for racing, compared to a DJ bike set up for riding jumps or riding street?
TZ: Good question. When I'm racing pump track I'm riding different wheels, handlebars, pedals, seat, and grips. Trying to lighten up my bike and make it as stable as possible. When I'm dirt jumping, every day riding I am looking for that comfort and mix of my bike to feel good from spot to spot.