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Comeback of the Year: Nominees

In terms of pure athletic prowess, performance and persistence, 2016 was a quiet year compared to PB award winners of past. In 2014, Fabien Barel, went from a broken back at round 1 of the EWS series, to a win at round 8. Another superb comeback a long career that featured horrific injuries turned into some of his greatest achievements. 2015's winner Kurt Sorge, battled back from a broken leg to become the second, double Rampage gold medalist.

For 2016, we have selected three people: Two that have made dramatic career changes, one by choice and one by chance. Whether the third nominee made a comeback or simply added a cherry atop their undernourished trophy cabinet is up for debate. His 2016, however, proved too great for us to ignore.

Why he's nominated:

Is this a comeback? After all, Danny Hart’s not returning from serious injury and he's never been a bad rider or had a season any mortal could describe as “slow”. But since his spectacular shattering of a Champéry slip and slide in 2011, everything has been a bit of a letdown, really—at least to onlookers who expected him to absolutely dominate the World Cup in the years that followed. Hart’s 10 trips to the podiums since that day in Switzerland are impressive, certainly, but many of us were expecting him to consistently occupy the very top step of those podiums.

All of that changed, however, this past July on another Swiss steep in diametrically opposed conditions. A lifetime of dedication and perfecting precision allowed Hart to ride one corner within reach of the finish line, better than a certain American. One corner transformed Hart from being a guy who once won the big events, to a man who was a consistent threat all season. Building a spiral of confidence that continued to another 1st in Canada, 1st in Andorra and another lashing of rainbow ribbon in Italy. Unbelievable.

From the Lenzerheide Report
bigquotesHalf a decade since the Redcar Rocket, Danny Hart, claimed the top step at the muddy steeps of Champery, he finally muscled it again to achieve his first career world cup victory. Even the likes of the mighty AG and the G.O.A.T. didn't have the minerals to keep the Englishman at bay at he now charges forward into second place for the overall. - Nathan Hughes

Why he's nominated:

After a life-changing and career ending fall in 2013, Martyn Ashton was left paralysed from the waist down. A trials expert that has been around forever, a staple cover star of MBUK magazines, multiple video parts, a demo tour performer and an overnight youtube sensation after releasing 'Road Bike Party' in 2012, accumulating over twelve million views. Losing the movement in his legs seemed to barely dent Ashton's motivation and lust for life; if anything, it may have increased it.

Completing 'Road Bike Party 2' with the help of his friends (the film was half-finished at the time of his accident), forging a new career as a presenter and getting back on his bike in 2015. Prior to the World Cup downhill race in Fort William this year, Martyn completed the demanding course on his customized electric bike, which truly brought a tear to my eye.

From Martyn's Video
bigquotesI was down, not out. Remember that anything is possible. - Martyn Ashton

Why he's nominated:

A true legend of downhill, a deliverer of breathtaking and dream-dashing runs that have left his peers' confidence in pieces. Sam Hill's downhill days of late have been off the pace and now potentially over and out. 2015 for example, saw one 20th position at a World Cup, but other results were barely close to being within the top 50. 2016 saw Sam tackle some enduro races, likely from sponsorship stressors, which turned into some of his best results in years. It was a success Hill ascribes to a newfound fun of unknown topography. 2nd in Ireland, 2nd in Italy, and an astonishing 1st in France. Not bad for a "washed-up", enduro focus-less, flat-pedal pusher. 2017 will see a full attack.

From the EWS Valberg Report
bigquotesSam Hill only comes to races for one reason: to win. He's never been one to make up the numbers and when he announced last week that he was going to compete in a full EWS season next year, he was coming to win races. It turns out he didn't have to wait that long... - Matt Wragg

Three heroes in their own rights. There can only be one winner, though. It's a tough choice between a lifetime of dedication, raw speed and fun, and pure guts and determination against adversity.

Click here for information about the judging and selection criteria for Pinkbike's Year-End Awards

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  • 360 4
 I would love to give it to Danny but for obvious reasons it has to be Martyn Ashton.. You Sir are a true Inspiration and Legend. Keep on doing what you do knowing that the entire community is riding every trail with you.
  • 79 2
 Saw the first nomination and thought it's got to be Hart. Saw the second nomination and thought no it's not.
  • 11 4
 @LemonadeMoney: Ditto. Sorry Danny but you can win it next year (once you have the WC and Champs).
  • 6 4
 Pretty much what I was thinking
  • 9 56
flag NiloB (Nov 11, 2016 at 5:55) (Below Threshold)
 What are you talking about? It is Sam Hill for sure
  • 9 7
 All good nominations, but I've been rooting for Hart ever since 2011, and he finally pulled it out of the bag in spectacular style and excitement.
  • 15 1
 @NiloB: Sam Hill hasn't come back yet, he's faded away from DH and moved to Enduro. If he has a stellar season 2018 and decimates the field then yes but I think it would be hard to argue this is his come back year.

Be great to see him tear up the EWS on flats!
  • 4 0
 @Garpur44: Yeah, probably a more accurate version of what I was trying to put into words, thanks
  • 3 0
 In the same vein as Ashton would have given it to Paul Bas over Hill. That guy has come a long ways.
  • 7 1
 I say give it to Martin, and give out a 2nd place award to Hart. Hart's achievement this year smokes the comeback award winners from years past, truly an absolutely astounding turn around. It's just that Ashton's comeback was near biblical, if anything he needs a different award, one more powerful than just comeback of the year.
  • 76 1
 What Martyn Ashton has done since his accident is truly inspiring, and the fact that he is now such an inspiration for not just mountain bikers, but all those with disabilities (like the report he did for the One Show in the UK recently) is a real testament to his own personal resolve.

The other riders have had comebacks, undoubtedly, but I don't really think there is any question who this award should go to as this scale of Martyn's achievements are just unparalleled.
  • 100 26
 What about Donald Trump?
  • 71 6
 to soon mate, to soon.
  • 2 6
flag Garpur44 (Nov 11, 2016 at 5:05) (Below Threshold)
 Lol, cheeky
  • 46 14
 @Yoesniceyoungman: And you'd be a cock. Again.
  • 10 2
 He truly is the comeback orange.
  • 8 3
 @scott-townes: heard this somewhere yesterday and it made it made me laugh...if Trump is the president elect the I guess orange really is the new black...
  • 3 1
 You can have him.
  • 14 2
 please. this is a safe haven for people to talk about the IMPORTANT issues in life. like why everyone loves internal gear boxes but a zerode is a unicorn. leave the worthless crap like politics to the yahoo comments section.

and yes, far too soon Frown
  • 2 1
 @VwHarman: haaaaaa, love it.
  • 56 1
 ACC should be on the list.
  • 6 1
 Yeah, where the f*ck is Anne Caro??
  • 5 0
 This times 1000! ACC comes back from Cancer and takes 2nd on an EWS stage. Incredible.
  • 3 0
 Lets hope they have a female category
  • 39 1
 So many awesome stories this year. ACC coming back from cancer, Nico battling Sam after mid-season injury, Leov recovering from chronic fatigue, Bernard Kerr fifth at worlds after failing to make the team, Paul Bas at rampage, T-Mo winning in her retirement... But yeah. It's Martin Ashton. It just is.
  • 41 2
 Anne Caroline.
  • 7 0
 And Paul Bas, Aston... All.
  • 35 3
 No love for Paul Bas?
  • 15 0
 When he's back riding regularly next year I'm sure he'll have a big flood of nominations waiting Smile
  • 6 0
 +1 for Bas
  • 19 1
 Martyn Ashton for showing us life is what you make it..
  • 13 2
 Before I opened the article I thought Danny Hart was the no-brainer choice... But then I saw Martyn Ashton and you hit us all right in the feels! What an inspiration!
  • 6 0
 Has to be Martyn Ashton for being a true legend and a massive inspiration and for being so positive about such a life changing injury. The smile on his face whenever you see him in The Shed or riding down the Fort William track is too awesome.
  • 7 0
 Its gotta be Ashton, when you see photos / videos of him on a bike he's always smiling in a positive upbeat manner. Truly inspirational and a true ambassador of our sport
  • 10 1
  • 5 2
 sorry forgot about paul. we have two winners
  • 10 3
 "Don't call it a comeback
I've been here for years
I'm rocking my peers
Puttin' suckers in fear"
Danny Hart 2016 .
  • 1 0
 I'm not calling it a comeback. Dude had 10 top 10 finishes in 2015 alone.

And he's up against a dude that broke his damned back and came back to ride downhill? It's almost like they're fixing this one so Martyn will definitely win. This list is ridiculous.

What about Miller... who has been destroyed physically over the last couple years and came back to ride well this year.
What about Paul Bas who wasn't supposed to walk but is now riding a bike again.
I can think of quite a few others... but a dude that has been consistently getting better and had a breakthrough is an insult to a list like this.
  • 4 0
 Tough call for these 3. Martyn Ashton is the clear winner from a global perspective. Racing wise, Danny should win I believe. Sam Hill has always been such a total badass racer, it's just business as usual for him to win an Enduro race without even trying that hard! Honorable mentions to ACC and Paul Bas.
  • 8 0
 My award goes to Paul Basagoitia pedalling again.
  • 2 0
 My thoughts exactly
  • 7 0
 That selfie-dude in the Martyn-photo though.. Wow..
  • 6 0
 No Paul Bas? Keep going brother, you're a big motivation to so many!
  • 5 1
 These 3 athletes just reminded us why 2016 didn't entirely suck and that some monumental achievements were made in sport. Congrats Danny, Martyn and Sam.
  • 4 2
 Really not sure why Danny is on there.

I can see giving it to Ashton.

What about Maranda Miller? Broken arm then 2 broken wrists... finally back. Didn't take the world by storm but she's finishing well and is being very competitive. I'd call that a come back.
  • 1 0
 Yes on the Miller nomination. My 4 year old girl rides because of her.
  • 2 0
 You forgot about the best comeback of 2016. Paul Bass! Talk about inspiration. Talk about determination. Talk about a comeback. Get with it pink bike! This man is truly amazing and should inspire us all. Add him to the ballot! He's the true winner of this nomination.
  • 10 9
 My vote is for Danny Hart. It's amazing to see him get everything lined up and preform like he knows he can!
Go Redcar Rocket!
Martyn Ashton is a major "I'm making orange juice with these lemons" tho. Maybe it's to hard to call
  • 4 0
 Martyn FTW. Danny is incredible of course, but even he would agree that Martyn's achievement is spectacular.
  • 4 0
 It's the Martyn Ashton award! The only competition here is who gives it to him...Danny hart or Sam hill ?
  • 4 0
 I'm a huge Sam Hill fan but i don't think there's any reason for him to be in the category at all TBH.
  • 3 0
 All great nominations but what about Antonie Bizet. Goes down hard last year on Rampage double back flip... This year he comes back and nails it and places second.
  • 5 0
 Paul should be on the top of this list!
  • 3 0
 All nominees are great. I think Paul B should be in that group. What he has gone through and where he is now is simple amazing.
  • 1 0
 Martyn...... just got on with it ! a certain individual in the UK who suffered a similar injury also got on with it, his lawyers ! I am not decrying the gravity of the injury, and i'm sure with hindsight sports injury insurance will become the norm for all riders... as it is the judgement has put back mtb skills training 10 years :-(
  • 1 0
 Can you call it a comeback if you've never been there? Hart has been smashing it this year, but other than his world champs run years ago has he ever really troubled the top step? Surely he should get athlete of the year or something along those lines?
  • 4 2
 I don't want to derogate the performance of these nominees in any way but in my Opinion the real comeback this year was the incredible progress Paus Basagoitia went through.
  • 1 0
 There can be only one. Martyn Ashton. Granted the guy isn't racing but having got back on his bike and ridden Fort Bill after breaking his back, this is a no brainer! Inspiration, role model and legend.
  • 1 0
 I think even mr superman Ashton will be voting for Danny Hart he has re written the script and showed what Ball`s out riding is all about so fraid it`s got to be mr Lion Hart!!!!!
  • 4 0
 Martyn Ashton!!!!
  • 4 0
 Martyn Ashton !!
  • 3 0
 Glad to see I'm not the first to mention ACC. WTF Pinkbike?
  • 4 0
 Why isn't Paul on here?
  • 1 0
 Martyn Ashton is a true hero as he shows us how life can be still full of possibility even when shits happened. He deserves the award.
  • 1 0
 I would love to see Curtis Keene on here. After having a bit of a throw away season in 2015, he came back with some seriously impressive results this year.
  • 3 0
 martyn for sure
  • 5 2
 Sam Hill
  • 5 5
 Hill doesnt deserve it, bashed enduro when it started then moved to it. Hardly a comeback, just didnt like not winning DH races anymore. #hitmewithdownvotes
  • 2 0
 Id go with Martyn Ashton for sure
  • 2 0
 Sam Hill because of the flat pedals
  • 1 0
 Ashton! That's who Hart and Hill would vote for. He's a great inspiration with an amazing spirit.
  • 1 0
 Martyn Ashton brought tears of joy to my eyes, and many others'. Can't imagine it isn't him.
  • 1 0
 Where all the IronHorse fanboys at? Those were some good years and then POOF...
  • 1 0
 I thought you meant pinkbike comment comebacks but I guess im wrong.
  • 1 0
 That would be funny. And we'd step up our game.
  • 1 0
 +1 for Martyn, clear winner.
  • 1 0
 How is this even a contest? Haha. Ashton all day.
  • 1 0
 Mr ashton all the way...sir I salute you
  • 1 0
 SAM HILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Smile
  • 1 0
 Ooh tough one...
  • 3 4
 I would nominate Matti Lehikoinen too. He did a great job this year in some EWS races. In Finale Ligure too!
  • 2 1
 Danny Hart!
  • 1 0
 What did he come back from? He's been consistently really really good for a long time. He just had a breakthrough. He was dominant... but that's not a come back. He has no business on this list and I'm a huge fan of his.

Rider of the year list... yes. Come back. Nope.

This list is stupid as hell.
  • 2 1
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 What about Ann-Caroline?
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