2020 Pinkbike Awards: Comeback of the Year Nominees

Dec 17, 2020
by Sarah Moore  


Comeback of the Year Nominees


Despite the short race season, or perhaps because of its condensed intensity, we saw a multitude of injuries in 2020. Amaury Pierron, Reece Wilson, Vali Holl, Robin Wallner, and Isabeau Courdurier were all sidelined for most of the already abbreviated season. While we're wishing them and all the other athletes that were injured this season a smooth recovery and a strong return to racing in 2021, this article is to highlight the athletes that were in a similar position not long ago and proved their grit and tenacity by rising to the occasion during this unusual season.

While it's extra sweet when the comeback has a fairytale gold-medal ending, like when last year's Comeback of the Year Award winner Jenny Rissveds was able to win a World Cup after depression forced her to take two years off from racing, making a comeback on the race course after what could have been a career-ending injury is also something to celebrate.

This year's nominees include Brook Macdonald, Tahnee Seagrave, and Jolanda Neff. Who do you think made the most impressive comeback?









Why he's nominated

Brook Macdonald crashed on the final training day ahead of the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Championships on August 31, 2019 and had to be evacuated off the mountain with a spinal injury. He said of the event later that, "It was 5 hours until I got off the hill and it was the worst day of my life." Subsequently, we learned that Brook had broken two vertebrae in the crash and doctors had to stabilize the spine with eight screws and two rods.

The damage from shattered vertebrae intruding on his spinal cord meant starting from absolute scratch in the recovery process; relearning the most basic motor skills to literally put one foot in front of the other after forgetting how. In October 2019, Brook was back riding his bike for the first time, but he was still many, many hours of rehab away from mountain bike racing on the international scene. Less than a year after he re-learned how to walk and rode his bike for the first time post-injury, he competed in the DH race at Crankworx Innsbruck, placing an impressive 11th. From there, he raced at the World Championships in Leogang, where a hard crash onto his back had us all momentarily terrified, before finishing 39th and 23rd in Maribor.
From re-learning to walk, to top 25 at a World Cup DH race, the Bulldog is a more than worthy contender for Comeback of the Year.









Why she's nominated

Cross-country racers don't usually see the same traumatic injuries that downhill racers do. Races can be lost on the downhill, we've always said, but they cannot be won. Jolanda Neff is a different kind of cross-country racer however, and while she still has world-class fitness to get to the top of the climbs, she is actually often able to drop her competitors on the descents. She also just seems to love going fast.

In December of 2019, about six months ahead of the original date for the Tokyo Olympics, Jolanda crashed into a pile of tree trunks and branches in North Carolina during a training ride and suffered a broken rib, a partially collapsed lung and a ruptured spleen.

For three months, Neff had to be careful not to raise her blood pressure or risk bursting the plug in her artery, which would mean internal bleeding and emergency surgery. While she caught a flu in Nove Mesto, she still managed a 17th and an 11th place, before riding to a 6th place at the World Championships in Leogang. While Neff undoubtedly has higher aspirations, the fact that she as able to break into the single digits and land just off the podium after such a long recovery period is more than impressive.
All in. Jolanda Neff getting warmed up for today s action.









Why she's nominated

After a crash to the shoulder in June of 2019 at Fort William had Tahnee Seagrave sidelined for four World Cups, you can bet she was looking for redemption in 2020. Before World Cup races started being cancelled left, right and centre, Tahnee suffered another major setback mid-February, dislocating her ankle, breaking her tibia and fibula and tearing ligaments. It looked like 2020 was going to be another season to forget for the British star.
However, with races delayed, Tahnee was able to compete in every major World Cup race that 2020 provided. While she got off to a bit of a slow start at Leogang and Maribor, she wrapped up the season with a fastest qualifying time in Lousa and two third places. From the lows of shoulder injury in 2019 to the highs of a silver medal at the World Championships, back to the lows of injury in February and a World Cup medal, it's been a rollercoaster the past couple of years for Seagrave, and she has twice proved that she is willing to put in the long hours of rehab that come with being a professional downhill racer.
Unfortunately it was a short day for Tahnee Seagrave on the hill she had a big crash and injured her shoulder. All we can do is wish her a speed recovery whilst we eagerly await news on the severity of the injury.






Why he's nominated

In June of 2017, Remi Thirion had a massive crash in Qualifying on the finish line jump at the Leogang World Cup, rag dolling across the finish line. It was a horrific incident to watch and the race was paused while Thirion was airlifted from the course by helicopter. He was flown to hospital and diagnosed with a broken collarbone, three broken ribs and two fractured vertebrae.
This year, Thirion left those Leogang demons behind to conquer the muddy Leogang World Championships course and finish third. Thirion went all out in the woods section, barely holding onto his bike, and was rewarded for these risks. The wild ride was more than exciting and it was great to see Thirion get back in the medals in the very place that caused him so much grief three years prior.

To follow it up with a second place in Maribor the following weekend was the cherry on top.
Pretty in pink. Remi Thirion is still going fast and he doesn t care who knows about it. 6th for qualies.








54 Comments

  • 151 1
 Wow, I wonder who might win this.
  • 49 1
 so when I first saw the title I had the same thought. This list is going to have one person in it.

However, the other mentioned riders have some really compelling stories. Neff's crash might have been every bit as life threatening as Bulldogs. And didn't Remi break his back too?

Brook still probably deserves this most, but don't discount the other contestants.
  • 10 0
 @hamncheez: Absolutely. I definitely wasn't trying to discount or minimize the achievements of the other nominees: they are all very, very impressive, especially Neff. Brook isn't going to win because of a lack of competition!
  • 4 5
 Ya no offense to any of the other nominees (all excellent comebacks in themselves) but PB probably could have just made Brook the only nominee and deservedly just gave the award to him early lol.
  • 30 0
 Each story is a winner! No competition on comeback stories should ever apply!
  • 12 0
 @gapos999: This. Just glad that all are OK and able to still perform at elite levels.
  • 3 2
 Brook has got to win
  • 2 0
 @hamncheez: Yeah they're both equally as shocking to see. 2020 gave us a very cool year of racing like watching these people coming back in big ways. It also opened up the reality of having more races by including two stops at the same resort... probably with more resting time between the stops than this year, haha.
  • 132 5
 No nomination for COVID? We all counted it out after that first wave but it really has put in the effort and outperformed with this second wave. I mean, it kind of dropped the ball in the New Zealand events but really shone in the American circuit.
  • 7 0
 This reminds me of last weeks SNL covid skit haha
  • 50 0
 A week ago I broke my neck, 2 vertebrae, multiple facial fractures, several ribs & a collapsed lung in a pretty bad crash- sitting here all banged up- super inspiring to see all these warriors fight to be back out there- has me stoked to know I can get back at it & I personally can't wait to ride again
  • 7 0
 heal up, man. glad you're in decent spirits and looking ahead.
  • 2 0
 Damn dude, where did you do that? I see you're a broomfield man.
  • 3 0
 @fullendurbro: right foot gulch, lol. Overcooked a jump, got close to a tree and caught a stick in the face causing me to smash into another tree. Skipped the call to SAR and walked outta there though - didnt want to lose my favorite riding spot!
  • 1 0
 @pmhobson: thanks man! All things considered, I'm doing well and stoked- long road ahead but determined to be back better!
  • 2 0
 @jhilly: Damn dude, props to you. Hope you heal up fast!
  • 2 0
 Get better man, glad to hear your positive outlook. Whoa just saw in a previous comment you're in Broomfield just like me.
  • 32 1
 Can they all win? I am a huge Seagrave fan, but Neff was in some crazy rough shape to have a comeback like she did, not to mention the mental side of things!
  • 28 2
 Probably should've just announced the winner of this one.
  • 35 10
 Brook without question
  • 6 0
 Injuries are terrifying. The strength for them all to come back after is inspiring. But for me I think there is no question here. Long live The Bulldog!
  • 11 2
 Myriam Nicole?
  • 1 0
 i tought the same
  • 1 0
 Totally. Had success too. Could've been on the list at least.
  • 3 0
 It's gotta be Brook. No knock on any of the other folks but this should be Brook and the rest honorable mentions this year. Dude had to relearn how to walk and was not only riding a bike within a season but back racing downhill and being competitive. The mental fortitude required to completely pin it in order to be competitive in DH is insane.
  • 4 0
 I'm hoping for a 3 and a half minute video of brooke's recovery with plenty of inspirational music and all that good stuff, make us all cut onions.
  • 4 0
 Good selections but could we at least get a Honorable Mention for PFP bouncing back from her second iliac endofibrosis surgery?
  • 5 0
 All these people are worthy.... they are all inspirations.
  • 1 0
 they all deserve kudos for a great recovery. Brook is hands down the winner..dude had to learn to walk again! Also the mental side of things that comes with DH racing. To have the mental strength to block out the fear of letting it all hang out again and thinking about what happens if I crash again? Brook is an absolute legend! Cant keep the BULLDOG down !!
  • 1 0
 Tough decison especially when mental demons haunt anyone after a big crash. Given that Brook had to relearn to walk, let alone race again at a WC level, my vote's for the 'dog. In reality, It's really impressive to see all four of them back racing after big crashes that involved significcant time of the bike and lots of rehab
  • 1 0
 It's the Bulldog. Notwithstanding the other incredible feats of dedication and perseverance. Anybody that has had to rehab after a major injury you experience a taste of what it's really like to go through something like these people do. It gives you a whole new level of comprehension and awe at what these elites can really do. It's almost superhuman.
  • 1 0
 Damn. I immediately thought of Brooke, but those are all pretty heavy contenders. But I still have to go with the Bulldog. Relearning how to walk is something else entirely, mentally and physically. I did it 3 years ago, and it's not a good time. Props to all the riders though. Pro athletes are absolute monsters!
  • 1 0
 Thought this was gonna be a recap of the best comebacks/burns from the comment section for the year. Now that is the journalism I want to see.

Much respect to what this article is actually about also, but just saying.
  • 7 3
 Jolanda for the win! Smile
  • 3 0
 Assuming Brook wins, will his trophy be a set of Mondraker crutches?
  • 2 0
 They all deserve to win, but no comeback is so impressive like the Bulldogs! This guy is a beast!
  • 1 0
 Bullldoggggg Peatyyyy I still laugh at that from his WC course preview. Go Brook!
  • 3 3
 Bulldog, hands down.
If he wasnt on this list I'd have though Cathro, who else has had such a positive impact on the season without even entering the start hut?
  • 2 0
 Give all to them this reward. They all deserving.
  • 1 0
 Brook gets my vote. Not only is he a total badass, but he's had such incredible fighting spirit through all this.
  • 1 0
 Not the type of comebacks I was expecting, but just as entertaining.
  • 3 2
 We should call it "The Bulldog Award" from now on...
  • 1 0
 These should be called the Pinkys
  • 2 0
 The DH WC Season Smile
  • 1 2
 I'd forgotten about Neff's nasty crash and injuries, but IMO this is hands down Bulldogs award.
  • 2 1
 Bulldog!
  • 1 2
 Chances are high, the other nominees are also voting for Bulldog.
  • 2 3
 if bulldog doesn't win this, I'll be pretty upset
  • 2 2
 Brook obviously
  • 1 2
 Brook Macdonald hands down
  • 2 3
 BROOOOOOOOOOOOK
  • 1 2
 BROOOOOOOOK
  • 1 2
 BULLDAWG!
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