So many new, young riders flood the race circuit each year. While some turns the heads of the photographers and earn pixels on Photo Epics, smashing sections and blowing up turns, very few ever break into the upper echelons of racing. This year it was Pierron, Holl, Wilson and more who became familiar names overnight for downhill fans while Vid Persak and Youn Deniaud turned heads in the EWS.
The dawn of a new season means another summer of opportunities for another cohort to come through the ranks. The stakes are raised, of course, by fantasy leagues. Knowing the under-the-radar riders who will be firing on all cylinders is more crucial than ever when points are on offer.
Here are four racers from the EWS and four from World Cups that we think should be in your crosshairs for next year.
After three years on the Mob, it finally seemed to click for Angel Suarez in the latter part of last year. He’s had it hard with injuries and it started to seem like he would be just another practice killer, a nearly guy. That didn’t deter him from putting in the hard work though, rumour has it he was putting out more power than both Gwin and Mulally by the end of last year, enough to break hubs out of the start gate. Finally, the dedication paid off.
His last three results of the year (13th, 9th, 14th) combined with a World Champs run that saw him lying third until he crashed, mean that he will have been disappointed the season ended when it did. Spain hasn’t had a World Cup downhill podium since David Vasquez came second at Vigo in 2007, could that all change next year?Hugo Frixtalon
The first of two rapid young Frenchies on this list is Hugo Frixtalon. Running as a total privateer last year, Frixtalon shot onto everyone’s radar with a third-place qualifying at Val di Sole and spent the rest of the year looking looser than monk’s habit.
He’s a rider who clearly relishes the harder tracks as he burst into the top 20 at Vallnord and put in a strong showing in Mont Sainte Anne too. Expect him to kick on up the rankings with the support of Commencal / 100% next year.Marine Cabirou
All eyes were focussed on Monika Hrastnik as the breakout rider in the elite women’s last year. Hrastnik was on a full privateer program and with two podiums she’s earned a well earned spot on Dorval AM team this year. Just behind her though was the young Frenchwoman Marine Cabirou.
Cabirou joined the elite ranks in 2016 as Junior World Champion and it has been a steady rise to the top since then. Following a couple of years sitting just outside the podium bubble, she finally burst it in Losinj and then backed it up with two more by the end of the year in Fort William and Mont Sainte Anne. She then ended the year with a fourth-place finish at World Champs. At just 22, she’s off to Scott next year with a bright future ahead.Luke Williamson
Stepping on to the World Cup circuit for the first time this year will be Luke Williamson. Under the stewardship of the Atherton Academy, the young Brit has been quietly dominating the British youth rankings this year. He steps onto the biggest stage on a new team with proven junior success next year but will be thrown in the deep end with Kye A’Hern and Thibault Daprela well established as the men to beat in that category.
Enduro World Series Under 21 champion, fourth at the 4X World Championships (on an enduro bike) and sponsorship from a pie company, it’s not been a bad year for Elliott Heap. Under the tutelage of Sam Hill and Nigel Page, Elliott dominated the junior rankings of the EWS this year and ended up with three wins. His most impressive weekend was in Petzen Jamnica where he won and put in a time good enough for 13th in elites despite a crash (he was sitting fifth in elites at the end of day one). He'll be looking to mix it up with the big boys in 2019.Miranda Miller
After a tepid year on the World Cup circuit, Miranda's move to the Enduro World Series full time could do her the world of good. She has never targeted a full EWS season but whenever she has dipped her toes in she's always impressed. She has picked up four top fives over the years and proved she can can still bring it in Ainsa last year where she finished seventh. She'll be eying the podium when racing kicks off in March.Melanie Pugin
Melanie Pugin only ran the European rounds of the EWS last year but brought home two top fives, as she been doing for years with minimal support. She spent most of the year battling Ines Thoma and Isabeau Courdurier and has left us scratching our heads as to why she's not managed to bag herself a spot on a bigger team yet. It seems she's off BH Miranda next year and has landed with a Pivot distributor deal so is unlikely to be doing the full series again. Watch out for her at rounds she does get too though, she could turn in some huge results.Hugo Pigeon
It's been one hell of a crazy journey to the EWS for Hugo Pigeon. He started his career in cross country and became Under 23 World Champion in the relay event before switching to elite road biking in 2014. This year he returned to mountain biking due to health issues, first by racing the XC World Cup in Stellenbosch then by ending the year with his first ever EWS races. He catapulted himself into the top 30 and now has support form the Scott Sr Suntour team to take him into 2018. We can't wait to see what Hugo brings in his first full season.