8 Under the Radar Racers to Watch Out For in 2019

Jan 25, 2019
by James Smurthwaite  
Hugo Frixtalon keeping it low for another strong finish. One to watch for the future.

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.




Angel Suarez
Ange Suarez finally found his form and put down the type of run everyone has been waiting for. Lucky number 13 on the day for Angel.

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
3rd place qualifier Hugo Frixtalon couldn t match his incredible form in the mud but still managed a fairly heoic 22nd place finish.

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
2017 Atherton Academy Camp - Luke Williamson Mille Johnset Jamie Cable

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.



Elliott Heap
Credit Nukeproof

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
Miranda Miller rides the Kona Process 153 CR DL 29er

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 couldn t hold off Casey Brown for third and had to settle for fourth.

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.


80 Comments

  • + 206
 On 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."

There. Road biking is bad for your health.
  • + 19
 Not sure I can wrap my head around what possible health issues he could have that would retire him from road cycling but allow him to race EWS...
  • + 75
 @landscapeben: Lycra allergy?
  • + 15
 @landscapeben: it is normally heart issues associated with riding at 85-90% max heart rate for five hours. And as fit as the top EWS riders have to be their training is a little different from the 500-700 km weeks that a top male road rider probably clocks up in training. It is surprising how many early 20s riders have to retire from pro cycling due to heart irregularities that are only an issue or become apparent when the heart is continually pushed to and at such high levels.
  • + 6
 @andrewbikeguide: they don't ride in this intensity. Most often 60-70%
  • + 1
 Soo effin true... rb is bad for health .. in malaysia we have more than a few fatality involving road biking .. i feel sad for them tho
  • + 9
 @landscapeben: must be mental health. But I'm sure he's fine now.
  • + 5
 @andrewbikeguide: Jeez I figured it was simple depression
  • + 9
 @landscapeben: could be depression or lycra allergies lol, other possibilities are contact dermatitis from shaving his legs all the time, fungal growth from all that pooled up sweat in the gooch from wearing lycra, caffeine addiction from all the required coffee breaks on rides... or maybe just allergic to getting hit by cars
  • + 1
 @lettak: depends really on training plans
  • + 1
 Best comment chain I've ever seen
  • + 110
 Is it just me or should we be calling Hugo Pigeon, Big Bird. Or is that too obvious.
  • + 5
 Hehe, that cracked me up!
  • + 2
 I was thinking more "Manuel", but that's a very old British reference. Google "Fawlty Towers pidgeon"
  • + 1
 Then call me Pidgeot
  • + 0
 Future T-shirt slogan: Front: The Pigeon. Back: Shitting on all over the competition since 2018

::Excited British announcer’s voice:: “And he’s done it again!! Brilliant run by the Big Bird!! Ceeeeertainly he has lived up to his name and truly shit all over the competition is today’s stages”
  • + 1
 Huge Pigeon...I wish Sesame Street had thought of that.

(sorry Hugo!)
  • + 107
 And me ???? What the hell Pinkbike !!!!!!!
  • + 2
 Oh yes and you too. Good luck in 2019, looking forward to some more sick Yoann edits.
  • + 3
 @yoannbarelli shy and and modest as always. Smile Don't you think you fly far above and beyond any radar? Une bonne saison a toi!
  • + 4
 Will 2019 be the year you pick up a kit sponsor? Or will you be continuing au natural?
  • + 1
 Hahah jealous
  • + 1
 You are so over the radar! Interstellar Mr Barelli!
  • + 1
 Ha ha ha. Well played.
  • + 34
 Thomas Estaque because he just sends it every race
  • + 1
 Fully agree.
  • + 1
 I was looking for his name too!
  • + 1
 yup!
  • + 35
 Dakotah Norton.
  • + 5
 So true. This kids tetering on the brink of greatness imo
  • + 2
 Not really under the radar though..
  • + 27
 Miranda is one of my absolute favorite riders, but I wouldn't call her "under the radar." There have been four feature articles about her team/race plans on Pinkbike in the last month alone.
  • + 17
 How is Miranda Miller under the radar? She's a world champion...
  • + 16
 Elliott Heap - Under the Radar?? - didn't you guys just note that he won the U21/Junior EWS last year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • + 1
 Yep. Hes a god damn made man!
  • + 1
 ..
  • + 17
 Whats up with Bruce Klein?
  • + 8
 He’s under, under the radar. Makes it more satisfying when he starts shredding this year. I’m can’t wait to see how he does
  • + 3
 @joalst: haha straight stealth mode. Dude is so fast n smooth. My dark horse - 2019
  • + 12
 for all the attention Angel Suarez was getting with YT videos I wouldn't call him "under the radar"
  • + 10
 I would be really pleased if Miranda could be the woman to finally bring the heat to Cecille on the EWS circuit.
  • + 3
 Yes. With Miranda going full enduro, it is even clearer that we're in for a great EWS racing season.

(ALN fanboi here)
  • + 8
 Jure Žabjek was out the whole 2018 season due to injuries. But he had an amazing 2017 season before they’ve signed with Devinci. I think we’ll see him in a few top ten standings this year.
  • + 6
 What about Anna Newkirk in the Junior Women? She's a bit under the radar because the Holl hype, but an excellent racer. She's got backing from American cycling and a deal with Canyon.
  • + 4
 Miranda Miller is not “under the radar”. She’s a DH world champion!!! She’s been on the radar for many years and even raced on Specialized. Definitely not under the radar.
  • + 5
 Glad to see Melanie Pugin up there. She deserves a proper team and support!
  • + 7
 luke williamson, lets go
  • + 5
 Not surprised he's breaking hubs out of the start gate running e13
  • + 4
 What kinds of power are these dh guys putting out?
  • + 3
 I'd say tremendous power, the best power one can get.
  • + 1
 Frixtalon and Cabirou are the pic of that litter. Many times throughout the year they looked among the very best on track. Super composed and fluid on the bike.They’ll clean up the little mistakes and be more consistent
  • + 4
 Frenchies, frenchies everywhere.
  • + 4
 Do those Michelins remind anyone else of Intense 909's?
  • + 1
 They do look similar. Both have SR(slow rebound) rubber as well. 909 was more round across the top and the mich is flatter more edgy. I didn’t like the 909. Their other dh tire (comp?) was/is my fave tire. Burliest sidewalls evvvar
  • + 4
 I want to know what pie is Elliot is taking in heaps...
  • + 2
 Magnus Manson is one of the most underrated riders and should be on that list
  • + 3
 The Marine Caribou era is over, it seems.
  • + 3
 I wonder why everyone sleeps on Thibaut Daprela the dude is rapid!
  • + 2
 Angel Suarez Is one to look out for!!! tup
  • + 2
 All my best for Angel, send it due, you are on the way!
  • + 3
 Me
  • + 2
 Under the radar, i think we may have heard of some of them ?
  • + 1
 a "tepid" year for miranda, rather?
  • + 1
 @ColoradoPaul watch out for this guy in 2019
  • + 1
 Joey Foresta ?
  • + 1
 throw me in a race
  • + 1
 Hugo PIGEON. I´m dead
  • - 1
 Randy got robbed in this one!
  • - 3
 Poor Randy
  • + 3
 Dakotah Norton.
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