Pinkbike Awards: Athlete of the Year Nominees

Dec 14, 2018
by Paul Aston  

Athlete of the Year Nominees


What a year of racing we have had across all disciplines. The world's best athletes provided the spectacle, and the incredible coverage we are lucky enough to have online in 2018 meant an unhealthy (for me) amount of hours on the sofa or in a bar watching the magic unfold.

As always, this year saw great highs and tough lows, from XC to enduro, downhill, and freeride. It would be tough to argue that this wasn't the best ever year for mountain bike fans: Maes' crossover was unthinkable; the young Höll breezed through, despite the pressure put on her; Ravanel had a perfect enduro season, and Pierron stamped his mark on the downhill circuit.









Why he's nominated:

Martin Maes first showed a glimmer of brilliance way back in 2012 when he grabbed a 5th place at the Enduro of Nations as a 15-year-old. Since then, he was taken under the wing of the Athertons and stayed true to GT when they changed sponsors. He showed promise for years, but never quite managed to reach his potential. There were lots of 'could' and 'would' races, although one solid win at the EWS Finale in 2016.

However, 2018 was insane for the young Belgian. He opened the season in Chile with a 2nd, behind Hill. Then, unfortunately, he dislocated his shoulder in the Colombian mud, . For many athletes, an injury like this would write off their season, but he came back with a 3rd in France a few months later. His season went from strength to strength, with three 2nd places at the following EWS races, a win in Whistler, and a second overall. Due to a broken bone in his hand in Finale, and the early season dislocation he could only manage fourth in the overall, but even if he had sustained one injury, rather than two, it would have come down to the line between him and Hill.

An amazing season in itself, but I'm sure there is something else... Oh yeah! One week after the Whistler EWS win, on a downhill bike he had only ridden three times prior, Maes 'fluked' a win at an almost-home wet World Cup in La Bresse. Naysayers a-plenty suggested he had better conditions in the mud and the usual jealous fluff, but he only needed to wait two more weekends to shut them up. A second place at the World Championships in Lenzerheide behind Loic Bruni, was unbelievable.









Why she's nominated:

Vali Höll's name has been floating around for a couple of seasons. She grew up in Saalbach and was beating elite women at European events before she had made it into Juniors. Rumors that Rachel Atherton wanted her on their team, that YT had a 10-year contract with her, and that SRAM wanted to take her on as a star-athlete were spreading before she had made it to her first World Cup.

She showed up in Lösinj and showed exactly what she was capable of with a 12-second win. The first year Junior dominated every single race to complete a perfect season, including bringing home World Championship gold. Many people thought she would be good enough to thrash all of the Elite women's times in her first season, which she didn't do, but her time in La Bresse would have bagged third in Elite. I think she probably could have pulled this feat off, but she has a sensible head on young shoulders. With another season in Juniors ahead to practice and learn the ropes, I might well be reporting this very story next year.









Why he's nominated:

Amaury Pierron has been building form for a few seasons, although somewhat erratically. His fifth place in Lourdes at the opening round of 2016 showed promise, but this was followed by ups and downs for that season, and the next, culminating in a commendable 2nd at the last round of 2017. This was a key confidence boost heading into the offseason.

2018 saw him jump from the Lac Blanc team up to the full-factory Commencal / Vallnord team. A solid off-season didn't bear fruit at the awkward, sharp, and loose Losinj where he punctured to cross the harbor finish line in 21st. The geeks amongst us spotted his split times, though, which were well and truly on the podium pre-puncture. With the Croatian sun in the rearview mirror, Pierron brewed a hat-trick of wins, ticking them off in style: Fort William, Leogang, Val di Sole, boom-boom-boom. Perhaps pressure placed him back in 2nd at Vallnord – a hard venue to conquer, especially when Max Commencal himself is watching you in his adopted hometown, and expecting another gold for the office wall opposite the finish arena.

The Frenchman was still looking strong in Mont Ste Anne, but a huge crash on his last practice run knocked the wind out of his sails. But he did what he needed to do without fanfare – a 4th place on the dusty classic was all he needed to wrap up the overall with a race in hand.








Why she's nominated:

A perfect season is a near impossibility in the world of elite mountain biking. The number of factors involved make it a sport like no other. The Enduro World Series takes this to another level, where athletes are battling across three continents, eight different climates, and hundreds of kilometers of trails they have only seen once before. To take on these trails and stay injury free, keep your bike in one-piece, have the weather gods on your side over an eight-month period, and win at every single race is unbelievable.

Cecile did this, and not only won every race, but she also won nearly every stage, and like Maes, threw a few World Cup downhill races in for good measure. Her success at downhill wasn't as terrific as the Belgian's, but impressive nonetheless, as a 37-year-old who can destroy you with car park tricks and a background of XC racing.








120 Comments

  • + 172
 oh man this is a tough call as all are so amazing .... but it almost HAS to be Martin. To win at the highest level in different disciplines on different bikes is astonishing.
  • + 3
 i have to agree.
  • + 85
 Please be clean Please be clean Please be clean Please be clean
  • + 2
 Hundred percent
  • + 4
 Don't forget his dual slalom wins.
  • + 4
 Has to be Maes.
  • - 1
 Downhill guy here Have been laughing at GT for years since owning a dhi race in 2001 But man Martin FTW and its not even close
  • - 9
flag robwhynot (Dec 14, 2018 at 9:44) (Below Threshold)
 Totally disagree. Given the level of competition in EWS and the race format giving so many opportunities for mistake/mech... the sweep the series Ravanel should take this one.
  • + 11
 @robwhynot: Martin raced both at a high level, and Cecile is miles ahead of her competition in Enduro, but nowhere to be seen when she switches to DH. Maes clearly killed it this year.
  • + 1
 @Nathan6209: Mars had a phenomenal season, especially considering the injuries. But to me Ravanels domination is just too strong to ignore. You imply her performance only looks good because the field is weak... conversesly I feel she, like Rachel, are just so far ahead of the competition that she deserves recognition for such consistent domination.

Doesn’t matter, Maes fanboys are going downvote my comment off your screen anyway.
  • + 0
 @robwhynot: LOL where did he imply the rest of the riders were weak? He just wrote she was miles ahead of them, it doesn't mean the rest of the riders are weak or slow... its cute you care about downvotes like it matters.

Maes for doing something no one else has done gets my vote but its a toss up between him and Vali Holl... she absolutely destroyed everyone.
  • - 2
 #Randywasrobbed The PB Comment Section's Athlete of the year.
  • + 1
 Plus I want to remind everyone about when Maes helped his competitors (was it changing a tyre with Hill?). That was sportsmanship off the highest order...

The other nominations are all very deserving but Maes pips it for me...
  • + 1
 @scott-townes: exactly! We haven’t seen this since Johnny T
  • + 2
 @scott-townes: oh lucky me, trolled by the great one.

As if I care about downvoted on PB.
  • + 2
 @robwhynot: "I don't care which is why I mentioned it"
  • + 3
 Sam Hill did that but with overall titles better why is he not nominated?
  • + 39
 As much as I’d like to give it to Amaury I think it got to be Maes right?
  • + 11
 Put it this way, who beat the other?
  • + 5
 @Klainmeister: not saying who deserves the award but I think you cant put it that way..its about the "athlete of the year" not who beat who...if you put it that way the winners are Vali and Ravanel.
  • + 1
 I meant from an athletic standpoint, who was able to swap disciplines and still come out on top
  • + 3
 I still got Amaury. Championships mean more then race wins and nobody predicted him to take it all before the season. It was downright impressive
  • + 33
 I wrote in Kate Courtney.
  • + 5
 Kate for President
  • + 2
 Her world champs win shows up on best performance.
  • + 29
 Amuarry didn't do anything any other champion hasn't done. He didn't clean sweep the season. Didn't crush anyone souls. He just won more races than Gwin who was banged up all season. I honestly don't like that nomination.

Holl is an animal and is absolutely crushing the field.... but... it's a women's field. I like the nomination but don't think she should get the win.

I like Maes nomination because he won in two elite series in back to back events. Gnarly. But not getting my vote.

Ravenel should get it this year. A clean sweep is crazy talk and she flat dominated many of them. She's almost 40 and she won almost every single stage and finished 10th overall in DH while only doing a handful of events.




I will say this... not including Brett Rheeder is a mistake. He should be up there. He won Rampage. He won the Crankworx overall. Which is nuts because he beat out Rogatkin who won the triple crown.

Still... I give it to Cecile. I just want to see the freeride/slopestyle get some due credit.
  • + 5
 yet you wrote off Holl because its a womens field... I hear you tho.
  • + 4
 We wrote it off because it's not the top level racing. She still is behind Rachel and seagrave@crsimmons:
  • + 2
 @crsimmons: It's not just that it's a women's field... it's not elite. I give her all the credit in the world. She's probably the fastest non elite woman of all time. She'll move to elite and immediately be challenging for top 5 slots. But Fin Illes ran the table in the men's and didn't win it. Least I don't think. LOL!
  • + 2
 @freeridejerk888: For sure. But with Atherton possibly doing less events as the next few years go on she'll be on Seagraves ass within 2 years challenging for the title.

I honestly wish there were a few more like her coming up. It's still a very very narrow field in elite women's DH. Talking 5-8 women in reality with the support and the skill to consistently be at the top with 2-4 truly stand out women. Some of the top ladies are tapering off and there's not all that much coming in to fill the field behind them. They're there... but I'd think with a generation of girls watching people like Atherton, there'd be more.


Enduro and XC on the other time are littered with talented women.


It's pretty easy for the bike companies right now... who do we dump money into ... Seagrave or Holl.

I wish people like Kitner, Brown and some of the other queen of crankworx ladies would do more DH and enduro. Be rad to see 20-30 women pushing the game like there are in men's right now.
  • + 28
 Cecile!!!!!! Are you guys kidding me? She won EVERY SINGLE RACE. EVERY. SINGLE. RACE.
  • + 7
 Sure thing! Maes spiced up the competition, Cecile just destroyed competition
  • + 3
 I don't see how it couldn't be Cecile. Erase the names, and ask yourself which record you'd want as your own. It's hard to beat "won every single race."

A 37 year old on an alloy bike with an undefeated season. The choice should be easy.

Maes, Holl, and Pierron are young. They'll have their time. This was Cecile's year.
  • + 19
 How do you choose this?!? They have all done incredible things this season!
  • + 1
 Up you go!
  • + 16
 Where is Schurter?
  • + 20
 He only won over half the races and the World Champs. Poor season really.
  • - 2
 @jclnv: that just confirms xc men competition is tight af
  • + 3
 Thank you! The man whooped up on the world this year, but he gets totally ignored because it was the 2nd year in a row!
  • + 2
 He actually beat Roger Federer for the Swiss Athlete of the Year. Broke Rogers 15 year SAY record. Say what?
  • + 11
 The omission of Kate Courtney is criminal.

Here's her blurb:

After winning in the U23 class in 2017, Kate moved up to an Elite women's field absolutely stacked with talent. In her first race, she finished outside the Top 10 and was public about how much harder the racing was at the top level.

Yet still, she persevered and by the end of the season, she rode away from the likes of Anika Langvad, Emily Batty, Jolanda Neff and Maja Wloszczowska to capture the rainbow jersey - the first American to do so in 18 years.
  • + 6
 She did well at Worlds for sure but I think the rest of the women were done. It'd been a brutal season and Courtney was nowhere in the World Cup while Neff etc had been racing for the wins from round one. I think they were mentally worked by the time Worlds rolled around. Neff was the female of the season by far IMO. La Bresse alone was enough to give her that IMO. If not St Anne where she made everyone else look useless.
  • + 1
 @jclnv: +1 If you watched Kate the whole year she was consistently fast early then fell back toward the end of races. This is clearly due to the tougher competition. As the year went on she stayed at the front longer, then at the Worlds she kicked into another gear for the end. If I were a a pro woman I would be nervous about next year.

I also wonder how many of the top women peaked earlier in the season.
  • + 11
 I got to give it to Vali. She rode in a way that was insane. I don't care that it wasn't elites, that was pure domination. If not her, give it to Ravanel. She won every race.
  • + 7
 Cecile hands down! She won every race and damn near every stage, usually with a huge margin back to 2nd. She would probably beat half the men in the field on any given week. She also got a couple top 5's in the DH races she entered.

2. Maes---so young yet..hes gonna win everything soon...and i think he should win Performance of the Year Award for his DH win.
3. Pierron--impressive for sure..but too many heavy hitters out with injury to really gauge his year. i.e. Gwin & Minnaar
4. Holl--too young yet....but perhaps the next Cecile
  • + 5
 two nominees with perfect seasons. i can't think of a better personal goal to accomplish. at the beginning of the season would you want a few wins, do well in two disciplines, or win the whole damn thing every time? Ravanel or Holl! perfect seasons should always take top spots, imo.
  • + 2
 Solid input no doubt... and given that idea, it's gotta go to Ravanel.
  • + 8
 SAM heckin HILL, two years in a row EWS champ bruh
  • + 8
 What about the Privateer?!
  • + 0
 Didn't he get hurt?
  • + 7
 No Kate Courtney??? Lame.
  • + 3
 How in the actual f*ck is kate Courtney not on this list. f*cking girl comes out of u23 XC moves up to elite womens (arguably a more competitive top 20 field than elite mens) and the whole year just pushes better and better results and finally finishes with a 40 second.... A 40 F'ing second lead on Annika Langvad to win world champs.


Shame on you PB shaaaaame ......
  • + 1
 PB roots are in gravity. KC was already nominated in the previous category
  • + 2
 @endlessblockades: also, that was her only distance podium of the year
  • + 4
 Cecile is a beast, 37 old (yay for us older folks), destroying the competition and on a alloy Commencal that is probably 34 pounds being ridden for hours on end...Yeah winner.
  • + 7
 Maes was A-Maes-ing at the DH World cups and World Champs. Very impressive
  • + 2
 I really don’t understand how Pinkbike is coming up with their picks this year.
First the event the trade brought us the banana holder wasn’t nominated as event of the year, then the banana holder itself wasn’t in the running for product of the year, and now we’re discussing athletes and Randy’s name isn’t on the list!?
  • + 1
 PB definitely needs to give out year-end awards for comments, and for op-ed / storyteller articles. "Down country", I'm looking in your general direction ...
  • + 3
 Kate Courtney
Mathieu van der Poel
Nino Schurter

Based on the nominations, and noting the (short) absentee list above, a more fitting category title would be:
'Enduro/DH athlete of the year'
  • + 2
 agreed
  • + 2
 Wow, this is a tough one. i think if you are awarding ATHLETE of the year then Maes' ability to come back and battle through injury, consistently be second in an EWS season (until the last race) and win a World Cup downhill and just miss the top step at World Champs has to be your winner.
  • + 2
 would you rather have his season on YOUR resume, or Ravanel's? just curious
  • + 3
 @eyeslide: Sam Hill's actually.
  • + 2
 @spinto21: yeah, l thought he should be a contender.
  • + 1
 @spinto21: ravanel did what Sam did and then a lot more. must be because she's a girl you are over looking it. cheers though
  • + 1
 um, yeah all these riders are amazing, but maybe like, Nino? Just because he didn't win every single race like he did last year doesn't mean he shouldn't even be nominated. His performance at the World Champs was dominating, and he won every distance race of the year except for one if I'm not mistaken. Also, what Holl did was amazing, but let's face it. The women's junior field isn't exactly stacked right now. It is a testament to her consistency and lack of mistakes that she won them all, but it isn't the same as Ravanel or Nino's domination.
  • + 1
 WHAT?, How Does SAM HILL not easily win this?. All four of the "nominated" riders are money, Ravanel is insane, but. Go from DH to Enduro(and find out how hard it is to pedal for 4 to 10 or m KM), while motocrossing some monster set of unknown corners and ambush rock piles. This is another sentence that starts with "Dude, What are you saying".

To understand the gravity of this, and not be biased, go to your local "Enduro" like trails and pedal hard, without stopping for 45 minutes and then 2 hours later, do again for 15 minutes, then one more time for 10 minutes. Its savage even if your in awesome shape.
  • + 5
 Weird, I'm not on the list. Now, can someone pass me a donut.
  • + 1
 I think I should win...for sitting at a cubicle all day I haven't gained a pound in years (after the first thirty pounds I gained when leaving the construction industry for a desk job)...amazing!!!! After years of training at the gym and biking I haven't lost any weight, which to me proves I've converted all of my fat into muscle. Most of my weight is in my midsection, which proves I must have the strongest abs in the world! Smile
  • + 3
 Even if I will say Maes or Amaury I prefer to highlight Cecile result that is just like Rachel A, smashing everything.
  • + 2
 I am curious why Kate's not on here. U23 champ. Brought home the rainbow stripes her 1st year in elites. Broke an 17 year drought for the american ladies? Legend.
  • + 1
 that was her only distance podium of the year though. Performance of the year? Yeah, sure. But not athlete of the year. At least in my mind.
  • + 1
 All of them had amazing seasons but I think Maes takes the win here. He didn’t win every race like the others but he proved himself in two different disciplines against the worlds best riders
  • + 4
 No Sam Hill? lol - what you been smoking Pinkbike?
  • + 4
 No Sam Hill? Maes did a great job but Sam took the win.
  • + 1
 In a 4 week span, Maes won Whistler EWS, DH World Cup, and went second in the DHI World Championships by 2/10ths of a second.

I doubt it if this will ever be matched or beaten in the future.
  • + 4
 Oooh tricky! I'd vote for any of them!
  • + 3
 I am curious to see what the crowd (understand: PB haters) think... I can't choose one, they are all so talented!
  • + 4
 Maes! Incredible to win at two disciplines in back to back weekends!
  • + 4
 Martin or Cecille
  • + 1
 Vali Höll, without question-I've been around since the stone age, never seen a rider with that much skill, determination, work ethic and fun rolled into one package.
  • + 2
 Ravanel...because she's older than I am. It should always be someone older than I am.
  • + 2
 Tough pick. So many athletes on each fields that deserve to be in the spotlight...
  • + 3
 maes or pierron... tough one!!
  • + 1
 Martin is the best this year with amazing results in different competitions !
And this guy is always open for his public and fans ????
  • + 2
 For versatility Maes, for a break out year Pierron, still a hard call though!
  • + 0
 I don’t think Höll deserves the nomination at all.. the only real feat was “possibly getting 3rd in elite: he’ll most of the races she only had to beat 4 other juniors.. that’s not hard wtf
  • + 2
 Sam Motherf@$ken Hill! Hold on, what do you mean he's not nominated?
  • + 2
 What about Nicolai Rogatkin? He just make history in this year..
  • + 1
 in that case rheeder....
  • + 2
 Great to see lots of women make the list!
  • + 1
 Maes and Ravanel are 1a and 1b for me. I would be happy to see either take it home this year.
  • + 2
 This season was too good!
  • + 3
 Maes for the win!
  • + 2
 What about Kate Courtney?!?!
  • - 2
 She just peaked at the right time and won the race of her life. Maes was just amazing all year long. The two Frenchies are my top picks. Going for Cecile though.
  • + 2
 Jared Graves has got my vote.
  • + 1
 Mine too!
  • + 2
 Brendog for getting raped at rampage
  • - 1
 Valentina is my choice. massive winning time gaps in a clean sweep season & close to elite podiums at her tender age is remarkable.

does anyone know if shes been allowed to race Elite next season?
  • + 2
 RICHIE ROID!!!
  • + 1
 Laura stigger? Mtb champ AND road champ in the same year
  • + 1
 Knew it was Maes before clicking on the article.
  • + 1
 Maes, no contest. (I might be a bit biased on this one though...)
  • + 1
 Martin Maes
  • + 1
 Vali Höll, no question!
  • + 1
 MArtinnnnnoooooooooo
  • + 1
 Martin....
  • + 1
 Hands down Martin Maes!
  • + 1
 Martin Maes
  • + 1
 Sam Hill
  • + 1
 Hands down Martin
  • + 1
 Nino!
  • + 1
 Amaury
  • - 2
 Disappointed to see that Randy isn’t on the list.

But for real, tough call here!
  • + 0
 OK, gotta ask - whats all this Randy stuff - I have missed something here - I am sure most are annoyed by it now but just a quick .. QUICK recap for those that dont eat PB for breakfast lunch and dinner - cheers
  • + 0
 @makdthed: I'm at a loss for words about Randy. I guess you had to be there.
  • + 0
 Ravanel
Below threshold threads are hidden

Post a Comment



Copyright © 2000 - 2019. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv56 0.066152
Mobile Version of Website