2019 Pinkbike Awards: Athlete of the Year Nominees

Dec 16, 2019
by James Smurthwaite  
2019 Pinkbike Awards


Athlete of the Year Nominees

Has this been the best year for racing ever? It seems like a lofty claim, but among our staff of former World Cup racers, armchair enthusiasts, and encyclopedic nerds, we're scratching our heads to think of a better one. All categories across every discipline offered intrigue, suspense and some of the greatest on-track action in memory.

At the centre of it all are the athletes that leave nothing on the hill, week in, week out. Whether it's willing heavy legs to propel you over the line in a final sprint or dancing between rocks and roots on a 200mm travel downhill bike, these athletes consistently amaze us with feats of strength and skill. Of those, a few are able to be consistently impressive throughout the season and stand above the crowd to claim glory. Here are the athletes that left us awestruck in 2019.










Why she's nominated

Although she came into the 2019 season as World Champion, there were doubts over whether Courtney's performance in Lenzerheide last year was just a fluke. She was prolific as a junior, but this was only Courtney's second season as an elite in what may be the most competitive field in mountain biking today. Plus, she had the pressure of the Stripes looming over her and a new team to settle in; there was understandably some skepticism over her ability to deliver over a full season in 2019.

Courtney immediately put those doubts to bed. She won the first XCC in Albstadt and, despite an early crash, took the main race at a canter too, ending up 50 seconds clear of Jolanda Neff. As soon as she smelled blood in the water she went on a feeding frenzy and won three of the first four races of the season, quickly establishing herself in as the rider at the top of the food chain.

Courtney ended the year as she started it, as the pick of the field and with a new line to add her to her resume. She may only be 2 years into her elite career but the only thing she has left to win is a gold medal at the Olympics. Roll on 2020.
All eyes on Kate.
Courtney is super-fast and has the best mountain bike parody Instagram account going.







Why he's nominated

Van Der Poel crossed over from the cyclocross world in a flurry of hype. We've heard him called the most talented bike racer on the planet thanks to his dominance of the discipline and his legend has only grown thanks to some unblieveable performances during his flirtations with road cycling.

However, in his first 2 years of competing, he never seemed to shine quite as much on a mountain bike. Yes, he was dominant in short track last year, but you aren't going to be considered a great of the sport unless you can mix it in the bunch of an XCO race.

In Albstadt, he was recovering from a broken hand and racing with a broken shoe, so had to settle for yet another podium, but in Nove Mesto he really showed what he could do. On the last lap, he finally took his opportunity to untether his legs and burst into the lead, leaving Schurter, who normally finishes super strong, panting in his wake. Further wins came in Val di Sole and Lenzerheide, but then Van der Poel simply stopped. With the World Cup overall title in the palm of his hand, he took a month off and began prepping for the road World Championships in Yorkshire, UK.
Massive win for Van der Poel.
Van der Poel spoiling the party on Schurter's home turf

The sad truth is that we've probably only got another few races to admire Van Der Poel's talents before he hangs up his mountain bike cleats good. After the Olympics, he's strongly hinted that he's going to try to become a World Tour rider on the tarmac and that will be a full-time commitment. We had best enjoy it while it lasts.



Why he's nominated

It was a question of "when", not "if", Loïc Bruni would piece together a championship-winning season and 2019 was his time to shine. In the pre-season, he said he felt more prepared than ever before, and under intense scrutiny during the season itself he continued to fight off mental demons and a charging Amaury Pierron to finally claim that World Cup overall title. He calls 2019 his maturity year and it symbolizes his transition from wildcard threat at every race to a measured pro who knows exactly what needs to be done to win consistently and build a campaign over the course of the season.

In any other year, a World Championship race in Mont Sainte Anne might have thrown Bruni off his stride with the World Cup title so close and just one race still to go but that wasn't the case this year. He actually made it look easy and claimed his fourth World title in five years, putting him well within reach of Vouilloz's record seven, a marker that was recently thought to be unattainable. Bruni is also the first elite male racer to collect the double title since Sam Hill in 2007. Bruni's name now sits comfortably alongside legends of the sport and, at 25, he's just getting started.
Super Bruni was off the rev limiter all weekend.



Why she's nominated

Every mountain bike athlete is looking for perfection, but very few ever get close. In a sport fraught with mechanicals, minimal practice, shifting tracks, inclement conditions, and hours upon hours of competition, enduro makes that search even harder, but this year, Courdurier overcame it all and ended the 2019 season unbeaten.

The French rider has been on an upward trajectory for the past few seasons having picked up her first EWS win in 2017 then finishing second at every round in 2018. In 2019, she found another gear, won the first round in Rotorua and didn't stop winning for six months. She only dropped 16 stages out of 48 all year and mainly finished second on the ones she didn't win. She was in another class this year and about the safest prediction you could make in any discipline this year. Even after the main EWS season, she just couldn't stop winning, leading the French women's team to victory in the inaugural Trophy of Nations.
Isabeau Courdurier takes yet another win in what has been a perfect season.



Honorable Mentions


Tracey Hannah

Tracey Hannah battled all season long to claim the women's elite World Cup downhill title this year. By racing smart and squeezing points out of every session, she was able to just hold off a charging Marine Cabirou. If you want to see the mental torture World Cup racers like Tracey subject themselves to first hand then watch the emotionally-charged team videos from Snowshoe.
Tracey Hannah closed out her season with 5th place which was more than enough to take home the series overall.

Vali Höll

2019 wasn't quite as prolific as 2018 for Vali Höll but her season was impressive nevertheless. The first chinks in her armour were exposed as she was beaten twice in the year, but on the other hand she was faster than any of the elite women in Les Gets and Lenzerheide and finished 2nd while racing in the elite category in the Canadian Open DH at Crankworx Whistler. Next year she moves into the elite categories and has the potential to cause some serious upsets.
Vali Holl had already wrapped up the junior overall but will want to go out with a bang before she moves up to elites next season.

Sam Hill

An illness kept Sam from pushing hard at the start of the season but the momentum he built by the end of the year made his EWS Series win end up feeling almost inevitable. He became the first EWS champion that didn't win a single round of the series but his crushing consistency elevated him to the top of the timesheets. Crucially, though, he was fastest when it mattered most, on the final stage of the final race of the year. He put 8 seconds into his competitors, claiming the Queen Stage points and his third EWS title on the bounce.
The man on a mission. Sam Hill









147 Comments

  • 150 12
 Loic. The others as great as they are just need to be honorable mentions. The level of competition this year was insane and to do something nobody has done in 10+ years and the last guy to do it was Sam Hill...c'mon.
  • 28 47
flag freeridejerk888 (Dec 16, 2019 at 12:15) (Below Threshold)
 No way isabelle had a far superior achievement
  • 45 3
 @freeridejerk888: I mean didn't Cecile go undefeated 3 years in a row...?
  • 27 3
 @MikeyMT: And R.Atherton? - Unfortunately in the women's events it's not that uncommon.
  • 6 1
 Agree. So nuts, good job Loic!
  • 11 6
 @freeridejerk888: Who is Isabelle? Wink
  • 9 0
 @MikeyMt

Valid point. But consider this, that Sam Hill guy you mention who was setting records 10+ years ago, is now still winning EWS titles and is on this list
  • 17 4
 @freeridejerk888: her top competitor wasn't racing. Loic faced top competition.
  • 6 25
flag freeridejerk888 (Dec 16, 2019 at 13:35) (Below Threshold)
 Gwin wasnt near 100% the whole season. So no he wasnt @Adamrideshisbike:
  • 11 2
 @freeridejerk888: Not to downplay her amazing season, but would she have pulled it off if Cecile Ravanel hadn't stepped away most of the season?
  • 5 0
 @freeridejerk888: he's over the hill but I hope I'm wrong. He's a great competitor.
  • 6 1
 @rudymedea: he also won a title without winning a single race, which is a pretty big achievement.
My vote goes to Bruni. He won everything in a year that was very competitive.
Cordurier also had a great season and achieved great things, plus she is really cool. I’ve got a lot of time for her but the fact is it’s easier to win in the women’s. What Bruni did tops Cordurier.
  • 9 19
flag jaame (Dec 16, 2019 at 13:56) (Below Threshold)
 @freeridejerk888: Gwin is DONE.
  • 9 0
 @jaame:
Gwin will be back. But even without him, you still need to beat Pierron, Brosnan, Hart, Minnaar, Vergier, Greenland, etc. So yeah, only Bruni can win this one.
  • 3 1
 @Adamrideshisbike: We said the same thing about Cecile when TMO retired, you still have to win races no matter who the competition is.
  • 1 0
 @jaame: Samething happened his first year at Specilized. Rest is history.
  • 3 0
 Spectacle of the year: hands down! His rivalry with Amaury came to a climax that not even Hollywood could have scripted. For sure the most entertaining season since years! But athlete of the year seems a bit of a stretch, especially with somebody like MVDP on the list...
  • 1 0
 @NinetySixBikes: Snowshoe for the best race of the year for sure!
  • 1 2
 @cvoc: Gwin may well be back. We’ll see. Personally I doubt it, but I can’t predict the future unfortunately.
  • 76 0
 There should be a pinkbike comment of the year
  • 16 48
flag cool3 (Dec 16, 2019 at 12:24) (Below Threshold)
 Waki would won hands down! Smile
  • 64 1
 @cool3: He would have won the best and worst comment, it might even be the same one.
  • 7 0
 @GriefTheBro: so it means he gets no prize
  • 2 0
 @GriefTheBro: Absolutely!
  • 23 2
 The only thing worse than Waki is the weird out of touch people who revere him for his transcribed diarrhea
  • 62 16
 Sorry DH broz, but Mathieu Van Der Poel is the best CYCLIST of this generation.
His talent and physical skills are unlike anything ever seen before. He went over 400 days without losing in CX (he's World and European champion), won the best road race of this year in an incredible display of power and since Absalon, he's the only one to put Nino under real pressure.
While I love Bruni and his riding and I understand why he has so many fans, as an athlete, no one really comes close to Vdp.
  • 33 8
 Yeah yeah but who is he?
  • 22 1
 @jaame: I think Van Der Something was in Dawson's Creek
  • 6 2
 I honestly know comparatively little about him, but at only 24 I think it's a little early to call him the best cyclist of the generation. Maybe he will be, but if we're talking generational talents and keeping this at least somewhat mtb-centric (road racing is soooo different and you could argue there is nearly zero technical overlap with DH), I still think Minnaar is the true goat. Overall wins, world champs, world cup overalls, podiums (oft overlooked), and length of career/dominance in a sport where the racing and technology and pretty much everything has evolved at lightspeed, I just have to go with ole Greg for now. It also seems like MVDP is going full road in the future, so unfortunately we won't get to see what kind of mtb chops he really has 'cause I'll admit my jaw was on the floor with what he did to Nino.
  • 4 16
flag hardcore-hardtail (Dec 16, 2019 at 15:33) (Below Threshold)
 He's no mountain biker. Pick a discipline and stick with it for a bit. World Cup XC is no place for non-commital roadies. I like athletes that pursue their discipline with passion, not just in it for an Olympic medal and quit, which he won't win BTW...
  • 13 6
 Yes if this site was PinkCyclist.com he would win. As it is he's less important to us than that guy who only rides in jeans.
  • 2 0
 @hardcore-hardtail: Simple, honest question; define mountainbiker?
  • 3 0
 @gemma8788: exactly! GM g.o.a.t
  • 19 1
 @NinetySixBikes: It's a pretty loose definition and open to anyone that loves to ride mtb!

But I'll tell you who is not a true mountain biker:

Anyone that would throw away a winning world cup XCO season to rest up for cyclocross and road racing...

Disclaimer: this is based solely on my opinion which is probably wrong because I'm kind of a dick.
  • 5 2
 He's a temp and doesn't even race DH or Enduro. This is Pinkbike...Sam Hill (he just keeps winning) or Kate Courtney (dominance in a competitive field and isn't going road, as far as we know.)
  • 1 5
flag pahblo (Dec 16, 2019 at 22:18) (Below Threshold)
 Woah, so much triggering, who hurt you? Sorry brozz. Go ride your bike, usually helps.
  • 1 0
 In cyclo-cross he hasn't been defeated for 35 races
  • 3 0
 But this is a mountain bike website so putting his accomplishments in cyclocross and road biking aside he's won a few xc races, impressive for sure but doesn't really put him in the running for me. I honestly had never heard of him before now as I don't follow road or cx and barely pay attention to xc.
  • 1 0
 @pahblo: So I guess you're one of those guys has to try and belittle people intellectually when they don't agree with you?
  • 3 1
 @pahblo:

OK, Millennial - Go ride your Peleton.
  • 1 1
 @pahblo: you love typing "brozz" dont you
  • 1 0
 @endlessblockades: Oy! That one is ours boomer! Try something along the lines of "Can't hear you over the sound of owning my own house" next time.
  • 1 0
 @Clarkeh: Well at least we all think we're Zoomers when we ride.
  • 53 14
 Don't know how you could vote for anybody else but MVDP. This dude is dominant a whole year round, winning CX WCH and WC overall in the winter, winning a monument like the Amstel Gold Race in April whilst beating the best roadracers in the world. If that wasn't enough, he goes out and beats Nino on his home turf.
  • 1 0
 Not gonna take anything away form VDP but I think there was a bit of poetic justice handed down when he walked about from the World Cup xc title in favor of the road worlds where he went on to get absolutely destroyed.
  • 2 0
 @HurricaneCycles: Not really sure if that was his own decision. Don't forget that people pay him about 1 million dollars a year to ride his bike. His team and sponsors also play a role in deciding wich races he has to race. His season get's planned months in advance, pretty hard to make last minute switches I suppose.
Maybe it's a good thing he didn't win the WC xc title, people would have probably thought he didn't represent mountainbiking enough. Not how Nino for example does.
  • 1 0
 @NinetySixBikes: your absolutely right about that. I was mostly meaning that I don’t think he should win athlete the of the year and your response agrees with that I think. Not that he isn’t worthy of that title, he just hasn’t been consistent with anything other than CX and that’s outside the scope of this article. For that reason. His fall apart at road worlds was surly served.
  • 2 0
 @HurricaneCycles: Well, I was more or less stating that if he would win athlete of the year, the Pinkbike community wouldn't see him as a deserverd winner, because he's not a "fulltime mountainbiker". And that would be a shame...
The reason he's only consistent in CX is due to the fact that they race during winter. When pretty much nothing else in going on in cycling in general. So there is no interferance with other calenders. Fact of the matter is that today, there is nobody in the world of competitive cycling, capable of winning world cup races across so many different categories. All of those, be it CX, road racing or MTB, have matured so much over the years that riders who want to excell in these, have to specialize in one or the other discipline. With that in mind, you have to admit that he truly is a very unique individual and therefor, he get's my vote for athlete of the year.
  • 28 0
 Obviously we’re not at all bias, but Sams title hat trick is a pretty incredible achievement.
  • 21 4
 Van Der Poel. If you didn't watch any road racing this year, please try and watch the last hour of the 2019 Amstel Gold.
  • 2 0
 And the last 30 mins of the Worlds, for context of how hard and long his season was.
  • 1 1
 @ukr77: or perhaps for a highlight of how bad of an idea it is to jump around sports and expect to win it all?
  • 14 1
 I'm a huge MvdP fan, but we're on Pinkbike so I'm assuming this award is for mountain biking "Athlete of the Year." While MvdP's MTB palmares are impressive, he didn't win an MTB title. My vote is for Loic - winning both DH titles, with the competition at such a high level.
  • 3 2
 Got to be fair, not sure I could pick a winner out of any of these guys really. But to say that MvdP could not be "Athlete of the year" because he didn't win a title, well, c'mon. The definition of a good/great/exceptional athlete goes far beyond simply winning a title. (not to say that winning a title is simple)
  • 2 0
 @enis: Yeah I've been making that argument myself, and I think on top of no title, he really only raced a few mtb races (and no doubt it hurts him more that they are XC races, not saying it's fair but if he had done what he did to enduro or DH this wouldn't even be a conversation).
  • 3 5
 He's no mountain biker. Pick a discipline and stick with it for a bit. World Cup XC is no place for non-commital roadies. I like athletes that pursue their discipline with passion, not just in it for an Olympic medal and quit, which he won't win BTW...
  • 1 0
 @enis: Especially if one takes into account that Amaury could have walked away with the DH title just as well this year.
  • 3 1
 @hardcore-hardtail: That he is not a full-time XCO specialist makes his achievements even more impressive. It would be like Semenuk doing the odd DH race and casually beating Bruni/Pierron.
  • 4 0
 @hardcore-hardtail: no mountain biker? No place for him? 9 time World Cup XC podium finisher... World Cup XC 2nd overall in 2018 and 2019... World Champs medalist... National champion...

edit: point being, the guy can mountain bike
  • 11 0
 Denim Destroyer.
  • 10 0
 Brendog got robbed AGAIN!
  • 10 5
 Kate Courtney. Dominated field from get go in a biking discipline that has been long established and has so much heavy competition. Less luck involved with XC than enduro and DH as well.
  • 7 2
 I think Kate courtney over loic, being able to come in to elites & dominate so quickly, & also the focus & hard work that goes in behind the scenes. Loic is up there for sure but to be fair we knew it was coming.
  • 10 2
 Isabeau
  • 7 1
 This one's gotta go to the DH scene. Nothing compares to a dh racer ripping at their full potential.
  • 6 0
 Just curious...are slopestyle riders not athletes?
  • 8 0
 Nope. Racing here
  • 6 0
 Is it too soon to say "Norbs got robbed"?
  • 6 2
 If you're going to look at his year in total, across all disciplines, no one can touch Mathieu Van Der Poel. It was the stuff of legend.
  • 1 0
 That dude is just getting started...he's 24
  • 1 0
 I think where he'll lose points is that he didn't actually win a mountain biking title, even if he could've. And we've all seen enough racing to know that anything can happen and nothing is guaranteed, so I think the lack of a title really hurts him.
  • 1 0
 I mean he could of if he shown up to race, but no he wanted to be a roadie!
  • 1 0
 I want to vote for VDP. I really do. But his utter fall apart at road worlds shows how much he has split himself trying to do everything at once. If he had stuck to one sport and taken the XC title straight up he would 100% be my vote.
  • 6 1
 Paul Basagoitia - might not ‘compete’ but has inspired me much more than the racers on this list
  • 3 0
 Martyn Ashton too; I’d hate to pick a “winner” though; they’re both amazing
  • 2 0
 @korev: good call with Martyn too
  • 8 0
 Thanks for the love bud! I was stoked to get MTB finally on HBO!
  • 1 0
 @PBass775: I'd love to watch the documentary, will it come to Europe at any point?
  • 6 2
 We the K.W.C.C (Keyboard World Cup Coalition). Would like to elect Wade Simmons and Brett Tippie.
  • 3 0
 This almost has to go to Bruni. Not to take away from the other athletes but to do what he did this year and be such a class act to everyone is pretty awesome.
  • 8 3
 It has to be MVD. That kid killed it in all aspects of bikes this year.
  • 1 0
 Loic is a class athlete and great role model for younger riders to look up to Kate's meteoric rise has been something to behold Sam will always be the people's champ ...but... Isabeau made the women's EWS season a fight for second place. That should be enough to AOTY
  • 3 0
 Has to be Bruni. Worlds then the Over-all (thanks to Danny) add in that crash at Fort William - GOOD GRIEF!
  • 1 1
 What about the Canadians? Jesse Melamed continued racing after injury and ended up pulling some amazing results besides being in pain. ALN coming back to a full year of racing and pulled off some impressive results as well, 3rd in the World and only out of the top 10 once all season. Vaea anyone?
  • 2 1
 I said it before, I'll say it again. Where is Vlad Dascalu? U23 XCO World Champion, World Cup Winner, European Champion, National Champion, qualified to the Olympic Games... Oh yeah, he's Romanian so he doesn't count, right?
  • 11 7
 The Privateer.
  • 17 4
 No.
  • 14 21
flag seanharanmtb (Dec 16, 2019 at 12:07) (Below Threshold)
 @pdxkid this award is for athletes
  • 10 2
 @seanharanmtb: solid dickheaderry there, going for troll of the year?
  • 5 1
 I just checked last year's post, and you commented the same thing. Hmmmm... www.pinkbike.com/news/pinkbike-awards-athlete-of-the-year-2018.html
  • 7 0
 @spankthewan: pdxkid = The Privateer's mom.
  • 2 0
 @ReformedRoadie: Don't get me wrong; I think the privateer is rad, and what Pinkbike and the other sponsors did was wicked. I'm just making an observation here. Smile
  • 4 0
 Hill!!!
  • 3 1
 What about Myriam Nicole? was out for the entire season and then wins her first race back
  • 11 0
 Seems like a good candidate for Comeback of the Year... Those nominees will be announced later this week.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Jenny Risveds better be on that list!
  • 4 1
 Loic is the winner for sure...everyone else ties for 2nd.
  • 5 1
 Loic F*ucking Bruni.
  • 2 0
 Pauline Ferrand-Prevot isn't on the list?... She is the 2019 World Champion in XC and XC Marathon!
  • 2 0
 Hands down MVP! The rest did really well in one genre of cycling. Van der Poel destroyed everything he touched. Next level!
  • 2 0
 Man really tough call. For me it's between Courtney and Bruni. Both just had an insane year.
  • 1 0
 Mitch Ropelato!!!!! He is hands down the best overall biker on the planet this year. Crankworx, northstar, then mega endurance event all in the same month
  • 2 0
 Sorry Loic, I love you and you deserve the title but there should be only one and this Van der Poel kid is just killing it!
  • 5 2
 Kate!
  • 1 0
 uhh god I was hoping I wasnt going to see Sam listed after Loic. that would be the toughest call. L O I C ! ! !
  • 3 1
 "MVDP" pretty sure if he started DH or Enduro he would crush that is well.
  • 7 6
 Make Downhill Great Again!
  • 12 0
 I dunno, it seems pretty great to me.
  • 5 4
 Why is this racing only? Where are the freeride and slopestyle athletes?
  • 10 0
 Where's Tiger??
  • 2 0
 Loïc & Isabeau
  • 5 4
 Hands down, Kate Courtney!
  • 1 1
 With 2 of 3 CWX Slopestyle wins and a 2nd, as well as 2nd in Rampage, I think Rheeder should at least be in the running...
  • 1 0
 Is there an innovation of the year award?
  • 2 0
 MVDP ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • 1 0
 What about Mitch Ropelato????
  • 2 0
 MAES
  • 1 0
 Loic Bruni, They Fighter.
  • 2 0
 Tracey FTW!!
  • 1 0
 So awesome to see her finally capture an overall. The fortitude to have kept at it this whole time is super underrated here, in my opinion.
  • 1 0
 Don't even have to look at the nominees. Martin Maes for sure, no doubt!!!
  • 1 0
 Vlad Dascălu ?! World xco champion u23!
  • 1 0
 B-R-O-K-E-N Randy is not even nominated...
  • 3 3
 Where’s Johansson? Or Rheeder? Why only Xc, Enduro and Dh?
  • 2 4
 Tracey ???????? she can't win one single race when Rachel, Thanee and Myriam are at the same race.

Loic and Sam! Both riders are pure perfection
  • 9 0
 It is almost like there are more aspects to racing than being fast. She stayed on her bike and kept herself fit and healthy all season. Can't win the overall from the gym doing rehab.

+1 for Super Bruni though.
  • 1 0
 Loic and Isabeau
  • 2 3
 Mitch Ropelato is an incredibly well rounded rider. With incredible style. He should get a mention
  • 2 2
 where the hell is Nino Schurter
  • 3 0
 He was on there the last 12 years...
  • 1 0
 HOLL
  • 1 2
 It’s ö not o.

And yes, you can do it, on your phone you might need a different keyboard, on your computer just push the ALT key and type 0246 on the number pad, release ALT key - voilà.
  • 1 0
 Allez Sam!!!
  • 1 0
 LOIC the best
  • 1 0
 Hill!
  • 1 0
 Loic Bruni
  • 1 0
 Hill!!!
  • 2 1
 Mathew Van Der Poel.
  • 1 1
 Kate Courtney, I guess.
  • 1 3
 You could have stopped after Kate.

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