Pinkbike Awards: Comeback of the Year Nominees

Dec 10, 2018
by Mike Levy  


Comeback of the Year Nominees


I've never been able to watch any sort of crash reel, and it's always felt a bit wrong to be seeking out that sort of carnage. You know the kind; they're always filler at the end video to remind us that yes, despite the professionals looking like they nail it all the time, that's far from being the truth. Hitting the deck hard goes hand in hand with pushing limits, of course, and especially when racing is involved, which is where most of our nominees come from.

Seeing riders get injured sucks, but we all know that a good comeback story can pull on the heartstrings in a way that maybe only a box full of puppies is able to do. Jesse Melamed, Myriam Nicole, Emil Johansson, and Gee Atherton all had their own comeback stories in 2018, but which rider has had the most impressive resurgence?









Why he's nominated

Jesse's steady rise up the Enduro World Series ranks has mirrored his move from part-time pro a handful of years ago to full-time racer and EWS winner. The Canadian went into the 2018 season surely hoping to build on the career-best results that he had the prior year, but it wasn't meant to be. Instead, he ended up injured and on the sidelines at two rounds of the series; a broken collarbone at the French round in May required surgery and six weeks off, only for Melamed to come straight back with a conservative 10th overall at the next round and then a season-best 4th overall at the Italian stop. Things were looking up, especially because the next round was in Whistler, Jesse's hometown and an event he won in 2017.

The momentum stopped abrutly when he hit the ground during practice, breaking his hand and putting an end to a glorious repeat victory at home. Two different forced time-outs from two different broken bones during a single season is enough to take the wind out of anyone's sails, but Melamed showed that he's got grit to spare by returning for the final two EWS rounds to bag 8th and 7th places. You know, just a couple casual top-tens against the fastest racers in the world after breaking his collarbone in May and his hand in August.








Why she's nominated

Italy's Val di Sole World Cup track has a fearsome reputation as a rough, fast monster that's about as forgiving of mistakes as the Soup Nazi; mess up and you'll probably get tossed pretty quickly. And it'll probably end up being a Big One, too. If we look back to 2017, it's also where Nicole sealed her overall championship with a victory at the final round in Italy, so she's had some good times there. It wasn't to be in 2018, however, with a massive crash in practice ending her bid for a repeat win in the Valley of the Sun. It also saw her get taken off the mountain in a helicopter due to suspicion of a serious back injury.

Thankfully, that wasn't the case and it ended up being one hell of an impact and bruise that was enough to see her skip the following round in Vallnord, but she would make a full recovery. In an effort to keep ahold of the series lead, Nicole returned to action on the infamously rough Mont-Sainte-Anne track where a rough day saw finish in 14th place. Just two weeks later came the final round in La Bresse, France, and you know the French racer wanted to end 2018 on a high note, even if the overall was now out of reach. She ended up doing exactly that, with an impressive 3rd, just behind Tahnee Seagrave and Rachel Atherton.








Why he's nominated

Emil Johansson wasted no time in 2017, podiuming in four FMB Diamond events and snatching the overall title away from well-known veterans like Rheeder or Semenuk. The immediate future looked pretty bright for Emil, but that's when he got hit with one of life's curveballs. This particular pitch meant that he was dealing with significant pain and issues from his back that was eventually diagnosed as a congenital 6th lumbar vertebrae defect. I'm no doctor but that sure doesn't sound good, and it was about to get worse: He was also diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that slowed down his ability to recover and rehab from his back injury.

All told, Emil was on the sidelines for ten months, something that makes his 4th place at Red Bull Joyride, on the gnarliest course of the year, all the more impressive.








Why he's nominated

If you started watching World Cup downhill racing only a few years ago, you might think that Gee Atherton is more pack fodder than one of the fastest in the world. After all, the past couple of seasons have been rough for the two-time World Champion, many time National Champion, and World Cup series champion. I'm sure that some fans had even written him off as ever being competitve on the big stage again, but the truth is that Gee has had a hell of a time with injuries in recent years, the kind that are always nagging at you. His 2017 season made him a low-cost pick in the Pinkbike Fantasy league, but 2018 saw him ride and race himself back into contention.

A 19th in Lošinj kicked off the year, followed by Fort William and a 15th. Gee was surely not that stoked with those, just as he probably wasn't all that happy about the 18th in Leogang, 26th in Val di Sole, and 33rd in Vallnord. Things turned around after Andorra, however, with an 8th on the rowdy Mont-Sainte-Anne track and then, finally, a 2nd at the final World Cup of the season in France. More recently, he won the Red Bull Hardline event, AKA the scariest downhill race this side of an urban race in Mexico. How's that for an upswing in form? He might have finished 2018 with just 524 points, or less than half of series winner, Amaury Pierron, but it's obvious that Gee is still a huge threat.





While there are no fairytale returns from injuries that culminate with a championship or victory, Melamed, Nicole, Johansson, and Atherton all showed true heart and determination in 2018. Which one are you most impressed by?







138 Comments

  • + 321
 Gee!
  • + 50
 So much respect for what he did at the end of this year. Getting to the top is one thing, staying at the top is another... but trying to get back to the top is even harder. Much respect.
  • + 15
 #Gee4worlds
  • + 29
 I'm not sure... Emil coming back and getting 4th at Crankworx after not riding his bike all season until a week before the event is simply stunning.
  • + 5
 @jamesdunford: and for winning Hardline.
  • + 5
 Should've been bulldog
  • + 3
 Gee man for the win!
  • + 4
 I dunno... wasn't it his sister who was injured end of last season, didn't start out as dominant as previous seasons and then suddenly kicks into gear at St Anne and ultimately the series. How that does that not qualify for a comeback mention?
  • - 3
 unpopular opinion. gee is an arse
  • + 0
 does anyone want a ladder so they can climb a bit further up his arse
  • + 1
 @madmax245: That's cool but we're here for the riding, not the personality tests.
  • + 1
 @scott-townes: if your here for riding then you should be shouting Emil
  • + 2
 @freeridejerk888: MY VOTE IS MY VOICE! EMIL 2018!
  • + 1
 Gee wiz I dunno
  • + 75
 Gee without a doubt. From not even getting a spot on the Worlds team to being outright competitive at the end of the season. Add to that he did some shit hot course previews. I wasn't a big fan of his..but something changed this year
  • + 57
 Melamed, for sure. Two broken bones in a single season and coming back twice to be in top 10 contention. He must have been incredibly smart and disciplined about how he spent his injured time, and how he approached his come back(s).

(Gee close second, though)
  • + 4
 #GEE
  • + 2
 I agree. Everyone is pumped to see a legend like Gee back on form. BUT Jesse's ability to overcome adversity during the season and remain at the top is remarkable.
  • + 1
 #holymelamedianchurch
  • + 1
 Nicest guy ever too and i bet he remembers every kids name that he coached through his time with the WORCA kids program. Undoubtedly one of the future greats as a ambassador to the sport.
  • + 51
 Emil! Emil! Emil! I am unbiased! I am unbiased! I am unbiased!
  • + 24
 of course you are unbiased. you are polish...
  • + 1
 @makripper: yes but this is Pinkbike, almost everyone seem to assume that the flag next to the user name indicates your nationality
  • + 4
 unhinged
  • + 2
 @zede: he moved a while ago and claimed he wasn't swedish haha what a guy! throwing shade at wacek is my favorite pasta time
  • + 1
 @makripper: I applied for citizenship. They won’t give it to me bastards! Even though I support their meat and tobacco industries
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: So, you'll be a certified Scandihooligan then. Best of luck to you!
  • + 2
 @megatryn: Scandihooligan... you made me google it, oh Jesus... I do share lots of sympathy for Norwegians, don't ruin it for me Big Grin Let's stay together for our common enemy... THE DANES!!! Their ghrleeee, bhrllyyy, hrleee and piss beer
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Well, being a scandihooligan isn't so bad, as long as you don't travel abroad and are identified as one Razz

Just hit me that I've never googled it myself, I've only come across the term in my travels to forgein coutries. Googleing it, it seems it is a Hash House Harrier group in Kristiansand as well.

But I digress: THE DANES! They don't even allow Marmite in their country! bastards. (Not that I even touch the stuff)
  • + 2
 @megatryn: many ofthem annoy me because when they come over here they don't bother speaking in English or try some more understandable dialect. Norwegians kind of make sure they are understood. In most cases I understand every second word a Dane says, but in some Bejesus... I have next to no problems with Norwegians, it's a bit hard with Makken, but still doable Big Grin Like listening to Czechs, Slovaks or Ukrainians for a Polish person. But Danish is like Russian, out of my comfort zone. It's just that Russians look at you whether you understood or not, instead of well: if you didn't get it, it's your phaelblym. I will whepeat aen exhekhtle sym whay as ae s-head aet bfhehah. Waki's war against Denmark has begun! The operation Kamelåso!
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Noone understands Danish. Not even danes. Proof: www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-mOy8VUEBk KAMELÅSÅ!

You'd probably have a problem with me, as most of my polish friends do, and I've got a worse dialect to understand than Makken (but I also speak Swedish).
  • + 36
 What about Martin Maes with his dislocated shoulder in EWS Columbia, then going on to win EWS Whistler and the La Bresse DH world cup? Should be comeback worthy...
  • + 5
 It's no comeback because a dislocated shoulder is not enough to slow this guy down!
  • + 0
 The worst part about that was that the EWS closed that stage in Columbia, which means they didn't even run the course (aka dislocated shoulder for nothing).
  • + 1
 @Thustlewhumber:
Or one dislocated shoulder = closed stage to avoid many dislocated shoulders

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • + 2
 @jervis: True. good perspective Smile
  • + 30
 My Dad - beat heart disease and cancer. His physical activity may be walking now but to survive what he did is it's own feat!
  • + 23
 If Emil isn't it then you people need to read more about him. He gave his life to the sport and almost had to call it quits shortly after. If you watch his joyride run look at the end. I've never cried watching mountian biking expect for that. (And loris"s win)
  • + 3
 This 100%.
  • + 3
 The video, for everyone about to google hunt it.

www.redbull.com/se-en/videos/emil-johansson-joyride-2018
  • + 14
 Gee is getting the award bc Dh is more popular but Emil definitely deserves it a thousand times more. From jot riding st all to ride like he used to a year ago like he’s been practicing every day dude!! I mean any wine can ride down a hill but how many can throw cork 720s
  • + 17
 gee!
  • - 12
flag WAKIdesigns (Dec 10, 2018 at 9:18) (Below Threshold)
 Randy!!!
  • + 16
 Gee!
  • + 15
 Gee .
  • + 13
 “Gee Atherton? Never heard of her” - Myriam Nicole
  • + 7
 Tough call. I'd say Emil because the dude was supposed to be done forever. Or Gee because he looked like he was done and then finished 2018 looking great.
  • + 5
 Emil. If you followed his Instagram, he talked about how the doctors said he might not have ever been able to ride a bike again. Also, if you watched Joyride, his reaction and the reaction of everyone around him made it really special. Compared to everyone else, who had (relatively) minor injuries, I think it's obvious that Emil should win.
  • + 8
 Loic Bruni is the comeback champion. Lost half of the season and then wc winner and as usual world chamion
  • + 10
 Brooke McDonald?????
  • + 4
 Wasn't Gee riding the majority of that season with a broken/fractured hand or wrist, too? At one point actually velcro-ing it to his bars?

I'm not a huge fan of his but to race all year and then have those results at the end of the season is pretty damn impressive.
  • + 5
 Gee 100% ,to get hurt that bad and get back up to that speed is a just pure guts and hard work, if you haven't seen how fast WC racers are in real life, don't think for a minute you can judge it from a film.
  • + 8
 GT bikes.
  • + 3
 I'd have to nominate Katy Curd, especially given the nature of the injury that she suffered and the impact it had. Having a double concussion from crashes at consecutive World Cups and being pretty much at rock bottom, wondering whether she'd be able to ride again. This type of injury is gaining more attention now and understanding the importance of correctly managing how it's treated, could mean better prospects for the future. For Katy to be back to riding, let alone racing World Cups, is a testament to the hard work that she and her coach have put in.
  • + 2
 Gotta give it to Gee. The man is absolutely driven. He came back from a dislocated hip and broken vertebrae. Not to mention that he broke his wrist and rode 2 WC with it taped up and his hand velcroed to the grip. One of those races was Val de Sole! Think about that for just a minute. Just to make it down that course is hard enough. Competing in a WC race with your hand stuck to the bar with Velcro? The dude is in a league of his own.
  • + 2
 What about scotty cranmer? I know he isint a mtb rider and his injury wasn't this year but some of the riding he has been doing lately is pretty impressive when you consider that he was totally paralyzed from an injury that many people barely get any motion back from.
  • + 1
 regardless, it's good to see him back on the bike, and I'm sure we all wish him the best and continued improvement
  • + 5
 Myriam definitely deserves it! Her determination is inspiring!
  • + 4
 Gee for sure but Remi Thirion is a hero coming back from his crash Females Miriam and Rach.....
  • + 6
 ALN?
  • + 5
 When i saw the comeback post on PB, first name that came to mind was ALN. She was a certified bad ass, and not even that experienced with Enduro before she came back from the wrist. She will be the one to beat Cecile.
  • + 1
 Shout out to Emil. The run he managed at Joyride was mental compare to all he had to scope with. When he shredded into tears with Martin Soderstrom at the end of the Joyride course, I swear there were ninjas cutting onions right beside me.
  • + 2
 Loic was a good candidate! Injured at the first round and finish the season by a wc win and the world championship. That is a come back!
  • + 5
 Brook Macdonald?
  • + 7
 The bulldog doesn't need a comeback.
  • + 0
 @chyu: comebacks need a comeback after they've been Bulldogged
  • + 4
 ALN should have been in that list...!
  • + 4
 I love to see gee back on his pace but Emil's story is Disney worthy.
  • + 4
 Peaty and Nico!
  • + 2
 Emil or Gee but Emil's comeback was just incredible. His joyride run was insane.
  • + 3
 I hope Graves can be on this list next year.
  • + 2
 Yeah well the jerkstore called, they're running out of you!! George Costanza
  • + 2
 The one with the 6th lumbar vertebrae and autoimmune healing issue. That's gotta be tough.
  • + 3
 emil! off the bike that long and still beats most of the fmb boys.
  • + 2
 Kubica, of course; maimed, but still able to kick *** in F1! Just kidding, Gee for coming back out of oblivion
  • + 2
 That's a tough one. Gee was pretty big but Emil at Crankworx gave me goose bumps. It's a toss up for me.
  • + 3
 Remi Morton deserves to be on this list
  • + 3
 Emil, that kid is incredible
  • + 4
 Gee
  • + 3
 Out of that list: Gee!

Why wasn't ALN in that list?
  • + 3
 Emil
  • + 3
 All of em
  • + 1
 Gee or malemed? Both truly deserving both some of my favorite riders. Good on ya!!
  • + 2
 How about Brook Macdonald?
  • + 2
 You forgot a major comeback story still in the works. . . C.Buchanan!
  • + 3
 Gt bikes
  • + 1
 What about Max Fredrikkson? He had a pretty good comeback at Audi nines after destroying himself back in Rotorua
  • + 1
 Yeah, it was good to see Aggy competing at rampage weeks after braking himself off at whistler.
  • + 3
 Emil, absolutely.
  • + 1
 Gee! Even his own country counted him out. Look out this upcoming season!
  • + 2
 Melamed
  • + 2
 Melamed
  • + 2
 Melamed
  • + 1
 Gerhard Kerschbaumer no doubts.
  • + 2
 Hardtails.
  • + 1
 I dunno how Brook isn't on this list. Dude had an amazing year.
  • + 1
 Jesse Melamed is going to win this! Very impressive comeback
  • + 1
 Gee, sometimes it's easy to forget he's even human. Such a machine.
  • + 1
 Gunn Rita! She wins a WC XC race at 45!!!
  • + 1
 hey PB, there's no 6th lumbar vertebrae; just sayin'
  • + 1
 Emil, or ALN(who I know wasn’t on the list)
  • + 1
 Richie finished strong after a tough year
  • + 6
 Dopers aren't eligible for awards.
  • + 2
 JORDIE LUNN
  • - 1
 All worthy contenders, but given that the 2020 presidential election is in full swing in the US already, can I start lobbying for Graves in 2019?
  • + 2
 Emil FOR SURE!!
  • + 1
 Caroline Buchanan?
  • + 1
 Bruni?
  • + 1
 GEE!
  • + 1
 G..... !!!
  • + 1
 Martin Maes...?
  • + 1
 Emil!
  • + 1
 Melamed FTW!
  • + 0
 2019 is Randys big year ,just you wait and see
  • + 1
 Gotta be Gee!
  • + 1
 Definitely Gee
  • + 1
 Melamed.
  • + 1
 Tammy!
  • + 1
 Melamed
  • + 1
 Melamed
  • + 0
 Randy's return to Rampage
  • + 1
 Gee!
  • + 1
 Gee Athy for the win!
  • + 1
 Myriam or Gee.
  • + 1
 emiliooooooooooooo
  • + 1
 GEE
  • + 1
 Reed Boggs
  • + 0
 Jesse
  • - 3
 Rachel...all day.
  • + 1
 You would wouldn't you Wink

Post a Comment



Copyright © 2000 - 2019. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv65 0.062474
Mobile Version of Website