2021 Pinkbike Awards: Breakout Rider of the Year Nominees

Dec 10, 2021 at 12:10
by Alicia Leggett  


Breakout Rider of the Year Nominees

When we sat down to discuss the 2021 Athlete of the Year Nominees, there were several riders we wanted to acknowledge who stood out because of the ways they took 2021 by surprise, so we created a new category to honor them. Below, you'll find our 2021 Breakout Rider of the Year Nominees.

2020 and 2021 have clearly been abnormal years for racing, but amid the abbreviated race seasons, uncertainty, and shifting priorities for riders, some athletes not only maintained their fitness and skills but found new motivation, drive, and focus. For the below riders, some of whom had their first chances to really show what they could do at the world level, 2021 was a year of immense growth and their time to break through to the next level.

After their performances this season, all of these riders are now favorites as we look ahead to 2022.







Why she's nominated

After some of Hattie Harnden's performances as a U21 rider, we know she would do big things. Still, we didn't know she would win two EWS races in a row during her first season in the elites, becoming the youngest-ever elite women's EWS winner at just 20.

Not only did Hattie race the full EWS season, but she also raced several U23 World Cup cross-country races and is now gearing up for her winter cyclocross season. She rides all kinds of bikes, and she rides them well, nearly always with a smile on her face.

Her first win came at the second La Thuile race this season, which featured steep, rocky tracks - Hattie's favorite type. At the next stop, in Loudenvielle, Hattie dominated the Queen Stage by 20 seconds, pulling ahead of Noga Korem and Isabeau Courdurier who had won the previous stages. When the dust had settled on the EWS season, she was sitting fourth.

Regardless of what discipline(s) Hattie chooses to race in the future, it's safe to say we will keep seeing big things from her.

Fresh off a mudder in Les Gets XCO Hattie Harnden embraced the sunny first stages and took second on the day.






Why he's nominated

This time last year, we nominated Tom Pidcock for Athlete of the Year after he took the U23 field by storm despite having never raced an elite mountain bike race before the season started. "If he was a country, he would have finished second in the medal table, with only France ahead of him," James Smurthwaite wrote of Tom's 2020 U23 season.

This season, however, Elite Tom Pidcock has dwarfed U23 Tom Pidcock's achievements, starting the season on the 11th row of the start grid in Albstadt and fighting up to fifth place, and only improving from there. At the next race in Nove Mesto, he took the win by an entire minute over Mathieu van der Poel. Then, even after breaking his collarbone, he went on to win the Olympics. If that's not a commanding season, I don't know what is.

He's also just 22 years old and a phenom on curly-bar bikes as well. It seems he has decided to focus on mountain biking for the time being, but he'll continue to develop in his other disciplines as well, bringing a breadth of experience on the bike that is uncommon at any age.
Redemption. Tom Pidcock might have been beaten by Van der poel in a sprint finish in the short track but he avenged that today.





Why she's nominated
In years past, we've watched Vali Holl match the times of the elite women and speculated about what would happen when she was among their ranks. Now that we've watched Vali take her first two elite World Cup wins, it's time to move on to talking about another up-and-coming junior female: Izabela Yankova.

The Bulgarian rider hit her stride midseason in Val di Sole, taking the World Championship win - becoming the first Bulgarian cyclist of any discipline to win a World Championship event - and continuing that streak to win the next three World Cup races, first in Lenzerheide and then twice in Snowshoe, and she's just getting faster.

Her times slot her among the ranks of riders like Eleonora Farina, Millie Johnset, and Monika Hrastnik. At just 17 years old and already riding at a pace to keep up with factory pros, we're quite impressed. We're also pleased to see that she's fielding team offers for next season, so we look forward to seeing her on the course with some more support next year.
Izabela Yankova Kine Haugom Gracey Hemstreet with the gold silver and bronze medals for the Junior Women






Why he's nominated
19-year-old Jaxson Riddle hasn't exactly been incognito in the freeride scene, even earning himself a Red Bull helmet in 2020. Still, he solidified his name in the history books this fall by becoming the fan favorite and winning the Best Style award at Red Bull Rampage.

Jaxson is a Utah local whose moto background shows in the way he brings creativity and ridiculous style to big mountain lines on his downhill bike. Although this year was his first Rampage, he rides with more familiarity with the Utah lines than almost anyone else, and seems to see lines that no one else can dream up. The young rider is relatively new to mountain biking, first picking up a downhill bike when he was 15, but he started sending it quickly and hasn't stopped. If his past progression is anything to go by, he has tricks up his sleeve and in his future that haven't even occurred to the rest of us.

Jaxson deserves a sincere congratulations for his Rampage performance. The future is certainly bright.
Jaxson made the most out of the morning practice he really wanted to make sure that his speed was dialed in for The Giraffe feature. During his runs it was.







79 Comments

  • 157 3
 What about Thibault Daprela? Dude blasted into the elite WC rankings like Macklemore walks into a club
  • 8 0
 First person I thought of.
  • 30 0
 He broke out two years ago.
  • 6 0
 He's a Made Man at this point.
  • 11 1
 @rockyflowtbay: Yeah, I instantly thought of Macklemore also.
  • 2 0
 @inside-plus: wait, isn’t it now December 2019? Where did the rest go???
  • 3 0
 Thibaut was robbed! The one name I expected to see on this list
  • 1 0
 Absolutely.. Daprela should be on this list way before Pidcock. We all knew Pidcock was going to basically dominate.
  • 1 0
 @inside-plus: Les Gets was his first elite win, and at the end of the season he was 2nd over all. I know it's not his first year as an elite, but that seems like a breakout to me
  • 4 0
 Was thinking more about benoit coulanges
  • 54 0
 what about the guy who faceplanted the drop at the Olympics.... what's his name again?
  • 3 2
 Olympics?!
  • 53 4
 Jackson Goldstone? First year on circuit, wins the whole thing, also gets the redbull helmet
  • 8 1
 They put him in the athlete of the year article.
  • 7 3
 @Nado86: Why not both? He applies to this.
  • 2 2
 He def belonged in this Cat, too.
  • 6 0
 I don't think 'getting a red bull helmet' is something this category should be judged on
  • 2 0
 Kids washed
  • 3 0
 He surely wouldn't fall under the category of breakout rider. The lad has been known about since he popped out the womb doing backflips.
  • 5 0
 Pretty sure his breakout year was 13 years ago
  • 30 1
 You missed Izabela's name in the picture...
  • 5 0
 Yeah, word! You can tell this chick is here to win. her interviews are awesome. stone cold killer
  • 3 0
 @ace9: got to chat w Izabela and her dad at snowshoe. Stone cold killer on the bike, and humble, relatable, and cool as shit off the bike….that’s just my 5 cent(s)
  • 26 3
 Pidcock. That's kind of a no brainer. Riddle is dope but anyone that's been paying attention knew what was coming. Now had he won rampage... then we'd be talking. Goldstone should be on this list too.
  • 6 0
 Could apply your Riddle argument to Pidcock too though.
  • 1 0
 @sspiff: You're not wrong. He's been at the top since at least 2015 in regards to age brackets/placement.

MTB racing is relatively new to him though... think 2019. Fact the kid won the olympics like 7 weeks after he got hit by a car and broke his collarbone... and had to do it coming from the back of the pack... crazy.
  • 21 3
 Jaxson Riddle. Absolute legend. I watched him first hand at proving grounds and he's just a boss
  • 2 0
 Yea so much style.
  • 2 0
 Nice kid, like that guy. What a sweet event too.
  • 2 0
 I wouldn’t call him a breakout rider, because he has been a big name for a while. Rampage just elevated that name more, he still definitely got robbed.
  • 2 0
 That kid rules. Has my vote for life.
  • 2 0
 For sure... dude just has that vibe. Killer style. Balls of steel. Just a positive dude to be around. Can't wait to see what he does at future rampage events.
  • 17 0
 Christopher Blevins should be on that list. Seriously.
  • 1 0
 Dude is a good rider but developed to late in the season to be considered for the list.
  • 11 1
 Harnden, because yes it’s all racing but who was the last person good at DH (ok enduro) and XC? Tomac?

Saying that watching Pidcock start from the back in Japan was the highlight of my Olympics
  • 9 0
 Gotta give my vote to Jaxson Riddle. He went huge at Rampage. His Moto-style Big-Air tricks was honestly some of the most stylish riding I've ever seen. I'd have liked to see Brage Vestavik here too. It wasn't actually a breakout year for him, but it feels like this time around last year he was only some freeride dude who made cool edits and who had done decently in Junior DH Wordlcups once or twice. Now, after X-Games Real MTB and Redbull Hardline, everybody knows the Viking. Seems like he basically made it to legend status in one year.
  • 11 1
 What about the young fella Greg Minnaar? I don't think he won a world cup this year, but he was world champ! I see great things in that kids future.
  • 2 0
 It could very well be, who knows? Time will tell, I suppose.
  • 6 1
 Jaxson. Young dude with a standout run. We expect lots of spinny mcflippy things in Rampage now...but he brought a style no other rider had.
  • 4 0
 I hoped to see Sławek Łukasik here. Consistently in EWS top 10 and regularly beating most established factory team riders as a privateer. Big oversight from my point of view.
  • 6 0
 Hattie Harnden for pretty much winning in all her disciplines.
  • 1 0
 Current British CX champion, British U23 XCO Champion, and double EWS winner - that is some record, and she's only 20; she seems to have been around for years.
  • 2 0
 In my opinion Izabela is the winner here. Keep in mind that she raced without any factory support and she managed to win the overall. Special mention for Jaxson definitely the future of freeride.
  • 1 0
 Must be Izabela cmon, she did 5 out of 5.
World Cup overall + champ
European overall + champ
Also national champion in Bulgaria and obviously would have been overall if she wasn’t busy doing WC racing.
And also, all the was done as a privateer, I do not recall this thing happening in the history before.
  • 4 0
 all of these riders are fricken KILLIN IT GOOD JOB!!!!!!!
  • 3 0
 What about Loana Lecomte? She won every XC world cup before the olympics...
  • 1 0
 she's in Athlete of the Year
  • 1 0
 @bgoldstone: Read that article afterwards...
  • 3 0
 Did I miss the vote button?
  • 2 0
 Exactly! This is like Pinkbike Academy all over again...
  • 3 0
 Kasper Woolley got robbed
  • 3 0
 Where : Blevins, Lukasick?
  • 2 0
 Izabela Yankova! Haven't really heard about her till this year. She was killing it this year, and notably, as a privateer!
  • 1 0
 I don't think Pidcock should be on this list as we could all kinda see that coming . This list should be just for the dark horse.
  • 3 0
 C'MON MAN....TUHOTO-ARIKI PENNE FOR THE WIN!!
  • 1 0
 Slawek Lukasik got robbed ... big time. Privateer with a race program based of he's van, consistently in the top 10 of EWS. Don't think that has ever happened before ...
  • 1 0
 I'm pretty sure Riddle is the only one of the bunch to clear a rampage run so I'll have to go with him.
  • 1 0
 On a clean run Thibault Daprella may be the fastest guy out there, already!
  • 1 0
 What about the young xc girl who killed everyone for several races. Name escapes me at the moment…because it’s xc…
  • 2 1
 Hattie Harnden for the win
  • 1 0
 Harriet Burridge Smith?!?
  • 2 1
 Jaxson woz robbed !!!
  • 1 0
 pidcock without a doubt.
  • 1 0
 Where’s Stark?
  • 2 0
 They always dog stark
  • 2 0
 He's still a Stark Horse.
  • 1 0
 Randy?
  • 1 0
 DYLAN STARK!!
  • 1 0
 Tom Bradshaw got robbed
  • 1 0
 Brendog got robbed...
  • 1 0
 Dan Slack?
  • 1 0
 Test.
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