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2022 Pinkbike Awards: Breakout Rider of the Year Nominees

Dec 18, 2022 at 6:55
by Ed Spratt  
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Breakout Rider of the Year Nominees

While we have the Athlete of the Year award, there are always several riders we want to acknowledge who stood out because of the ways they took 2022 by surprise. Below, you'll find our 2022 Breakout Rider of the Year Nominees. After their performances this season, all of these riders are now favorites as we look ahead to 2023.






Why they are nominated

Gracey Hemstreet was the big addition to the Norco Factory Team at the start of 2022 after picking up bronze at the 2021 World Champs and a handful of podiums during her first World Cup season. 2022 was her final chance to impress before heading up to Elite, and she spent no time waiting to show off her speed and style with five World Cup wins across the season as well as taking the overall win by 85 points. Gracey also secured a silver medal at the World Champs in Les Gets and even added a Red Bull helmet to her collection at Crankworx Whistler. We can't wait to see what she can do next year in Elites.






Why they are nominated

After having a tough time with injuries both in previous years and even in this season, Jess Blewitt has never had a clear shot at showing her raw speed on the World Circuit after joining the GT Factory Racing team. Despite picking up a collarbone injury at the Fort William World Cup Jess went on to show across the year that she is now a consistent threat for top podium results at World Cups and never finished outside of the top ten this year. Not only did Jess show her speed at World Cups, she also became the first woman to hit the massive sends at Red Bull Hardline. Sadly another collarbone injury took her prevented her from completing a full run, but she is definitely a rider to watch closely when she is back racing next year.






Why they are nominated

Alessandra Keller has been a regular threat for a top result at World Cups for a number of years, but in 2022 she finally broke through the always competitive women's XC field and took her first win in horrific conditions in Snowshoe. Not happy with just taking her first XC World Cup win this season, she stayed consistent with her results to take both the XCC Short Track and XC overall titles. Alessandra is now one of the top riders to beat next year and will be a favourite in next year's overall title race.






Why they are nominated

A true double threat, Luke Meier-Smith has been at the sharp end of not just the U21 EWS series but also the Elite World Cup downhill racing. The past year saw Luke win all five rounds of the EWS that he entered giving, him a lead of over 200 points in the overall to beat Seth Sherlock, who raced at all eight venues. Not only did Luke take on and win the overall EWS title but he managed to fit every World Cup race and World Champs into his race calendar for his second year in Elites. Luke's season saw multiple top ten finishes and even sneaked inside the top 20 at the Les Gets World Champs. With a shaken up calendar for downhill and enduro next year it will be interesting to see how Luke can keep up with both sports.







Author Info:
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Member since Mar 16, 2017
3,207 articles

75 Comments
  • 216 2
 Andreas Kolb anyone?....5 podiums (first 5 of his career), 4th overall DH world cup and European champion? Was 100% expecting to see him on this one.
  • 28 2
 He was 20th in the overall last year, ahead of some pretty big names. He had an even better season this year, but he isn't really new on the scene.
  • 13 51
flag yakimonti (Dec 19, 2022 at 13:23) (Below Threshold)
 Pretty sure PB writers don't watch much racing.
  • 15 0
 @toast2266: @toast2266: Doesn't seem to be a valid reason to exclude him: "Alessandra Keller has been a regular threat for a top result at World Cups for a number of years, but in 2022 she finally broke through the always competitive women's XC field and took her first win"
  • 2 2
 Kolb has been racing and known for a number of years now so he didn't really "break out" this past season.
  • 3 0
 @scott-townes: Allessandra keller has been racing and been known for a number of years and has apparently 'broken out' this year. She won an XCC world cup as far back as 2018....Not saying she isn't deserving, she is, but he absolutely is as well.
  • 1 2
 @wilsonians: Bah Kolb's been racing for 10 years now.
  • 3 0
 @scott-townes: Alessandra Keller and Kolb are the exact same age.....both been racing for that long. Keller won XC junior world champs in 2013. Just saying, Kolb is just as deserving to be nominated.
  • 85 0
 Can you guys make these lists a poll for us to clicky clicky? Even if you don't take the results into account
  • 2 0
 This seems as if it should go without saying!!
  • 74 0
 Ronan Dunne?
  • 2 0
 Can't believe he didn't make this list.
  • 28 3
 These are all great options but no Andreas Kolb?.
  • 24 0
 They all had great years, but Alessandra had the best year of them all and it's not even close.
  • 5 3
 Agreed, but not many here follow women's XC
  • 22 0
 Matthew. Fairbrother.
I’ll be nominating him for every category.
  • 2 0
 Matt has been amazing this year. I've followed him on his trip around EWS. Inspiring ...
  • 16 0
 Performance of the year goes to Blewitt's collarbone (and rest of her body) trying to keep that savage in one piece.
  • 2 0
 I was amazed and impressed that she was the only woman in 2023 to even consider racing Hardline....she deserves the top slot for 2022 breakout rider of the year.
  • 16 0
 Ronan Dunne!
  • 16 0
 Kolb got robbed
  • 18 3
 Jenna Hastings???
  • 1 1
 Her breakout year was last year though?
  • 7 0
 Definitely Alessandra Keller for me. With this competitive field, only in Switzerland alone, standing in the shadows of Jolanda for quite some time. Now she finally managed to put all the pieces together and show everyone that she has it. (Like she would have to prove it to anyone...)
  • 8 0
 ...any other category in the pipe Andreas Kolb fits in better?!? Don't get this! First ever podium, five podiums, eurochamp, crankworx dual winner...mehr geht ned!!!
  • 10 0
 Gracie!
  • 10 1
 Ronan Dunne?
  • 10 1
 Gwendalyn Gibson??
  • 9 2
 Pointless award without kolb or dinner being nominated
  • 1 0
 *Dunne
  • 12 0
 I’ll vote for dinner everytime. Casual Jacket Potato tonight, still gets my vote. I love Dinner.
  • 8 0
 Jack Menzies?!?!
  • 1 0
 Rookie of the year!
  • 4 1
 Finn for the win!! Really hard to go from a guy competing to get an occasional podium to a rider consistently getting on them and taking a win. As amazing as Gracey was you can say this about a junior rider most years. Agree with Kolb as well.
  • 3 0
 Finn did really well in juniors before moving up to elite. I don't think you're wrong to name-drop him here because he has undoubtedly had a good season, but I don't think this is his real "breakout" year.
  • 1 0
 Finn is definitely THE rider to watch for 2023........he's really emerged from a wild little teenager to a real full-grown racer
  • 7 1
 Jordan Williams should also surely get a mention
  • 1 0
 Underrated because there is no scratch ranking anymore in DH world cup
  • 6 0
 Louise Fergusson?
  • 1 0
 Second this
  • 5 0
 Ronan Dunne absolutely robbed here
  • 1 0
 too busy sending
  • 1 0
 True! Not sure why he didn't get a mention when he's been talked about all over the MTB podcast world etc.
  • 6 2
 You're Smoking the crack rock if kolb isn't on there ! What the hell
  • 1 1
 Does anyone else thinks that these lists coordinatedly need to show as man women competitors as men to be balanced? Absolutely no offense, I was just surprised (not in a bad way!!!) how low percentage male athletes are on the nominees.
  • 3 0
 Rebecca McConnell deserves an honorable mention too. Winning the first 3 rounds was impressive.
  • 1 0
 Remember... It's not about who you are or what you've accomplished, but rather who you are sponsored by and which of those sponsors will pay Pinkbike's fee for getting publicity.
  • 1 0
 You can only pick 5, but Jenna Hastings and Andreas Kolb (even Ronan Dunne) are reminders of how many riders really had breakout seasons where they went to a new level they didn't expect
  • 3 0
 yea Kolb would have been nice, but Gracie killed it this year
  • 3 0
 Keller all the way for me.
  • 4 3
 Anna Newkirk. Look at the '22 progression:

Lourdes - p17
Ft Bill - p12
Lenzerheide - p10
Valnord - p8
Snowshoe - p9
MSA - p7
  • 1 1
 The times Goldstone and laid down, the fastest man on the hill on the day, beating the Elites?? Thats as breakout as you can get in the racing world.
No disrespect to any of the people on here but lets be real.
  • 1 0
 Ronan Dunne has taken everyone by surprise this year, first with a podium finish and then, not only doing Hard Line but up there with the best.
  • 2 0
 Jess all day! taking it to hardline and world cup podiums with injury's at the age of 20! come on!!
  • 1 0
 How about all these categories and let the readers nominate. Take the top 5 or so and let the readers vote?
  • 3 0
 Jordan Williams?
  • 2 0
 Henry Kerr, Andy Kolb, Goldstone+Williams in tandem...
  • 2 0
 Dunne, Kolb, Goldstone, Williams?
  • 1 0
 I nominate myself - I'm so much better than all of them - can't believe they're pros!!!!
  • 2 0
 Asa Vermette, 3rd place US Open pro category at 14 years old!
  • 1 0
 Luke Meier-Smith for sure. Killing it in 2 categories takes extra talent and work effort.
  • 2 0
 Dan booker?
  • 1 0
 It’s gracey, hands down.
  • 1 0
 Matthew Fairbrother handsdown
  • 1 0
 Ronan Dunne?
  • 4 4
 They is plural. He or she would work well in the headlines.
  • 2 0
 It looks especially ridiculous when you fill the paragraph with he/she/his/her pronouns.
  • 1 0
 Jordan Williams ?
  • 1 0
 Aimi Kenyon
  • 2 2
 LEVY?
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