Pinkbike Awards: Athlete of the Year Winner

Dec 11, 2018 at 7:15
by Paul Aston  


Foot u and full gas to the line in the pouring rain for Martin Maes.

Athlete of the Year - Martin Maes

Martin Maes takes the Athlete of the Year crown. Pitted against a tough crowd made up from names destined to dominate the future of this sport along with him – Vali Höll and Amaury Pierron, as well as the already established Cecile Ravanel. The Belgian takes the award simply down to his unexpected, dual-discipline performance, and his ability to overcome injury and return to the front of the pack.





Maes' name has been floating around for a while, but 2018 was insane for the young Belgian. 2nd at the EWS opener, followed by a dislocated shoulder at round two. 3rd place in France, three more 2nd places and a win in Whistler. The Colombian collarbone and the Finale fracture prevented him from a series win that was easily within his reach. This alone would have been enough to put him in the running for Athlete of the Year, but the surprise UCI Downhill World Cup win in La Bresse, and the second place shortly after at Lenzerheide World Championships were nothing short of a-Maes-ing.

Pinkbike's 2018 Athlete of the Year winner is the deserving Martin Maes, a youngster who is simply warming up.


132 Comments

  • + 108
 I really love it when someone like Maes does well and upsets the current thinking!
  • - 5
flag WAKIdesigns (Dec 21, 2018 at 8:32) (Below Threshold)
 O think the only thing that could upset anyone these days would be if an ex downhiller showed up on XC course and got on the podium. It is as likely as Nino standing on WC DH podium but I think it is the first scenarios that would be more unthinkable and more disturbing to the status quo
  • + 39
 @WAKIdesigns: I wouldn't be shocked if Nino could do Ok at an EWS event.
  • + 0
 @ReformedRoadie: Ok is far from podium Smile I know a dude who did ok.
  • + 12
 What's the current thinking?
  • + 11
 @WAKIdesigns: How about top 15? Very interested if Sagan actually follows through with his threat to go back to mountain bike racing.
  • + 6
 @ReformedRoadie:

Nino actually raced an EWS back in 2013 and ended up mid pack, in the 130’s. His stage results made it look like he had a few issues though, including a time penalty. It would be interesting to see what he could do if he raced the circuit. A lot has changed in 5 years on the EWS.
  • - 9
flag WAKIdesigns (Dec 21, 2018 at 9:13) (Below Threshold)
 @ReformedRoadie: Nino getting top 15 is like Sagan getting top 15 on first race. I saw a vid from his gym session. He can move.
  • + 17
 @VWsurfbum Exactly. When everyone's saying 29ers, he wins on 27.5. When everyone says longer travel, he wins on 150mm. When everyone says DH'ers are the best riders in the world, he goes out and stands right on the top box. A well deserved nod.
  • + 1
 @ReformedRoadie: Sagan wouldn't even touch top 20 at one of these races. The guy is within the top five most preferred road cyclists today and there's no way he would risk injury to try and prove something at an enduro race.
  • + 4
 @eriknasby: XC though. Especially on a course where the climbing isn't too technical.
  • + 6
 @eriknasby: top 20 at an EWS, probably not. XC, I think is a different story. He was racing mountain bikes before the road. If you watch his skils on a bike (road or mountain, and his gym workouts, he is an amazing cyclist, period.
He is making WAY more money doing what he is doing now than he could ever on a mountain bike. When there is debate on what Gwin is asking for his next salary, Sagen is already making like 8x that amount. (of course Gwin only "works" 7 days a year LOL)
  • + 2
 @ReformedRoadie: If sagan goes does some MTB events it's mostly just a question of if specialized will let him out of concern for injury. Perhaps later in the season when the bigger road events are already over.
  • + 2
 @bulletbassman: He was saying at the end of his current contract he may switch. He has also been saying he was going to try to cut weight to be more competitive in the hillier Monuments and attempt to win all of them, which would be historic.
  • + 14
 just please be clean, please be clean Martin.
  • + 3
 @juxtapozy: he's gonna test pozitive for gin and beer
  • + 1
 @ReformedRoadie: Yeah I completely agree with you as far as Sagan placing high-tier once again in the XC world. I am aware of his previous xc success and yeah- he's one of the most talented technical pro peloton riders. I thought you were suggesting Sagan attempt enduro world series. We'll see. It would definitely be awesome watch.
  • + 0
 @eriknasby: Sagan won’t race WC XC. You don’t quit F1 salary to do get into folk races earning pennies and say you do it because fun is most important. The pay gap between top of the top road and mid pack top XC is like five times distance from Earth to the Moon.
  • + 0
 @elsinore: If I remember right, when Nino raced in Finae EWS, someone checked the times afterwards and if he wouldn’t get penalized, he’d be fifty something. That is world’s apart from current top 10. I have no idea why people can’t get it and spew nonsense as if he had any bigger chance against Hill on the Hot Lap... it’s like getting excited for Tiger Woods to get into top Baseball because he can swing. “Oh it would be interesting to see” - oh yeah, and you say it because you are a total ignorant. Mattias Wengelin , one of Swedish top 3 XCers, winner of one of Swedish Enduro Series raced Finale this year. Damn skilled dude, he can send it, he’d kick the crap out of all of us here on a dh comp - no doubts about it. Where did he end up in relation to Robin Wallners results? NOWHERE. Nino racing Sam on race pace, Sam would manage to eat a banana by sucking it in by a straw and Nino still wouldn’t be in sight. These dudes are on top of their game in their own fields for a reason, their training is quite specific and skills necessary to achieve such results are specific. As is their race and training history. Nino vs EWS top 10 is a cool idea to entertain in ones thoughts. Wouldn’t it be good by Beach Boys is not that bad somg if I think about it
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: yeah no shit brah
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Primoz made the Tour podium from ski jumping...stranger things have happened.
  • - 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I’m with you dude.
If you dig up that result he was all over the place. Actually got 9th on one stage. The most difficult thing at those races is being consistent with so many variables.

The top guys are on another level compared to 2013 these days. I ride fairly regularly with a guy who is in and out of the top 50 or so. In 2014 he was consistently in the top 20.
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: Was it Randy?
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Do you mean “wouldn’t it be nice”?
  • + 1
 @Snakes4arms: I fully thought Randy was going to take all the awards this year. They shold make one up just for Randy.
  • + 1
 @ReformedRoadie:
He's ridden finale, wasn't too hot.
  • + 1
 @chriskneeland: when did anyone say DH riders were the best riders in the world? Lol Anyone saying that is a f*cking goomba. It's like saying sprinters are the best runners....
  • + 3
 @TheBearDen: Every EWS champion is an ex DHer. Wynn Masters struggles to put down a top 50 in DH and wins his first EWS. DH is the pinnacle of mountain bike racing. It wasn't until Maes that that thinking was flipped on its head.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: You are spot on at the skills of these guys, as shown by Maes jumping into DH and killing it. As much as we would all be glued to our screens to watch a big name rider switch from XC or road to EWS, the training and skillset needed are just too specific. The more I watch the EWS riders the more impressed I am by them. I think the more likely successful scenario would be an EWS rider jumping into XC and doing well. Good job Maes, you totally deserved this!
  • + 4
 @chriskneeland: Unless you want to go uphill fast, then it would be XC. The skills for each discipline are too different to make that statement. The pinnacle of mountain bike racing is mountain bike racing. If you can race a world cup level race in any discipline I am impressed by you.
  • + 2
 You guys forget that Cecille came from World Cup XC.
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: He's remarkable.
  • + 7
 @TheBearDen: dh racers are the best mountain bikers in the world when it comes to butthole puckering, full gas, death defying, physics breaking, edge of control, gravity fed racing.

Xc racers are the best mountain bikers in the world when it comes to long busting, heart bursting, sniper line passing, elbow rubbing, hoping you dont break your feather weight bike, watt generating, super human endurance racing.

Ews riders are some of the best over all, everyday, blind trail riding, insane calculated risk taking, full gas, single crown on terrain that would have made Rob Warner in his prime think twice, 3 day stage riding, huge gap hucking 2000 ft climbing, largely self supported, monsters to ever grace two wheels.

To say one group is better than the other is comparing oranges to apples (why cant fruit be compared though?). For any athlete to transcend between disciplines and beat some of the best in that discipline is an incredible feat.

Give respect where due.
  • + 22
 Nobody got robbed in making of this award
  • + 40
 Except for Brendog. Nobody will ever forget.
  • + 2
 I'd make a case for Sam Hill, he should at least have been nominated. Had more wins and more wins in matchups.
www.rootsandrain.com/compare2940,39928
  • + 1
 @Flowcheckers: maybe this is the incentive Sam needs to show up to a couple DH WC events next year. See if he can replicate what Martin pulled off this year!
  • + 1
 @Flowcheckers: I agree, Sam got robbed.
  • + 1
 #randygotrobbed
  • + 21
 He was a-maes-ing
  • + 25
 Incredible. I just don't know how you managed to come up with that
  • - 3
 @el-nombre: Thought of it maybe? I dont know its beyond me. Like look at me. I still choose 27.5 over 29. Im like a peasent to this community
  • + 8
 In a span of 4 weeks, Maes won: Whistler EWS, La Bresse DH World Cup, and 2nd by a slim 0.2 seconds at UCI DH World Championship.

I wonder if this feat will ever be duplicated or topped in the next 20 years.
  • + 3
 I bet it will be topped by Maes.
  • + 1
 It this is not the fastest guy on a bike, then who else?...
  • + 5
 Well done to Martin. Well deserved, we could say that about so many riders. Martin, 12 races, 10 podiums. what a season People who say Brendog.... Brendog may have competed in Pump track, Rampage, Dh, Urban Dh, Hardline, Enduro this year and do pretty well in them all, but Martin got 10 podiums .
  • + 8
 Can't be more deserved. Martin should really try to race more world cups next season. Such a talented rider.
  • + 4
 Anyway all Randy jokes aside, I think I’d have to give it to Cecile if you have to pick only one. A clean sweep of the EWS? All those stages, all those grueling energy sapping transfers. Round after round. So many chances for things to go pear shaped at some point. Yet she prevailed. That’s gotta count for something.
  • + 9
 And Randy?
  • + 15
 Athlete of the Century.
  • + 3
 robbed
  • + 1
 Well deserved!! Martin has been exceptional this year. EWS and DH results have been awesome but the standout moment was seeing him provide assistance to Sam Hill - Would this happen n any other sport??

We are all so cool!!
  • + 4
 It was so much fun to watch Martin's wild ride at the end of the season. I can't wait for my racing in 2019.
  • + 3
 I like the fact that he kicked the ass of most dh-bros and that they were pretty pissed off.
  • + 1
 Kick on their EGOS... too much on DH racing apparently.... more about pose than fun...
  • + 1
 Maes was a DH racer before, it's not like it's not his "game" at all and come on, DH rules... no boring cardio freaks...just badass pilots!
  • + 2
 What about all the Downcountry athletes you have totally snubbed?
  • - 3
 Down Country athlete sounds like E-bike racer... sorry
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: sounds like a kick ass band name
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: nope. You are confused. That’s CLowncountry when you race Ebikes.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: wouldn't be a pinkbike comment section with out some e-bike hate.

I mean you're not wrong ebike racing is dumb but still the horse is dead. Stop beating it.
  • + 2
 @allenfstar: E bike racing is stupid. Ebikes themselves not necessarily. I want one. The E-Zesty. No funds though.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I agree ebikes aren't stupid. I look forward to actually getting to demo one on trails.
  • + 1
 Hey I am with you too. It’s just racing them I think is silly They allow your buddies to ride with you and for that we are blessed. I think we are all on the same page. @allenfstar:
  • + 2
 Hopefully we see more next season!
  • + 2
 viva Belgium , waffles , beer , and Maes ( its also a Belgian beer brand )
  • + 2
 Congratulations Maes! Well deservedtup
  • + 3
 Agree with this 1 100%
  • + 2
 Glad his hard work over the years has paid off. Congrats Martin
  • + 1
 Totally deserves the win, he was shredding all over the place! Just a really sick rider!
  • + 2
 Awesome pick!!! Well deserved!!! Dude is a beast!!!!
  • + 2
 I hear YT is looking for some new guns
  • + 3
 I think gt has some plans with him for the future
  • + 11
 Martin just signed a 3 year contract with GT some weeks ago.
  • + 2
 Congrats to Martin Maes! Well deserved!
  • + 0
 WTF? Really. How does Cecile Ravanel winning every stop and almost every stage not the choice here.
  • + 5
 Cecile is clearly a very good rider - but she only started winning EWS races when Tracy and Anne-Caro retired; whilst either of them were riding Cecile never got close to the top spot.
  • + 0
 @threehats: Don't disagree. And I'm a huge Maes fan. I'm actually not hating on him winning. What he did was absolutely insane. DH and EWS in one season is nuts. Back to back events is even crazier. It was an odd event with conditions changing, beat up riders, crashes, mechanicals... definitely played to a technical rider.

Just hard to ignore a person that dominated everyone for the entire season and so hard that she won almost every stage. Women's EWS still has some very very strong women in it. Winton. Gehrig sisters. Korem. Courdurier. Cook. Brown. Thoma. Miller. Etc. Many very fast women. And Cecile is pushing 40. Impressive as hell.

But like I said... huge fan of Maes and what he did. Beating Sam Hill is not easy. Winning a WC DH event... also not easy.

All in all... congrats to Maes. Dudes got big big things coming in the next few years. Stoked. I'd like to see more of the Enduro guys crossing over and more of the DH guys doing the same. Rude's got solid DH roots. Hill of course. Etc. Depending on the course and condition it gets real interesting.
  • + 1
 @onemanarmy: sorry man but this is just wrong: "Women's EWS still has some very very strong women in it. Winton. Gehrig sisters. Korem. Courdurier. Cook. Brown. Thoma. Miller. Etc. Many very fast women"

I don't think any of those girls have done anything even remotely impressive in terms of results. Not sure what makes you say they are fast. They would all get smoked in DH and none of them have done anything in Enduro either. They are absolutely miles off the pace of the top two women and both of those were way behind T-Mo and ACC.

The pace in women's EWS is just not there.
  • + 1
 I think PB needs to hold and ESPY style awards event for these!
  • + 1
 Love this pick. Thank you for riding MTB, Martin!
  • + 1
 Randy is gonna dominate this season!
  • + 1
 How much better it would be with a screaming warner on it
  • + 1
 He died a while back
  • + 0
 To me. Celine deserved it way more. The way she dominated from start to finish was amazing.
  • + 12
 maybe if she son a WC DH event...
  • + 16
 Her performance in the DH was underwhelming when compared to Maes. She’s still a remarkable rider though.
  • + 8
 You can't compare the two. In Whistler there were 193 men and 42 women at the start, and in La Bresse there were 138 men and 27 women in qualifying. There are not enough women in the sport to make it equally as competitive.
  • + 9
 @jzPV:
This.
The womens category is nowhere near as competitive and she got smoked in dh by the top ladies. Also her lack of experience (in dh) showed on the harder track/s.
That´s no knock on Cecile, but simply dominating the field does inevitably raise the question "just how good is the field really". As of now, none of the enduro ladies have shown any remarkable accomplishments besides Cecile, so they´re really not a good gauge to measure Cecile´s talent against.
She´s a great athlete no doubt, but in this case Martin has accomplished a lot more and it was a huge upset on top.
  • + 1
 @jzPV: Quantity doesnt make competitive. The difference in the womens category is significantly different to the mens, partly down to quantity but mostly down to how talented the male riders are and how close it is from 1st to 60th these days.
  • + 3
 I would really like to see Rachel and Tahnee do a couple of EWS events.... would be interesting and create more buzz.
  • + 4
 The funny thing is that she wasn't anywhere near T-MO's and ACC's level a few seasons back
  • + 0
 @Whipperman: still would be...
  • - 1
 @SonofBovril: Her performances at DH were not half bad.

She ended up ranked 10th overall without running the full season. 2 events. 5/6/5. Seems pretty decent to me. I wouldn't call that underwhelming.
Maes was 20th. Very impressive given that he only ran 2 events. 9th and 1st.

If we're being literal... they pretty much had the same average event finish....
  • + 3
 @onemanarmy:
Yet the fact remains that 5th in the womens field is not at all equivalent to the speed of the top spot. However the top 20-30 men can win at any given day and times are usually much closer.
Nobody is diminishing her achievement, but circumstances matter and Maes got a win in one of the most competitive fields in all of sports today.
Mens downhill has an incredible density of talent right now. It's not like the women are bad, but the mens field is just ultra competitive even compared to most other sports where there are usually only 1-2 top athletes battling it out at the top.
  • + 1
 @Loki87: Been saying the same thing so i dont disagree. Mens dh is on fire with talent.
  • + 1
 Perfect season in EWS is still no joke.
  • + 2
 Martin the Martian!
  • + 2
 Well deserved!
  • + 2
 Well deserved!!!
  • + 1
 Was this even a question?
  • + 1
 pfft
  • + 1
 Stabiler Typ!
  • + 1
 #randygotrobbed
  • + 0
 He won two races, Cecile won eight and clean swept a whole series.
  • + 1
 Had to be!
  • - 3
 A perfect season to the best XC racer in the world got him Athlete of the Year last year. Apparently, doing so in the enduro discipline, where it has never been done before, does not...if you are not male.
  • + 4
 I mean I'm all for women's equality, but dude won races in two disciplines and was less than 2 tenths of winning two races in a foreign format, in completely opposite conditions. Cecile is a goddam savage and deserves all the respect in the world, but Maes deserved it this year. Especially considering two massive injuries that could have shelved him for the year. Its not always the same year to year.
  • - 2
 @OGTallPaul: And Sam Hill took the entire championship in a foreign discipline last year (and also got 6th place in DH champs on an Enduro bike). But, as you can read in my back and forth with Levy last year, that is not as impressive to the staff as having a perfect season. So, one can only assume that a guy who did very well in two disciplines, taking no podium in either overall, should be less impressive than Hill's feat last year. Therefore, it is safe to assume another factor was considered in the mix...
  • + 2
 @OGTallPaul: not for nothing, but she's the one that showed Vali all the lines at every DH race Cecile was at. Cecile was a xc racer originally, but nobody really talks much about that. Possibly one of the more well rounded bicycle racers on the planet right now.
  • + 6
 Let’s be honest the competition is virtually non existent in the females.
  • + 1
 @jimmythehat: you mean that there is no competition to her. Mae's only got 4th in EWS. So who's the Athlete of the Year?
  • + 1
 @jimmythehat: It's getting better. And enduro is much deeper than than DH.
  • + 1
 PB from 2003 would be ashamed of this XCtravagance.
  • + 2
 I dont assume this was an easy decision to make but I'm guessing its akin to when Rachel was dominating WC dh. When no ones even coming close it's easier to overlook what a truly amazing feat it is. I dont think it has anything to do with her gender but more the hype that's surrounding Martin. He is poised to be the next legend in the sport
  • + 0
 @allenfstar: Now, explain Nino getting athlete of the year last year over Sam Hill, champion his first year in a brand new discipline. To be clear, Maes got 4th in EWS and nowhere near the top of DH. He is a shoe in for "Performance of the Year" for winning a DH race (since that is the great thing he did this season). But they gave him Athete instead and gave performance to a woman, when another woman deserved to win the more prestigious honor.
  • + 1
 @Rubberelli: Exactly, compared to the XC world cups where it is loaded with world class athletes, Just isn’t any depth in Enduro, hoping it changes but doubt it as Women’s DH has always been light, only thing that will change this is better support from the teams for women so it can grow, but it is a male dominated sport.
  • + 1
 @jimmythehat: perhaps it is a male dominated sport because the largest mtb​​ media outlet in the world says getting 4th in EWS and winning a single DH WC is a greater accomplishment, if you are male, than winning every single EWS for the entire season, if you are female?
  • - 1
 @Rubberelli: a girl in my club won every single round of the national Enduro series. As she has done for the last three years....

Should she get the Athlete of the Year award or should we just ignore the fact that she faces very little competition from other riders. Ravanel has to ride badly to not win. Mae's has to be on top of his game to win as did Nino. A small mistake from Nino last year would have cost him races. He made none.

Ravenal made loads of mistakes including losing most of a minute in Finale and she still won the races. There was no competition. It's not comparable to Nino's achievement.
  • + 1
 @humoroususername: does she ride against elites from all over the world?

I mean, are you serious with this?
  • + 1
 @humoroususername: that's a ridiculous argument. Yes, your national champ deserves athlete of yhe year. If the 2nd, 3rd et al places are no competition to them, then they are the dominant athlete and as such, deserve athlete of the year. Michael Jordan was clearly athlete of the year for many years because he was so much better than everyone else. How utterly ridiculous it is to give it to an athlete who does not dominate, when another one does.
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