International Mountain Bike Man of the Year: Nino Schurter
There can be no doubt that Swiss racer Nino Schurter is now the king of cross-country, shoving legendary Frenchman Julian Absalon off the sport’s mud-caked throne. He’s now the man to beat in every event he enters, and he rarely disappoints. Schurter has seen tough challenges through the last few years from Absalon, Italian brothers Lado and Manuel Fumic, and Czech Jaraslav Kulhavy, who nabbed Olympic gold from Schurter by less than a bike length in London last year. But 2013 was all Nino: he took wins at four of six World Cups on his way to winning the overall title, and capped the season with a commanding victory at the world championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, riding off the front from the start gun. It’s only an Olympic gold that eludes Schurter; good thing he’s just 27.
International Mountain Bike Woman of the Year: Julie Bresset
Frenchwoman Julie Bresset did not display the sort of dominance that Nino Schurter did in 2013. But then again, nobody in the women’s field did; only Slovenian Tanja Zakelj won more than a single World Cup, and she did so early in the season before fading to the final step on the podium by worlds.
Bresset, last year’s Olympic champ and world champ, finished a lowly 15th in the World Cup standings. But she knows how to be on her absolute best for the days that really matter. Her top results speak to a personality that is able to bat down the pressures of a big day, and it is this ability — and those results, of course — that mark her as our 2013 mountain bike woman of the year. Bresset raced well in continental Europe, winning a number of second-tier events, including two rounds of the Coupe de France, and sitting inside the top 10 at most World Cups (a disastrous 39th at Val di Sole notwithstanding). But it is her big results that mark her as the cross-country racer of 2013, and they speak for themselves: An Olympic gold in London last year was followed up with a world championship in 2013; two dominant wins against the best fields in their best form. Zakelj won the World Cup, but Bresset will wear the rainbow jersey for another year.