Our top off-road riders of 2017 are Nino Schurter, Wout van Aert, Sanne Cant, and Mathieu van der Poel.
Editor’s note: To close out 2017, we named our 30th annual VeloNews awards in the November/December issue of VeloNews magazine.
Mountain biker of the year: Nino Schurter
Runners-up: Aaron Gwin; Yana Belomoina
Over the 27-year history of World Cup mountain bike racing, no man has swept the XC series. Nino Schurter did it this year. He also won the world championship in Cairns, Australia. Rider of the year? Try rider of the decade, if not the best of all-time.
Among the downhillers, American Aaron Gwin might not be as devastatingly dominant as Schurter, but he won his fifth World Cup title this year and bronze at worlds.
Apart from a DNF at worlds, Yana Belomoina had a sterling 2017 season. The 24-year-old Ukraine champion won the two final World Cup rounds plus the overall title.
Versatility award: Mathieu van der Poel
It goes without saying that Mathieu van der Poel’s ‘cross season was exceptional. He won his third consecutive elite Dutch national title, the Superprestige overall title, and three World Cup rounds, among other accolades. (He missed the first month of the season due to knee surgery.) But it wasn’t until May 2017 that the diversity of his talents became glaringly obvious. In the span of four days, the 22-year-old beat newly crowned Tour of Flanders winner Philippe Gilbert in a sprint finish at the Tour of Belgium, then jetted to Germany to pressure the world’s best mountain biker, Nino Schurter, at the mountain bike World Cup stop in Albstadt. He finished second. And he stunned the cycling world.
Male cyclocrosser of the year: Wout van Aert
During the 2016-2017 men’s cyclocross season, there were two riders who repeatedly stood above all the rest: Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel. Last season, the pair finished one-two on 18 occasions. Van der Poel got the better of van Aert in 14 of those races. However, the record book tells a different story: van Aert’s overall victory in the World Cup series (in which he won four rounds and finished second three times) and his second consecutive world championship title elevate him above his rival. His was a complete season.
Female cyclocrosser of the year: Sanne Cant
Not long ago, Sanne Cant was the most talented racer never to win worlds. And then came the 2016-2017 season. Not only did she take her first world title, she dominated the season from start to finish. She took her eighth consecutive Belgian national title, as well as 17 other major race wins. She won her second consecutive Superprestige series title and the DVV Trophy title. She finished atop the UCI world ranking to become the indisputable queen of ’cross.