2015 Velo Awards: Schurter and Neff are mountain bikers of year

Nino Schurter and Jolanda Neff proved to be the most consistently dominant mountain bike racers of the 2016 season.

Men’s mountain biker of the Year: Nino Schurter

The rivalry between Nino Schurter and Julian Absalon pits the best mountain biker in the sport against the greatest of all time, respectively. Absalon got the better of Schurter at the 2014 world championship, but 2015 was all Nino. The 29-year-old Scott-Odlo rider took his fourth World Cup series title with three wins and two second-place finishes in the six-event series. All three of those victories saw Absalon (BMC Racing) finish second.

At worlds, Schurter was again best when it mattered most, opening a slight gap in a technical descent and stretching it wider with a monstrous attack on the course’s defining climb. He ended his season with a victory at the Rio di Janeiro Olympic test event. (Absalon was fourth.) A win on the same course next summer would bring Schurter the only accolade he doesn’t have and make the discussion of who is the greatest of all time even more difficult.

Women’s mountain biker of the Year: Jolanda Neff

While the cycling community marvels at the accomplishments of Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, another young European woman is on the cusp of greatness: Swiss rider Jolanda Neff.

The 22-year-old Stoeckli rider is a three-time U23 world champ. And though she has yet to win an elite rainbow jersey, she’s been the most consistent woman across the World Cup series over the past two seasons. In 2015, she took the overall crown with three wins and two runner-up finishes in six events. She also won the European Continental championship.

It’s also worth noting that Neff finished ninth in the elite women’s road race in Richmond, in the same bunch as winner Lizzie Armitstead, and three spots behind multi-discipline phenom Pauline Ferrand-Prévot.

Two can play at that game, it seems.