Velo Awards: Davison, Smith North American Mountain Bikers of the Year

Cross-country, gravity athletes take top honors for North American mountain bikers

North American Mountain Bike Woman of the Year: Lea Davison

Bubbly Vermonter Lea Davison had a dominant season in North America, winning Pro XCT events in New York, Wisconsin, and in her home state, on the very Catamount track she grew up racing. Add in a national cross-country title, a race she won by over two minutes, and it’s clear that there wasn’t a mountain biker on the continent that could match Davison this season.

But it is results across the pond, where gaining a top finish is significantly more difficult, that make or break North American mountain bikers. Davison proved that she belongs with the best: Top 10 finishes at both the Czech Republic and Val di Sole rounds of the World Cup, fifth at Mont Saint-Anne, in Quebec, and fourth in Hafjell, Norway, made her one of the most consistent international riders of the season. A ninth-place finish at the world cross-country championships cemented her place among the world’s best.

Davison’s work off the bike is equally impressive. She and her sister Sabra are behind the Little Bellas mentoring program, bringing together young girls and female mentors on bikes through camps, rides and other activities. The program, based out of the Catamount Center in Vermont, is now getting girls on bikes through camps, rides and other activities. The program, based out of the Catamount Center in Vermont, is now getting girls on bikes in California, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island as well.

North American Mountain Bike Man of the Year: Steve Smith

Since his appearance in Seasons, a 2008 film by The Collective, downhiller Steve Smith has been working to live up to his teenage dream: “To have somebody from Canada be at the top with Sam Hill and Steve Peat.” Five years later, the World Cup star from the small Vancouver Island town of Cassidy has more than exceeded his ambitions.

Smith started 2013 with three top-five World Cup finishes. Then, he went on a tear. He found another level with a win at Quebec’s Mont-Sainte-Anne. He was unfazed by the disadvantage of an abrupt late-race rainstorm — earlier starters, including rival Gee Atherton, enjoyed dry conditions. After that, and a barnstorming trip to Whistler’s Crankworx, Smith went undefeated in the final two World Cup rounds.

With the World Cup title on the line at the series finale in Leogang, Austria, on a track that is generally disliked for being too groomed, Smith rose to the occasion. The top five finishers were separated by a mere 3.4 seconds, and he rode with precision to win and clinch the World Cup overall title. Peat and Hill? Ninth, and a DNS.

“Who knows?” wondered Steve’s mom in Seasons as she drove the shuttle through the misty British Columbia scenery. She mused that he could be the first in her family to make it off the island. Judging by Smith’s impeccable consistency and fearless attacking style, the 18-year-old in that film knew from the beginning what his future held.