Frenchman proves an enduring favorite among readers
Julien Absalon may not have topped as many mountain bike podiums as in past years, but he's clearly still the favorite among Cyclingnews' readers. The Frenchman again won the Male Mountain Biker of the Year contest after previously winning in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Absalon won just one World Cup in 2010 - in Offenburg, Germany, but consistent riding throughout the season netted him a second place overall in the World Cup cross country behind Nino Schurter. He finished second at the World Cups in Dalby and Val di Sole and was fifth at the Champery round.
He went into the later part of the season with extra motivation after becoming a father for the first time this summer.
Absalon had good form going into Worlds in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada, a venue where he has traditionally excelled, but Lady Luck wasn't on his side. He was mixed up in a crash just after the start. Although he tenaciously worked his way back up toward the front, a flat tire then dashed his chances of a podium placing. He hung tough, though, for a respectable fifth place finish.
Absalon's win among readers was convincing, with 4714 votes or 28.1 percent. His top challenge came from gravity racer Sam Hill with 2639 votes (15.7%). Just behind him was Jose Antonio Hermida with 2034 votes (12.1%).
Hill of Australia capped off a tough season with a downhill win at the world championships. "I don't know what it is, but this is where I do well," said Hill of Mont-Sainte-Anne, where he also had won World Cups in 2007 and 2009. "It's where I first raced the World Cup in 2001, and I'm always excited to come back."
The rainbow stripes made up for two major injuries that marred Hill's season. He had reconstructive knee surgery in February, managed to rehab it well enough to compete in time for the World Cup despite feeling weak in training. Then, in the second World Cup, he snapped three ligaments in his shoulder and was out of action again.
Hermida also had a stellar season, fulfilling a life-long dream by winning his first elite men's cross country world championship title - after 14 years of racing. The Spaniard had spent many years chasing reader poll winner Absalon for the elusive rainbow jersey, but finally could claim his own title.
"I was always close to winning the big races and I've been second to Absalon, and now I have my title," said Hermida after his Worlds victory.
Honorable mentions go to Mathias Flückiger with 1615 votes (9.6%) and Gee Atherton 1275 votes (7.6%). Flückiger won the Under 23 cross country World Championships and was the top Under 23 racer in the elite World Cup. Routinely placing among the top elite men, Flückiger is a young racer to watch for the future. Atherton, on the other hand, is a more established veteran of gravity racing. The former World Champion won the 2010 World Cup after winning the Fort William, Champery and Windham rounds.
Cyclingnews Reader Poll results - Best male mountain biker
Julien Absalon, 4714 (28.1%)
Sam Hill, 2639 (15.7%)
Jose Antonio Hermida, 2034 (12.1%)
Mathias Flückiger, 1615 (9.6%)
Gee Atherton, 1275 (7.6%)
Jared Graves, 1259 (7.5%)
Nino Schurter, 1044 (6.2%)
Tomas Slavik, 864 (5.1%)
Burry Stander, 709 (4.2%)
Jaroslav Kulhavy, 634 (3.8%)