Jolanda Neff and Nino Schurter scoop Swiss awards

Mountain bikers named riders of the year

Jolanda Neff and Nino Schurter were named Swiss Cycling's women's and men's riders of the year at the national federation's gala evening in Zurich on Thursday night.

Neff's successful 2018 season included victory in the cross-country at the European Mountain Bike Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, in August – her third European title, having also won in 2015 and 2016 – and the overall UCI Mountain Bike World Cup title, which was also her third overall series win, with titles in 2014 and 2015.

Schurter also won the overall World Cup – for the sixth time – and was crowned cross-country mountain bike world champion for the seventh time during his career, and the fourth time in a row, on home soil in Lenzerheide in September.

For both riders, it was their fifth consecutive win at the Swiss Cycling awards, and evidence that Switzerland's cycling strength sits principally off-road for now, with four-time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara having left a gaping hole in the nation's road cycling success following his retirement at the end of 2016, despite the best efforts of riders such as Groupama-FDJ's Steve Morabito, AG2R La Mondiale's Mathias Frank and BMC duo Michael Schär and Stefan Küng.

However, that might all be about to change with the rise and rise of Marc Hirschi on the road, who won both the under-23 World Championship road race title and took victory at the European Championship road race this season.

The 20-year-old will step up from the Development Team Sunweb to the elite WorldTour Team Sunweb for 2019, and won the 'up-and-coming' prize at the gala on Thursday evening, with all six members of the successful U23 Worlds team being given an honourable mention for their teamwork in Innsbruck, Austria, that delivered Hirschi to the win.

The 'team of the year' prize, however, once again included Schurter and Neff – who was also Switzerland's highest finisher, in 22nd place, in the women's road race in Innsbruck – as it was awarded to the MTB Worlds-winning team relay squad, which was also made up of U23 Worlds cross-country silver medallist Sina Frei, Alexandre Balmer and Filippo Colombo.

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