Julie Bresset (BH - SR Suntour - Peisey Vallandry) rode to a stellar 2012 season and captured not only two important gold medals but also the most votes for Female Mountain Biker of the Year from Cyclingnews' readers. The first-year elite cross country racer received 3,031 votes or 20.56% of those cast.
Bresset's biggest accomplishment of 2012 was her Olympic gold medal in London.
"August 11, 2012. This was a magical day. I became Olympic champion in cross country mountain biking in London," said Bresset to Cyclingnews in September.
"It was an incredible race, and I had a lot of fun on the course. I did not think I would be able to win my first Olympics ... and it's hard to get over it! Everything was beautiful that day: the venue, the public, the weather, my kit, my bike ... a dream!"
Three weeks after the Olympics, she followed up one gold medal with another by winning her first elite cross country world championship title.
Bresset had started off the year with a fifth place at the Pietermaritzburg World Cup, then continued her spring campaign with a second place in Houffalize, a win in Nove Mesto and a third in La Bresse.
A break from the World Cup circuit followed as the young rider sat out the two North American rounds to focus on her Olympic preparations. She closed the World Cup season in late July with a pre-Olympic tune-up second place finish at Val d'Isere. Despite missing two World Cups, she still finished fourth overall in the series.
Bresset, who renewed her contract with BH-SR Suntour Peisey Vallandry for the coming years, told Cyclingnews after pulling off the Olympics-Worlds double, "I cannot believe all my performances. I am very happy and excited for all this upheaval in my life. Thanks to my partners, my team, my coach, the French team staff, my family and my friends. All these people have contributed to my success. I'm delighted to be with them and hope that this adventure continues."
Given that 2012 was Bresset's first year in the elite ranks, she has many potential years of competition ahead of her, and Cyclingnews readers may see the French woman again atop the Reader Poll.
Downhill racer Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing) took the second spot in the Reader Poll, with 2,690 votes (18.25%). The British gravity star had a consistent season to clinch the overall World Cup, thanks to victories in Val di Sole, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Windham, Val d'Isere and Hafjell and a second place in Fort William. The only part of Atherton's season that did not go according to plan was the world championships, where she raced with an undisclosed injury to a fifth place finish.
Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) won over many Cyclingnews readers with her gutsy performances at several World Cups, the Olympics and Worlds. She finished third in the Reader Poll with 2,582 votes (17.52%). The American seemed to get stronger as the season went on. Her first World Cup podium of the season came in Nove Mesto with a fourth place finish. She almost won what would have been a career first World Cup victory at both Mont-Sainte-Anne and Windham World Cups. However, in the former, she cramped near the end of the race and lost her advantage; in the latter, an untimely flat ended her almost certain chances of victory after she had to run her bike to the finish and her two Luna teammates caught her in the final meters. Luck finally broke Gould's way as she went on to defend the US cross country national championship title and then win bronze medals at both the Olympic Games and world championships.
Previous six-time Cyclingnews Reader Poll winner Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) was fourth in this year's poll with 2,218 votes (15.05%). It was a great season for the Norwegian and Cyclingnews blogger. She won World Cups in La Bresse and Val d'Isere, was second overall in the World Cup, and earned silver medals at both cross country and marathon Worlds. Although she did not finish at the Olympic Games, she did also take the European Championship title.
Fifth place in the poll goes to Catharine Pendrel (Luna) with 1,623 votes (11.01%). The Canadian started her season off well as the defending world champion, but couldn't keep her momentum going into the Olympics and Worlds. In 2012, she won three World Cups - Houffalize, Mont-Sainte-Anne and Windham - and earned the overall World Cup title.
Honourable mentions go to fifth through 10th in the Cyclingnews poll: marathon world champion Annika Langvad, eliminator world champion Alexandra Engen, four cross world champion Anneke Beerten, former downhill World Cup champion and this year's World Cup runner-up Emmeline Ragot and downhill world champion Morgane Charre.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|4||Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja||15.05%|
Total: 28,185 total votes with 14,741 selections made and 13,444 no opinion votes.
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.