Choosing just 10 candidates for the Cyclingnews Reader Poll's top male mountain biker of the year is never easy, especially considering the candidates are drawn from six sub-disciplines: cross country, downhill, eliminator, enduro, four cross and marathon.
Two riders stood out on the cross country World Cup circuit this year: Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower) and Julien Absalon (BMC). Sure Schurter won more races, including the world championships and the overall World Cup title, but without the perennially strong Absalon, the races would not have been nearly as interesting to watch. The two champions went head-to-head on many occasions, with Absalon doing what he could, whenever possible, to avoid having to sprint Schurter.
Downhill fans were treated to many close races, perhaps the most nail-biting of all of them was when Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) successfully defended his world championship title in front of the home crowd in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. To repeat under that much pressure was impressive. Throughout the year, Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing) also repeatedly showed he is among the best gravity riders. The Canadian successfully triumphed in the late season to pull off the World Cup downhill overall win, upsetting another candidate for male mountain biker of the year, Gee Atherton.
The eliminator may be the newest mountain bike World Cup discipline, but some riders have already chosen to specialize in it. Paul van der Ploeg (Satalyst Giant Racing Team), who also races on the road, brought home gold for Australia in the eliminator world championships while consistency paid off for Daniel Federspiel (Ötztal Scott Racing Team), who won the eliminator World Cup in the first year in which an overall winner was recognized.
Former cross country world champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized Racing) added another marathon world title to his collection. He also impressed by winning the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race early in the season.
On the enduro side, Jerome Clementz (Cannondale) regularly topped the standings at enduro competitions around the globe and he won the inaugural, seven-round Enduro World Series.
Last but not least, Joost Wichman (Rose Vaujany) ended his pro career in style by winning the four cross world championships in Leogang, Austria.
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