Mountain bike athletes dominated the 2011 Canadian Cyclist of the Year awards, with world champion Catharine Pendrel taking two awards and downhill World Cup professional Steve Smith earning the men's title. The 15th annual edition of the awards set new records for voting, and some of the closest finishes in history, as cycling enthusiasts from across Canada and around the world voted for their favourite Canadian cyclists across multiple cycling disciplines.
Pendrel, who won the cross country world championship title in September, in Champery, Switzerland, as well as three World Cup events, consistently led voting for the female rider of the year award, but was closely followed throughout the two weeks the ballots were open by track omnium world champion Tara Whitten. Pendrel took 43.1 percent of first place ballots cast. Pendrel also took top honours in polling for the best individual performance of the year, winning for her world championship ride. Time trial national champion Clara Hughes finished third in the balloting.
From her home in Kamloops, where she is taking a brief hiatus before beginning preparations for the 2012 London Olympic Games, Pendrel responded to news of her Canadian Cyclist Awards and said, "It is quite an honour to be chosen for these awards. There are a lot of people that were key to my 'Best Individual Performance' at Worlds, so a huge thanks to my coach Dan [Proulx], husband Keith, Team Luna and Team Canada for believing and supporting me to the top. Happy New Year!"
In the male rider of the year, Tour de France competitor Ryder Hesjedal led for much of the polling, however, a late surge by the downhill mountain bike community worldwide put Smith over the top, to become the first ever downhill athlete to win a Canadian Cyclist title. Smith was a consistent top-10 finisher in the World Cup series in 2011, finishing fifth overall - the highest placing ever by a Canadian. Smith took 46.4 percent of first place votes. Road and time trial national champion Svein Tuft took third in balloting.
Smith, who is still recovering from a broken leg suffered in the final World Cup of the season, at Val di Sole, Italy, said, "I am more then excited to receive the best male athlete of the year award. It's a major privilege, considering I was up against guys like Ryder and Svein, and being such a different form of riding. I can't believe I'm the first downhill athlete to receive this award. 2011 was my best season yet. I was very happy to stand on the World Cup podium multiple times, and to finish fifth over all was a dream."
Best individual performance awards went to the top three results by voting, with Pendrel taking first for her world championship victory, followed by a tie between Whitten (track omnium world title) and downhill professional Claire Buchar of for her bronze medal in the women's downhill world championships.
Road racer Rhae Shaw won the Roger Sumner Award for best newcomer. Shaw, who is based in the United States, exploded onto the national scene, finishing third at the time trial national championships, winning at stage at the Tour of Limousin and finishing seventh in the time trial at the world championships in Copenhagen.