2009's Best of the Best

The best of the best: Take a look at who went off off-road in 2009.

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By Singletrack.com

Julien Absalon at the 2009 Worlds in Australia. Photo by Frank Bodenmüller
Julien Absalon at the 2009 Worlds in Australia. Photo by Frank Bodenmüller

With 2010 promising two cross-country national series, the mountain bike World Championships at Canada’s Mont St Anne and a World Cup stop at Wyndham Mountain in New York, it would be easy to forget 2009.

Not yet. The January issue of VeloNews magazine features the annual “best of” awards, which includes what went on off road. So without further ado…

International Man of the Year: Julien Absalon

On the road the French have been searching for their great tricolour GC hope since the days of Fignon and Hinault.

On the dirt, however, one man has carried the Blue, White and Red standard for nearly a decade, single-handedly dominating the Red, White and Blue — mountain biking’s country of origin — and the remainder of the world.

As he has done four times since the dawn of the new Millennium, Julien Absalon again won the overall UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in 2009. The 29-year-old Frenchman has won five of the last ten World Cup cross-country titles.

While a race-day Absalon win is no longer a foregone conclusion with the likes of up-and-comers Burry Stander and the brothers Fluckiger on the scene, 2009 offered up yet another lesson in dominance. Absalon strung together four straight wins at World Cup stops in Offenburg, Houffalize, Madrid and Mont St Anne. And of the four races he didn’t win, Absalon finished second in two.

Sure, the wags will say Absalon hasn’t won a mountain biking rainbow jersey since 2007 (which was his fourth consecutive world title). But a quick glance shows that Absalon is the only rider to have given the Swiss a run for their recent jerseys. While Switzerland swept the worlds podium in 2008, Absalon battled the Swiss duo of Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel to take a silver medal for 2009 in Canberra, Australia.

Irina Kalentieva. Photo by Frank Bodenmuller

International Woman of the Year: Irina Kalentieva

There are some World Cup riders, like Irina Kalentieva, who know how to consistently find their way onto the podium, even when things don’t look promising. The 2009 Mountain Bike World Championships in Canberra, Australia is a case in point.

A mechanical put Kalentieva a minute-plus behind the lead group after the first of the five-lap, 32.35-kilometer cross-country race. In twenty-first position yet unperturbed, the 31-year-old pressed on, and with steely focus she methodically reeled in – then spat out – all those ahead of her till she became the race leader with a half-lap remaining. It was the diminuitive Russian’s second Rainbow Jersey in two years.

And it wasn’t as if the Topeak Ergon Team rider was a stranger to the podium in 2009. Of the eight World Cup races, she earned silver three times.

Geoff Kabush in action during 2009. Photo by Dave McElwaine

North American Man of the Year: Geoff Kabush

You know things are going good when you’re a professional cross-country mountain bike racer and your name is mentioned in the same sentence as John Tomac.

So here it is: In 2009, Geoff Kabush earned his fifteenth national series win, giving him one more than the pioneering U.S. champ Tomac. The 32-year-old Canadian tallied several impressive wins in 2009, including a string of victories that started with the  first Pro XCT race of the season at Fontana, peaked with his first-ever World Cup win at Bromont and kept on through Mount Snow and Windham Mountain.

Catherine Pendrel (Luna) went almost wire to wire in her win. Photo by Dave Kraus
Catharine Pendrel on her way to a win. Photo by Dave Kraus

North American Woman of the Year: Catharine Pendrel

Canada’s Catharine Pendrel followed up an impressive 2008 World Cup season with yet another strong cross-country campaign in ’09. The 29-year-old from Kamloops, British Columbia won the World Cup stop at Mont St Anne and finished on the podium on three other instances. The win and top-three finishes were good enough to earn Pendrel third place in the overall World Cup.

But Pendrel’s success didn’t end there, as she was the overall winner of the inaugural USA Cycling Professional Cross Country Tour. Pendrel pipped Luna Chix teammate Georgia Gould for the title by winning Bump and Grind, Sand Creek and Mount Snow.

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