Julien Absalon is still the man to beat in mountain biking. The talented Frenchman can now add his fourth Cyclingnews Male Mountain Biker of the Year title to his palmares. He also won in 2004, 2006 and 2007. His win this year left no doubt with 3,740 or 35.82 percent of the 10,441 total votes.
No one was under more performance pressure than 2004 Olympic champion and three-time World Champion Absalon going into 2008. He started off the season well with wins at the World Cup rounds in Houffalize, Belgium, Offenburg, Germany, and Madrid, Spain, but fans might have been left wondering whether his form would hold up after he withdrew from the UCI Cross Country World Championships in June.
However, after a short break, Absalon proved he was back on form with a win at the Bromont, Canada, World Cup in early August.
A few weeks later, he crushed any remaining doubts when he captured his second Olympic Games gold medal in Beijing, China, where he finished a comfortable one minute and seven seconds ahead of his compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud.
"It was not a walk in the park for me to win, it was really very difficult," said Absalon after winning Olympic gold. "It is always difficult to confirm and keep your status as the number one rider; it's not easy being the [defending] Olympic champion. In our sport it is all over in one day, so anyone can win."
Absalon capped off his stellar season with the overall UCI World Cup cross country title.
Christoph Sauser, the one man who might have challenged Absalon for the poll title, finished a strong second with 2,151 or 20.60 percent of the votes. The thoughtful Swiss rider won the UCI cross country World Championship title in June on a brand new bike and narrowly missed out on defending the UCI marathon World Championship title after a controversial crash involving Roel Paulissen in the final meters of that race. Sauser won World Cups in Vallnord, Andorra, Mont Sainte Anne, Canada, and Schladming, Austria and finished second overall in the UCI World Cup.
Two thousand five poll winner and 2007 runner-up Geoff Kabush finished third in the reader poll with 1,601 or 15.33 percent of the votes. The Canadian excelled at races in Canada, Europe, and the US.
Downhillers Sam Hill of Australia, World Cup Champion Greg Minnaar of South Africa and World Champion Gee Atherton of Great Britain rounded out fourth through sixth places.
The future looks bright with two U23 racers making the poll. Under-23 Cross Country World Champion Nino Schurter of Switzerland and U23 Cross Country World Cup winner Burry Stander of South Africa routinely mixed it up with the most established racers and are obvious candidates to podium at World Cups in 2009.
1. Julien Absalon - 3,740 votes, 35.82 percent; 2. Christoph Sauser - 2,151 votes, 20.60 percent; 3. Geoff Kabush - 1,601 votes, 15.33 percent; 4. Sam Hill - 736 votes, 7.05 percent; 5. Greg Minnaar - 520 votes, 4.98 percent; 6. Gee Atherton - 481 votes, 4.61 percent; 7. Burry Stander - 455 votes, 4.36 percent; 8. Rafael Alvarez De Lara Lucas - 371 votes, 3.55 percent; 9. Roel Paulissen - 209 votes, 2 percent; 10. Nino Schurter - 177 votes, 1.70 percent. Total votes: 10,441.