Home > MTB

2021: The year’s most exciting moments in mountain biking

Highlights from around the world

After an abbreviated 2020 season, racing was back and bigger than ever in 2021. With XC, downhill and enduro all returning to mostly regular racing, as well as Red Bull’s freeride events and the postponed Tokyo Olympics adding to the drama, it was an exciting year around the world.

We’ve already covered all the amazing things Canadian riders accomplished over the last 12 months. Here’s what the rest of the world got up to.

Greg Minnaar celebrates his win at Val di Sole. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Greg Minnaar’s world championships win

Greg Minnaar may be older than most downhill riders but he’s faster than all of them. The South African landed his fifth world championship title at Val di Sole in August. The win firmly cemented his G.O.A.T. status, as if there was any doubt. His latest win comes almost two decades after his first elite title, which he won way back in 2003.

Sina Frei, Jolanda Neff and Linda Indergand celebrate sweeping the women’s XCO Olympic podium. Photo: Sirotti

Swiss women sweep Tokyo

The big news of the year was, of course, the Tokyo Olympic Games. 2021 was the first time nations were allowed to enter three women in the cross country mountain bike race and the Swiss took full advantage of that opportunity. Led by Jolanda Neff, followed by Sina Frei and Linda Indergand, the Swiss swept the podium. It was an incredible feat, requiring them to ride past the two French women, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Loana Lecomte, that had, until that point, dominated World Cup racing in 2021.

Moir-Rude Enduro World Series battle

Enduro World Series fans were treated to an incredible season-long battle between Jack Moir and Richie Rude. The rivals occupied the top two spots at every race all season, until the final round. It all ended in a rather anticlimactic fashion, with Rude disqualified for cutting the course, but the duel delivered months of entertainment up to that point.

Nino Schurter 2021 xco world championships
Nino Schurter celebrates his ninth elite men’s XCO world championship title. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Nino Schurter back on top

After struggling to find a win all year, and though much of 2020, Nino Schurter silenced his doubters (us included, admittedly) with a stunning win at world championships. His victory in Val di Sole is, incredibly, his ninth elite XCO world championship title. Schurter may not be as dominant as in years past, but he’s certainly shown he’s still win when it matters.

Loana Lecomte Les Gets World Cup XCO
Loana Lecomte claimed the #1 plate early in 2021 and lever let it out of her sights. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Loana Lecomte steps up

Loana Lecomte dominated World Cup racing this year and, while she didn’t win the Olympics or world championships, her five World Cup wins netted her the overall title. Which is an incredible achievement for a rider that just turned elite in 2020. With Paris 2024 Olympics already on the horizon, the young French woman is well positioned to add to her palmares over the next few years.

Red Bull Formation returns

Women’s freeride movement is rapidly gaining momentum. The return of Red Bull Formation was a high point, made all the better by the debut of several similar progression sessions around the world. In the two years since the first Formation there’s already been a massive change in the level of women’s riding. With more support and opportunity every year, it’ll be exciting to see where these riders can get to over the next few years.

Vali Holl celebrates her World Cup overall title. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Vali Höll arrives in elite

2021 was Vali Höll’s first full year of racing elite, and she made the most of it.  After a false start in 2020 that saw her break an ankle during practice at the first race, Höll took a steadier approach to 2021. Early rounds were shaken by crashes but the young Austrian found her confidence and realized her speed, taking two wins in four podiums and, at the last round, stealing the World Cup overall title from Myriam Nicole.

Mona Mitterwallner’s XCM world championships win

Won elite marathon world championships, defeating XC legend Maja Włoszczowska in her final race. She was undefeated in the World Cup under-23 category, adding world championships and european championships u23 titles. To add a bit of conjecture, Mitterwallner wasn’t selected for the Austrian team in Tokyo, while her Hungarian rival Kata Blanka Vas was. Vas finished fourth behind the Swiss. Mitterwallner didn’t lose to Vas once in 2021. What could the 19-year-old Austrian have done if she’d been on the start line in Japan? Who knows for sure. But, with Mitterwallner joining Cannondale Factory Racing in 2022, she’ll have the full support to try her luck in Paris in 2024.