What was the purpose of the inaugural Rider of The Year awards?
For a long time I’ve felt that something was missing from our annual calendar, and from cycling as a whole. Back in the day, our annual Reader Awards in RideBMX and Dirt magazines were a big deal and loved by the readers, and they disappeared some years ago – so basically it was time to work with a media company and relaunch the concept. And so, we worked together with MBUK and Cycling Plus magazine, along with their overarching BikeRadar website, to bring a new major event to the calendar – the annual Rider of The Year awards.
Scheduled so it takes place six months after Bike of The Year and at the end of the season, RoTY is the perfect time to award riders who have made a huge impact in cycling in that year. Time to awards riders who have made a real difference to the scene as a whole and give them worthy accolades.
How were the athletes chosen?
There was a hugely diverse range of riders – from World Champion mountainbikers, to national CX champs, to young road racers, endurance athletes, world-record holding freeriders, up and coming dirt jump competitors, event organisers, charity riders, riders who have pushed through adversity and inspired a massive following, and much more…
The awards were announced and the nominations were opened earlier this year, inviting readers of the magazines and websites to nominate their favourite riders, then that was whittled down to shortlists in the relevant categories, which were published in the magazines and held open for a free public vote online – they had a massive response and were inundated with votes. The engagement was impressive to say the least, people were all over it.
A word about the categories as well – it was deliberately limited to just three categories for Cycling Plus magazine and three for MBUK magazine, so the awards really meant something. If there were too many categories all divided up, then that would splinter the whole RoTY concept far too much, and each award would mean less. So, to keep things simple and limited, each mag had a Newcomer award, a Lifetime Achievement award, and the Rider of The Year award. The Newcomer and RoTY awards were decided by completely open public vote, while the Lifetime Achievement was decided by the editorial staff on the magazines and website.
Who backed the event – and who were the media partners?
The media titles involved were Mountain Bike UK magazine (MBUK), Cycling Plus magazine, and Bike Radar – these are long-established, market-leading cycling titles, while Bike Radar is one of the largest cycling websites in the world – these titles have huge audiences. As Upgrade, we backed RoTY with Lezyne as the only title sponsors – the perfect headline partner for these awards.
Where was it hosted?
In the headquarters of Our Media, in their conference theatre space in Bristol city centre – this place has great seating, a big screen, stage, and of course a bar. Invited guests included people from the cycling industry, brand leaders, media journalists across cycling, riders, athletes, influencers, event organisers, we had a great mix of people.
Speaking of bar – we had a free bar all night, thanks to our friends at Wiper & True beer company, a Bristol-based brewery who make some great craft IPAs, plus non-alcohol versions and plenty of soft drinks – we also had catering, the large screen playing videos, and we showed the trailer for the upcoming Deathgrip 2 film with Brendan Fairclough on stage answering a Q&A session – he also picked up a Grandes Bolas trophy, just for fun, for his riding at this year’s Rampage.
So who won the RoTY awards for 2023?
The Newcomer of The Year for Cycling Plus went to Imogen Wolff, an amazing young cyclocross star, she’s clearly on her way to big things, while Duncan Dollimore was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for decades of work in furthering the Cycle UK charity and wider access for all riders. The Rider of The Year went to Craig Maxwell, for his incredible story of cycling through adversity and inspiring others to do the same, while single handedly raising nearly £1million for cancer charities.
On the mountainbike side of things, young Morgan Pickstock took home Newcomer of The Year – 15-year-old riders don’t come much more enthusiastic, influential, or down to earth. This lad definitely has a bright future. The Lifetime Achievement award of course went to The Athertons – three legends on one trophy! Does it get any better than that? The Rider of The Year award for MBUK went to Casey Gemma – a rider who inspires a whole scene and won’t let a tragic accident stop her in her tracks. Both Casey and Morgan scored the front cover of the new issue of MBUK as well… perfect.
Is this the first of many?
Definitely! You bet – this was always going to be the first of a long-running annual awards do. This was the inaugural RoTY awards and, as with all first-time things like this, it’s always a bit of a gamble for how it goes, who shows up, will it work out well… and this was a huge success. We’ve had feedback from riders, industry leaders, media and more, and they all loved it. We will definitely be back for 2024 and beyond – see you next year!