31 July 12:05 (BST)

Swiss veteran VOGEL says old head is better than young shoulders for mountain bike battle

GLASGOW - Switzerland's Florian VOGEL insists age will be no barrier to him defending his mountain bike title at the Glasgow 2008 European Championships.

At 36 years old, VOGEL often races rivals barely more than half his age and only just out of high school, although many are in their mid-20s.

Given the rough and tumble nature of the sport in which riders tackle rolling courses with fast downhill sections putting pressure on muscles and joints, mountain biking would appear more suited to younger competitors. Not so.

"In mountain biking it's experience that counts and experience only comes with age," said VOGEL, who defends his title at the Cathkin Braes course on 7 August. "It's true that most of my competitors are around 25 or 26 years old.

"But mountain biking is an endurance sport - races can last for 90 minutes. Often it is about pacing yourself, and with all my experience from racing for many years, I know how to do that.

"Especially this year when races are so tight and there might be less than a minute between the top 10 riders, then it's the experience that counts.

"If it's a technical course then that experience helps in picking the right line and the quickest way through the hazards, so I believe my age is an advantage and not a disadvantage."

VOGEL admits it does take slightly longer to recover from crashes that are inevitable outcomes of racing on often muddy, difficult terrain, but he insists his love of the sport he began as a teenager is still strong.

"I'm still motivated," VOGEL added. "The only possible downside is when it comes to crashes. When you're 17 or 18 and you crash then you just jump back on the saddle as if nothing has happened.

"Nowadays, it does take a bit of time to recover. Maybe you have to take a couple of days off.

"I'm still one of the fastest guys going downhill so it has nothing to do with the fear of crashing, it's more the recovery time."

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