VOGEL confident of keeping men's mountain bike title in absence of fellow Swiss SCHURTER
GLASGOW - Florian VOGEL admits the task of defending his mountain bike title has been eased by the absence of fellow Swiss Nino SCHURTER from the Glasgow 2018 European Championships.
SCHURTER is the Olympic champion and a six-time individual world champion as well as leading the world rankings this year. But he is skipping the Championships to compete at the World Cup meeting in Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada from 10-12 August.
"Nino is the dominant rider, but is focusing on the World Cup and world championships in September, so the fact he is not in Glasgow makes it a bit easier," said VOGEL, who won the title in Italy last year to end the four-year dominance of France's Julien ABSALON. "But even without Nino there will still be a high-quality elite field.
"I have been very happy with my performances in the World Cup. I have been consistent with placings in the top 10. I've not been on the podium, but I'm confident of doing well in my next couple of races.
"The mountain biking competition is very close between all the top riders."
VOGEL's main rivals will be team-mate Lars FORSTER and France's Stephane TEMPIER, who at world number three is the highest-ranked rider in the men's field for the competition at Cathkin Braes on 7 August.
Dutch talent Mathieu VAN DER POEL, who will also compete in the cycling road race in Glasgow, and London 2012 Olympic champion Jaroslav KULHAVY (CZE) should also be threats.
Switzerland will also be looking for medals in the women's race earlier in the day. World champion Jolanda NEFF is the favourite as she looks to regain the European title she won in 2015 and 2016.
In the absence of 2017 champion Yana BELOMOINA (UKR), NEFF'S biggest threats should be Poland's former world champion Maja WLOSZCZOWSKA, France's Pauline FERRAND-PREVOT and Gunn-Rita DAHLE FLESJAA (NOR), who won the Athens 2004 Olympic Games gold medal.
NEFF said: "If people make me the favourite then I am happy with that. I don't feel the pressure and my aim is to go out there and do my best to get the medal. These are the events we look forward to competing in."
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