Depending on what sport you're in the age at which you reach your supposed peak can vary wildly. In some Olympic sports, like swimming or gymnastics, you could well be retired by your mid-twenties. With other sports, like golf for instance, a player can continue their career well into their autumnal years.
Mountain biking requires a mix of both technical, mental and physical attributes. It often takes riders a few years to get up to speed. In fact, I've often heard racers talking about learning how to win at an elite level and the opinion seems to be that it can take a few years to learn the required racecraft and mental resilience.
Of course, there are examples of people who delivered from a very young age in both downhill, cross-country and enduro. In recent years we've seen Thibaut Daprela and Matt Walker assert themselves on the World Cup downhill circuit. Tom Pidcock win an Olympic gold medal and Loana Lecomte dominated the World Cup series, both at 21. And who can forget Martin Maes bursting onto the scene as a teenager, flat pedals and all, while riding with the GT Factory team alongside the Athertons, Richie Rude dominating a sport that supposedly favoured an experienced head, or more recently Hattie Harnden winning her first EWS at 20.
But there are some riders who seem to extend their peak far into their 30s. Are these notable exceptions? Or is it the result of a sport that's undergone a wave of professionalism over the last 20 years seeing riders stay at the top for longer? It's not uncommon in other sports: Fernando Alonso is back in F1 at 40, Roger Federer and Serena Williams have played top-level tennis all through their 30s, and both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are still at the top of their game in a sport where you're often considered past it as you approach your mid 30s. Mountain biking also has its superstars in their relative senior years. Greg Minnaar and Nino Schurter certainly asserted themselves at the recent world champs against many younger competitors, but what age is your prime? And are these athletes merely exceptions that prove the rule?
Then again both Minnaar and Schurter not only won the most recent world championships while approaching, dare I say it, the latter stages of their careers, but they're also both winners of the same title at a very young age, at 21 and 22 respectively. Maybe they are just once-in-a-generation talents to begin with, and should be considered as outliers.
What age do you believe an elite level mountain biker reaches their peak? Is it relative to the discipline in which they compete? Are you personally still getting better? And what does age mean to you? Let us know in the poll and comments.