Namibian mountain bike champion Alex Miller received a major boost with the announcement last week that he had been signed up by the international Team Trek Vaude powered by Ötztal.
Team Trek Vaude is a new team competing on the European circuit in various mountain bike disciplines ranging from cross country, marathon, cyclocross and E-mountain bike racing, and is managed by Bernd Reutemann, who previously acted as the team manager of Team Centurion-Vaude.
Miller impressed on the Namibian and South African circuits last year, winning the Namibian cross country and marathon mountain bike titles, while he also came third with compatriot Tristan de Lange at the international Tankwa Trek race, in the process finishing as the first African team. Besides that he also qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after beating De Lange over a series of qualifying races, and he believes his good form piqued the interest of Reutemann.
"Bernd has been to Namibia on holiday before so he knows the country, while he is also regularly scouting for new international riders. But to be honest I never expected it at all. I was hoping that I might get an offer after the Olympics, so when Bernd contacted me towards the end of last year, it was a huge surprise and I was very excited," he said.
The team's main sponsor Vaude is a producer of sports clothing and equipment, which only makes use of biodegradable materials, and Miller said he felt privileged to be a part of it.
"The team has been at the forefront of sustainable development and I'm very happy to be a part of a team that supports such important initiatives," he said.
The official announcement was only made last Thursday, but by then Miller had already met his new team mates through online zoom sessions and he is now eager to join them.
"So far we've only met via zoom, but I can already feel there's a good team spirit and I'm looking forward to joining them. They are all top class international riders, and I'm looking forward to gaining as much experience as possible from them and to improve my level of racing. You have to race against the best to improve, so I want to use that to my advantage," he said.
The other team members are all top-class European riders, consisting of Gregor Raggl, a multiple Austrian cross-country champion; Karl Markt, an Austrian cross-country state champion; Sascha Weber, who won the German cross country title in 2019; Philip Handl of Austria, who won the Trans Alp marathon stage race in 2018 and 2019; Mona Mitterwallner of Austria, who won the European and junior world cross country championships last year; and Antonia Daubermann, who was the German cross country runner-up last year.
Miller will join his team in Austria at the end of February, but said he will also continue with his preparations for the Olympics.
"The team fully supports my plans for Tokyo, so if I feel the need to do a high altitude training camp they will support me. Either Karl or Gregor will qualify for Austria, they must still finalise their team, so I'll have a team mate at the Olympics which will be an advantage. We can train together, check out the course together and I can learn a lot from them," he said.
Regarding the international calendar, Miller said he hoped to make some podium spots.
"We will be racing all over Europe, but so far I only have a rough calendar. It depends what races I compete in - if it's smaller races, I'll definitely aim for a podium spot, but if its World Cup races, I'm still learning. But that's definitely a long-term goal of mine to make some podium spots at World Cup races,"he said.
"For now, I'm working on my base training and improving my strength and endurance. I plan to compete in a few road races here in Namibia as well as at the national championships on 5-7 February. My aim is to win the senior elite title - I definitely think I can win that," he added.