Vera and Alex, astonishing World Cup success

Mountain biking
The small but strong contingent made Namibia proud.
Andrew Poolman
“And that’s how I won the World Cup (again) ...”
Namibia’s Vera Looser celebrated a second UCI Marathon World Cup gold medal on Sunday at Nové Mesto na Morave in Czech Republic.
Her compatriot Alex Miller achieved a silver medal in his debut race at a UCI Marathon World Cup – an astonishing result for the “small, but strong” Namibian contingent.
“Being on the podium with the top three spraying champagne was really cool, and then watching Alex getting another medal for Namibia was special as well,” Looser told us yesterday.
“Brutal”, would be an apt description of the testing route which took Looser four hours 30 minutes 31 seconds to finish first, ahead of Lejla Njemcevic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (4:31:00) and Rosa van Doorn (4:31:34) of Netherlands.
Winning the first of three 2024 UCI Mountain Bike World Series marathon events against the toughest competitors places Looser at the top of the rankings and wearing the yellow jersey at the next event at Haute-Savoie in France at the end of June.
Haute-Savoie was the scene of Looser’s first UCI World Cup triumph last year.
Event three in the series will be at Lake Placid (USA) in late September.
Looser explained: “We had an early start at 07:00, with two loops of 60 kilometres, and finishing with a 3 km part of the cross-country track.
“After the first lap we were about six ladies left at the front. At the feed zone about 75 km in, three of us got away and we worked together a little bit.
“We then arrived at the rock garden, a technical part on the up-hill which I managed to ride through. I was also the quickest going on the down part, even though it was so technical that I had to walk a part of it, like everybody else.
“At the bottom I managed a slight gap on the chasing two. I rode on my own for about 20 kilometres before Lejla caught up and then we rode together until we entered the arena, for the final 3 km cross-country technical part.
“It contained a steep uphill where Lejla attacked and I had to hang on to stay with her. On the downhill were a few drops where I managed to choose the quicker line than her.
“Next awaited another uphill section over tree roots. By this time, after four hours of working the legs so hard, we both had to get off the bike and walk it up. I was slightly quicker than her and stayed in front for the rooty downhill and the next rock garden. I just managed the technical parts slightly quicker and that’s how I won the World Cup!”

Coach ‘shocked’
Namibia national cycling coach Hans du Toit says he was shocked to see Miller (23) win silver among a field of mountain bikers comparable to the world championship last year.
Miller (4:39:52) finished only seven seconds behind Italy’s winner Fabian Rabensteiner (4:39:45), while beating the likes of Samuele Porro (Italy, 4:39:53), Marc Stutzmann (Switzerland) and Sergio Mantecon (Spain).
“You only need to glance through the column of national flags of the top-finishing men’s and women’s riders to appreciate the genuine world-class standard,” Du Toit says.
According to him, Miller has been highly confident since going toe to toe with a world-class marathon field of competitors in Spain recently.