By Bjorn Haake
German mountain biker Moritz Milatz had a great 2006 season, highlighted by breaking the dominance of Lado Fumic at the German national championships. His 2007 campaign was marred by crashes and defects, but was saved through a bronze medal at the European marathon championships at the end of the season.
Milatz hails from Freiburg in southwestern Germany, an area where road cycling and mountain biking are very popular. But Milatz actually started out as a runner, doing both medium and long distances. A personal best of 14'49" over 5,000 metres and 31'31" over 10,000 metres as well as finishing second in the German junior national championships in cross-country running showed his abilities. But the constant pounding on his joints took its toll and after hip surgery he started to increase his participation in an alternative sport, which was the mountain biking that he had started in parallel to his running.
He eventually quit running for good, finding a mountain bike team for 2003 and never looked back. In his first World Cup race, he secured tenth place in the U23 category and received his first UCI point. In 2004 he joined Merida - Multivan for which he still rides today. Ironically, a broken finger in 2005 forced him back to running and he did his first ever mountain run, immediately becoming the regional champion of Baden. But it was a short intermezzo. "I couldn't ride, so I was looking for alternatives. It was nice, but it really didn't serve me much good," the German made clear that he didn't intend to go back to running. "I still run some, especially in the winter. It is good to relax as long as I take it easy. It only is a problem if I do full intensity. Then the pounding is too much for my hip and joints."
With the finger healed he was back on target for a professional career as a mountain biker, though he tried to not get too single-minded. "I started studying Information Technology and Systems Engineering in Freiburg, but it was too time consuming," he explained his first attempt to get an education. He took a break but realized that "just doing sports wasn't so good. It made me put a lot of pressure on my self it was that need to succeed that got to me." So he decided to continue with remote studies in the field of electrical engineering.
In fact, this switch helped him with his results. "I had less pressure to succeed at the races as I knew I had something to fall back on. And with less pressure my results started to get better." This was clearly apparent in 2006, when he broke into the phalanx of the top riders, finishing sixth in Fort William, Scotland. He continued to build momentum and in June won the German national title with an impressive ride. He was beat Lado Fumic, who had won the championships a record six times between 2000 and 2005. He went on to win the marathons in Kirchzarten and Albstadt and ended the season in 14th of the World Cup ranking and 20th in the UCI ranking.
The reward at the end of the year was the possibility to extend his contract with Merida - Multivan. He may now have coaches from within the team, but it was Rolf Luxemburger who had discovered Milatz' athletic talent and had also coached him running. Luxemburger still gives advice today. "He knows me so well," Milatz confirmed his close relationship with the long time coach and friend.
2007 was a bit of a year to forget, without too many outstanding results. It wasn't necessarily his physical ability that was running short, but "I had a lot of technical problems. Flats and the like. Or I would crash," he recalled the season that didn't start out too well. Technical problems started right in the first race in South Africa. He also recalled the first World Cup in Belgium, where "I was in the top 10 for a long time, but then had a flat." Not only did this prevent him from getting a good result, but also "it is not good for your motivation, if there is always something [going wrong]."
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