It’s not everyday that we have the African champion racing on Scottish roads so when we met Dan Craven of Rapha/Condor after his fine third place at the recent Drummond Trophy, we thought we’d better make the most of it.
Dan was recently the subject of the ‘big interview’ in Cycling Weekly, so we steered clear of subjects already raised by our chums at ‘The Comic.’
Where’s home, in the UK, Dan?
“A flat in Manchester, it’s in close proximity to John Herety (Rapha/Condor manager) and I share with my team mates, Ben Greenwood and Rob Partridge.”
What do you think of the British weather?
“Everyone is telling me that the weather is good here for the time of year, it’s reasonably similar to what I was used to in Switzerland at this time.
“I have to tell you though; I was petrified at the thought of the British weather before I got here!”
And the food?
“I’m used to English dishes from back home, in Namibia. We share the cooking in the flat and try to make good food for ourselves; it’s not Italian food, but I’m happy so far.”
What do you like about UK racing?
“I like the fact that we speak English and I can be myself, that’s the culture I grew up with.
“In Namibia, I went to a German school and the town we lived in was Afrikaans ,but being here feels comfortable, new and exciting.”
“With it being an island, it’s a lot more difficult to pop across to France to race; where I was in Switzerland it was only a two hour drive to all the top Italian races.”It’s also a pity that there are only two UCI races on the calendar here — the Rutland and the Tour of Britain.”
Who impresses you?
“Russ Downing, he won the Argus down in South Africa a few years ago, so he wasn’t new to me, but he’s obviously a quality rider.
“Halfords — Wilko and the boys; but I’m pretty chuffed with my own team, I have to say.”
You’ll be racing less than you were, last year?
“Last year was a bit weird, I didn’t race as much as you’d think; they brought in these strange rules about foreigners riding in Italy and there were a lot of times I couldn’t race.
“What is different here is that I’ll be riding a lot of criteriums, something I’ve never done before.
“I’m looking forward to our tours programme, though — we have the Tour de Beauce in Canada, the Qinghai Lakes in China, the Tour of Ireland and Tour of Britain to look forward to.”
What are the main differences between Swiss/Italian races and UK events?
“Racing here is similar to elite level in Switzerland in that it’s always the same people you’re riding against.
“There are more senior riders here, though — in Switzerland, you get to a certain age and you turn pro or quit.
“In Italy there’s an incredible depth of riders and teams; there are different tactics in every race, but here it’s always the same guys.”
You won the UCI ranked GP Cristal Energie — did that get any pro teams ‘sniffing?’
“Unfortunately not; I was in discussion with the planned H2O team, but they dragged their feet and eventually the team didn’t get off the ground.
“I was disappointed because as well as that win, I had some good results.”
How does Rapha compare to FiDiBC who you were with in Switzerland?
“It was an amateur team but run as a Continental squad, the two teams are similar in terms of organisation and equipment but Rapha is much stronger.
“In FiDiBC there was myself and one other rider who were strongest; here there are eight riders all on the same sort of level.”
Is the white African champ’s jersey you wear the official UCI sanctioned one?
“Yes, I’ve wondered about the significance of the coloured bands; but I’m afraid that I don’t know what they represent.”
What are your strengths as a rider?
“My weaknesses are that I’m not a great sprinter and I need to work on my cornering and descending!
“I like long, hard races; in the GP Cristal Energie, I was away all day in breaks from four kilometres out.
“I like successive tough hills, not mountain passes, but tough parcours where it’s a war of attrition.”
I would have thought you’d be a ‘natural’ for Barloworld.
“I would love to have ridden for them and we had some form of talks; there was a tiny chance and I always hoped, but nothing materialised.
“Then I had a poor season with bad luck and no results — the next season I was back on form, but they had lost interest by then.
What about the SKY team?
“Along with every other English speaking cyclist in the world, that would be my dream; but I’ve not done enough yet to make me stand out.”
Goals for 2009?
“I had a lot of ideas for this season, but I had problems and the Drummond Trophy, where I was third, was the first of me starting to feel like myself.
“I have to prove myself, I’m not saying that I’ll win stages at the Qinghai Lakes or in Ireland, but I have to show myself — stand out.
“I really want to be in our Tour of Britain team, again I’m not going to say I’ll win a stage, but I want to get myself noticed.”
And your ultimate goals, in cycling?
“It all depends on this year; if I can get a contract with a big team, then I’d like to be pro for the next ten years.
“If I could make it onto a ProTour team, it would give Namibian and African cycling such a boost.
“I’ve already held training camps for young cyclist back home, but if I was riding for a big team than it would mean so much more.
“That would be my ultimate goal, to get established with a big team and help African Cycling as much as I can.”
We wish Dan every success with his goal and would thank him for his time and patience. Keep up with Dan’s travels and racing on his blog.