Craven relieved to secure Sigma Sport Specialized deal after missing out on Europcar ride
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Craven relieved to secure Sigma Sport Specialized deal after missing out on Europcar ride

by Shane Stokes at 5:41 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Namibian to target Olympics and UCI races in 2012

Dan CravenAfter a possible contract with the Europcar team failed to materialise, Namibian rider Dan Craven has spoken of his satisfaction in securing a deal with the Sigmasport Specialized team for 2012. The 28 year old will join the squad after several years as part of the Rapha Condor Sharp team, and is looking forward to the season ahead.

“In changing teams after three years, I am really looking forward to the new challenges and excitement that comes along with that,” he told VeloNation today. “I am just looking forward to a new environment and feel that I am really going to enjoy myself this year.

“The team schedule is similar to that of Rapha Condor Sharp…it’s just a little bit smaller and with a smattering of UCI one day races on the continent. As I have hardly done any one day UCI races over the last three years, I am really looking forward to that aspect as in the past they have suited me rather well.”

Craven had hoped to be part of a UCI ProTeam in 2012, with Europcar saying that it would take him on if it secured a licence of that level. Unfortunately it was turned down by the UCI in favour of other teams, meaning that riders like Craven and Mark McNally (An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly) were left short.

Craven spoke to several teams recently. Some talks didn’t work out, while there were other offers that didn’t appeal. He was in limbo for a while, and admits to being ‘rather stressed out’ at that point. Fortunately he’s secured a place on a team for 2012, and is ready for the move. “I really look forward to the new challenges and riding with Matt Stephens and co,” he said. “It should be a great year.”

The 2011 season was a solid one for the 2009 UCI Africa tour calendar winner. He won a stage in the Vuelta a Leon, finished fifth overall in the race, netted seventh in the 2.1 Tropicale Amissa Bongo and was a solid ninth on a stage and eighteenth overall in the Tour of Britain. He also expended a lot of energy to help his Rapha Condor Sharp team-mates in other races. He wants to build on that next season, and has the motivation of a new team to spur him on.

Looking back and forward, plus an ironic crash:

Craven’s time with Rapha Condor Sport made a strong impression on him, and he has plenty of fond memories from his time there. “The three seasons with RCS were fantastic. I really loved the way the team gave us opportunities to interact with the sponsors and club members,” he said. “That social part of the team is unusual and something that many riders detest but I somehow thrive on it…even though it probably distracted me a bit too much at times.

“It will be sad to leave that support structure but at the same time the time has come for a change and I can't wait to get going.”

He’s headed back to Africa to prepare for the season ahead, and has been training there. Craven had a setback this week while out training, but fortunately there’s no major issues. “I was hit by a car from the Ministry of Health and Social Services - oh the irony! - on Thursday morning, the day that we confirmed I'd be in the team,” he explained. “I was out training when it passed me and then turned left in front of me giving me nowhere to go.

“I had a novel little drive in an ambulance and a quick checkup at hospital but that was all really unnecessary. Follow up x-rays and a MRI yesterday proved that there was only a bit of soft tissue damage/stiffness in the neck and I'll be out on the bike again today.”

Craven has several events in mind when he looks towards 2012, and will work hard to be in peak shape for those.

“I have qualified for the Olympics for Namibia so that is obviously a major goal,” he states, when asked to list his targets. “With the team we have the Tour of Britain and the An Post Rás that I want to focus on too. I have done well in both races in the past and thoroughly enjoy them, so I am really look forward to getting there in top shape.

“Obviously we have the premier calendar races in the UK which are always tough and harder than one would think; and then there is the Tour Series. While the latter is definitely not one of my strengths, I still really look forward to a chance to do some of the big crits again and help the team out.”

Given that a deal with Europcar appears to have been in the works, it’s reasonable to think he’d be annoyed that it didn’t materialise. He adopts a more philosophical approach, though, choosing to focus on what he has rather than what he could have had. Still, he’d like the chance to secure a big deal if it’s still possible in the future.

“I am a racer - I love riding and racing my bike,” he said. “As long as I am racing I want to improve and do well in the races that I compete in, so stepping up is something that I have always aimed at and would still like to achieve.”

He’s aware that he’s getting older, though. With his 29th birthday coming early next year, he’ll need some big performances to lock in a place with a top-ranked team.

Rather than fixate about that, he’ll race hard, land the best results he can and then see where that leaves him. “Right now I am focused on having a great year with Sigma Specialized in 2012,” he said.



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