FORMER NCCS Cycling Team member and professional racing cyclist Dan Craven, also a former Olympian, completed his high school career at Otjiwarongo Secondary School in 1989, where he was first introduced to cycling.
“I was not very good at ball sport, like rugby and soccer,” he says.
“I really loved the freedom of the bicycle. The speed and the rush of adrenaline and the distances you can cover on a bicycle, and the amazing people and places you get to see on tour.”
Craven started off as a triathlete before taking cycling seriously after he joined the cycling team of the University of Stellenbosch when he went to study in South Africa.
He says he wants to be remembered as a journeyman and someone who loved what was doing.
He didn’t race in Namibia a lot, but he was a regular on international tours.
“I have won a lot of things competing on the European circuit. A lot of people do not realise that cycling is a team sport. When you are in a big team you are not riding for yourself, but you are doing it as a collective.
“As a result I have not won a lot of individual accolades. However, I have had my big moments representing Namibia at two Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016, and I am proud to say I was an African cycling champion in 2008,” he says.
Craven’s presence at the Olympics almost did not happen after he initially turned down an invitation to participate at the world’s epic sporting event.
He was in Rio to compete in a road event, but after several withdrawals due to crashes and injuries, the Olympics organisers deemed it fit to invite him to compete in the time trials.
“Of course I refused and hung up the phone,” he was quoted by grandfondoguide.com.
“I was not prepared, and, to make matters worse, I only had a road bike and not a time trial bike, which was like entering a Formula 1 race with a Nascar.
“I realised I was making a mistake to turn down a good gesture by the organisers after consulting with my fans on Twitter, and we are talking about the Olympic Games here. I took up the offer and, as expected, I finished last, but at least I finished the race.”
Craven says he was very happy he made the top race, and his performance, last place and all, helped alleviate a somewhat disappointing result in the road race, which he did not finish.
Apart from winning the 74km Desert Dash in 2012, he says one of his most memorable cycling moments came in 2014 when he participated in the Vuelta Espana – which is one of the most coveted cycling events besides the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain.
Craven, who has completely retired from professional cycling, says he regrets not seeing a psychologist at the early stages of his career.
“I only started seeing a psychologist after I retired from professional cycling, but I wished I started doing that earlier and during my career as well. Just like legs and arms, the brain needs to be trained, and I have neglected that one aspect,” he says.
The former African champion is married to wife Collyn, and the couple has two children.
The family lives at Omaruru in the Kunene region, something he says he never expected during his glittering career.
Craven is self-employed and owns a US dollar bicycle factory, Ongusa Bicycle, which means ‘desert’ in Himba and Otjiherero.
“We are a bicycle manufacturing company which was started in 2017. I have a team of highly skilled craftsmen, and we build state-of-the-art road bikes, as well as mountain bikes which are hand crafted and unique.
“They are not the average race bikes you usually see on the roads in Namibia.
“We sell them internationally on the United States, Spanish and Australian markets. But you will see a few in Namibia as well,” he says.
Craven says it is a new company with a lot to learn, but they are definitely moving in the right direction.
He says as a young cyclist he idolised Mannie Heymans and Frank Fredericks.
“They say in the sport world you have to see it to be it. And both Heymans and Fredericks squared up against the very best in the world in their respective codes.”
Craven says it is difficult to compete outside the country against world-class athletes and cyclists, but the two Namibian sport stars have proven to be top professionals who were prepared to face the partisan overseas crowds in their quest for glory.
His advice to aspiring professional cyclists is to be passionate about their sport.
“It boils down to loving what you are doing, which is followed by making sure to always enjoy what you do.
“If you want to be on top of your game, make sure you get the best coach possible. It is also crucial to have a sound support structure.”