The Google translation of Namibian cyclist Dan Craven’s biography on the Team Europcar site reads thus: Dan Craven. “This is a Namibian cyclist atypical personality and look unkempt. His arrival continues the philosophy of the team: popularize international cycling and provide opportunities for good cyclist from countries that open gradually to the sport.”
That is Dan Craven down pat. Atypical, unkempt and a man who has seen his career burst open with opportunity at a time when, at 31, he may have thought it was all over. Craven was given a contract with Europcar, a World Tour team, and immediately, before he had time to stroke his beard in unkempt, atypical wonder, was thrust into his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana. And there he was, riding on the front along with MTN Qhubeka to try to bridge the split in the bunch in the fifth stage of the Vuelta on Wednesday.
Somewhere, in a drawer or on a hanger, I have a T-shirt that bears the autograph of the hardest man in the hardest professional sport. Jens Voigt put his scrawl on a T-shirt that bears the legend Cervelo, the name of the Canadian bike manufacturers who sponsored Team CSC at the time.
On India’s shortened tour of South Africa at the end of last year, a visiting journalist wasn’t shy about telling me how much disdain he had for the BCCI. They weren’t overly fond of the bullying and posturing of the executives, and were suspicious of their motives and dealings.
He took pride in keeping the BCCI as honest as he could. He had been called to one side during the tour by a BCCI employee and asked about a piece he had written on how South African cricket had been shabbily treated by the hacking of the series. There were others who did not follow his line. It was explained that while many of the other Indian cricket writers were not fans of the BCCI, they did not quite like the rest of the world slagging off their union – that was their job. They might be utter scoundrels, but they are our utter scoundrels.
At 6pm on Saturday, after the heavens opened and turned Loftus and the first Springbok match into a sodden Gomorrah of a mess that not even fire and brimstone could correct, a little African team made a big African dream come true for six Africans.
Sending out a press release to announce the first African team to take part in the Tour de France during a Bok match seemed strange timing. The naming of the nine men in the MTN-Qhubeka squad to take on the Vuelta a Espana, and the six Africans in particular, deserved a fanfare, a celebration and capital letters.
On Tuesday, a Robin Williams fan tweeted: “Sigh, I really wish Robin Williams had gone out and ridden his bike yesterday.” Cycling may not have saved Williams, but, then again, it may have given him pause to think and reason to carry on for another day.
Williams was a cyclist. It was, he tweeted, the thing he looked forward to the most. “My favourite thing to do is ride a bicycle. I ride road bikes. And for me, it’s mobile meditation. It is the closest you can get to flying.”