It's winter training… 40° heat, warthogs, desert… but not as we know it...

In the first of a series of diary articles, we go behind the scenes with Dan Craven. He’ll be giving us an insight into the life of a UK-based pro – but one who happens to be completing his winter training under the hot sun of his native Namibia. This week, a taster of life as Namibia’s only professional cyclist. Max Leonard and Laura Fletcher report…

What comes immediately to mind when you think about winter training? Embrocation, tights and chilblains, or nasty sessions on the turbo? For the pros, perhaps, the luxury of a Mallorca training camp in the winter sun, and definitely some peace and quiet to re-gather their energy after a long racing season. Not for Dan Craven. He gets to go home to Namibia for 40C rides along the arrow-straight roads through the savannah. And the off season for Namibia’s only pro cyclist is, if anything, more hectic than racing.

Being a former African continental champion, and Namibia’s foremost cyclist means he’s well known. Walking into a small, hand-crafted wood shop, the two men behind the counter eye him up (even in his street clothing) and casually come over, asking if he is the “cycling guy”. He’s often in the papers,,whether that be for participating in the ‘Desert Dash’, an overnight endurance ride, or there’s his latest cycling camp, teaching bike skills to youths from all over the country, and encouraging them to become active, amateur riders.

Craven is just embarking on his fourth season in the UK, now with IG-Sigma Sport.  But with the wealth of riders calling the UK home, and the full calendar of domestic racing, he can blend in and get on with the job. It’s actually an ideal situation. “I think, secretly everyone wants their 10 seconds of fame and I obviously enjoy the fact that I am in the media and have a recognisable name in Namibia, but not having to face it every day is a great luxury to have,” he says, speaking from Windhoek, the Namibian capital. “Actually, last night I couldn’t sleep as I was worried about the upcoming kids cycling camp I’m running, and this, that and the other, and I realised I’m really looking forward to coming back to the UK where I can just be a face in the crowd, just ride my bike and race and have no other responsibilities”

Many Namibians of Dan’s background leave the country for a while, for education and work, and then come back to run the farms they grew up on; often this involves taking in guests as part of the tourist trade, or running part of the farm as a hunting lodge. While at home, where he does most of his off-season training, he divides his time between his home town of Omaruru, about 240 kilometres from Windhoek, and a flat in the capital. “I alternate between the two,” says Dan. “I train a lot better in Omaruru, but then I’m completely on my own, with no distractions – that’s probably why. On the other hand, I need to do a lot of gym work, and at the moment a lot of physio. I could only get that in a couple of places in Namibia, so I’m in Windhoek at the moment.”

Still, it’s a long way from the team presentation, which takes place in London this month, and the OCBC Crit in Singapore, and the UCI 1.2 Omloop van het Waasland which will be his first race of the year. We’ll catch up with the pleasures and perils of training in Africa in our next installment.

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the team. He's remarkably good at it.