NAMIBIAN professional cyclist Dan Craven is raring to go after joining a new cycling team, Synergy Baku Cycling Project in Azerbaijan.
After his disappointment of last year when he crashed out of the Olympic Games, Craven resigned from his IG Sigma Sport cycling team and at one stage thought he had reached the end of his career.
"I initially thought I would stay with Sigma Sport but the offer they made me was a bit of an insult so I resigned. I was stuck without a team for quite a while, but I wasn't prepared to just take anything. At one stage I thought that this was the end of my career, but I'm not ready to quit - when I do, it will be on my own terms," he said.
"In November I heard about this Azerbaijani team for the first time and from then on things moved quickly until I got an offer six weeks later," he added.
The new UCI Continental team Synergy Baku Cycling Project will be based in Azerbaijan, with the aim of re-igniting cycling in Azerbaijan and developing Azerbaijani cyclists to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The team will be managed by David McQuaid, the son of the UCI president Pat McQuaid, and includes top cyclists like former British champion Jeremy Hunt and former Irish champion David McCann.
In total, the team will consist of 10 international cyclists and six Azerbaijani cyclists, making it the biggest team that Craven has raced for to date.
"I'm very excited about this team. My main job will be to get the results, but I'll also be helping with the development of the Azerbaijani cyclists. But what really excited me was the team management, whom I know and respect a lot.
"It might be an Azerbaijani-sponsored team, but the management is British so there won't be any cultural problems. I know two of them well and they are reliable guys so I'm excited about working with them," he said.
"I think it will be the most professional team that I have cycled for. So from being unhappy at receiving no offers to receiving a last-minute offer from Synergy Baku, is absolutely amazing," he said.
Craven said he would be based in Namibia and South Africa for the time being, and would fly out to join his team mates for their upcoming tours.
Their first big competition will be the Tour of Langkawi at the end of February, while other major races will include the Tour of Taiwan in March; the Tour of Thailand in April; and the RAS in Ireland and the Tour of Azerbaijan in May.
"We have a great racing programme and I am really excited about it because there are so many races to look forward to this year. Last year everything revolved around just one race at the Olympics, but now I have an entire year of racing to look forward to," he said.
Meanwhile, two of Namibia's promising young cyclists, Till Dröbisch and Costa Seibeb, left for South Africa yesterday to join the UCI African Cycling Centre in Potchefstroom.
Dröbisch will once again ride for the UCI African feeder team as he did last season, in races in South Africa and later in Europe.
Seibeb has once again been invited to attend a three-month cycling camp at the centre and depending on his progress, he too, could be offered a contract to join the UCI African team.
"If Costa does well enough, he could get into the UCI African feeder team. It will be amazing if he does because then he will receive a salary for cycling," Craven said.