Lawson Craddock and Chad Haga might be UCI WorldTour rookies, but they’re putting in veteran-level kilometers in their respective debut seasons in the elite pro ranks.
Both have raced nearly 50 days each so far this year, and each are due for a well-deserved break after an exciting, eye-opening spring for the Giant-Shimano first-year pros.
Giant is more than content with how they’ve raced in their first months bumping shoulders with the top pros. Craddock, 22, punched onto the podium with a third-place result at the Amgen Tour of California, while Haga, 25, despite falling ill at California, is earning his stripes as a key helper.
“They are adapting very well. We’ve put no pressure on them at all. We want them to learn,” Giant-Shimano trainer Mattias Reck told VeloNews. “Both Lawson and Chad have had a really tough program, and we knew it would get tougher and tougher, but they’ve done a great job. They are both ready for a nice rest.”
Craddock debuted at the Dubai Tour in February, while Haga clicked into the pedals at Etoile de Bessèges in France, also in early February. Both have been very busy since then. Going into Thursday’s action, Craddock’s wracked up 38 race days, and Haga, 45.
That’s a lot by any measure, but Giant wanted to give them both full exposure to race and learn the ropes. With the exception of the Tour of California, neither had any pressure to perform, other than watching and learning what it takes to be a day-in, day-out professional.
“They’ve raced perhaps a bit more than expected, but we’ve tried to make it as good as possible for them,” Reck continued. “They’ve been mostly working for the team, and up to now, California was the only race where they had the opportunity to be contenders, and that worked out really well.”
Not that either is complaining. Both have been soaking up each experience as another chapter in the book of what it takes to be a professional bike racer.
Craddock is currently racing at the Tour de Suisse, while Haga recently wrapped up the Critérium du Dauphiné. Both will take well-deserved breaks before reloading for the second half of their first full pro season. The team hasn’t decided whether they will race the Vuelta a España, or the North American races to round out the season.
What’s most important is that the two American prospects are soaking it all in.
“They’re both adapting very well to racing in Europe,” Reck said. “This team is very international, and English is the language of the team, so both are becoming part of the team very easily. They’ve had a chance to race in all kinds of conditions.”
Craddock has settled into Girona, Spain, while Haga is sharing an apartment with Ben King (Garmin-Sharp) in Lucca, Italy. Both cities have become hotbeds for English-speaking professionals based in Europe during the season.
Craddock and Haga, along with Tom Peterson, is also part of a growing clutch of American riders at Giant-Shimano.
Just how far can they go? Both were tapped as potential GC riders for the future. Along with other promising talent, such as Tom Dumoulin, 23, and Warren Barguil, 22, the team is taking the long approach on developing them.
“Without any pressure, we want to see how good they can be as GC riders. That is the goal for them, without any pressure right now,” he said. “Right now, they are learning about the races, then how to be a protected rider, and how it feels to have the support of the team.”
How far can they go? Reck said that’s impossible to say right now.
“It’s a learning process, and we take it year by year,” he continued. “It’s difficult to say where they will end up. Maybe they will be good for one-week stage races, or perhaps for a three-week grand tour. So far, it’s looks really good.”
After a busy and successful first half of their respective pro seasons, it’s time for Haga and Craddock to put their feet up and crack open a bottle of beer. They’ll be back on the road soon enough.