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The Texan’s move to BikeExchange-Jayco for 2022 sees him moving to the front line of the Giro’s GC race. After a winning ride in Saturday’s time trial in Budapest, team captain Simon Yates is poised to snatch the maglia rosa in the Giro’s first summit finish at Mount Etna on Tuesday.
Craddock, 30, is ready to do his fair share of the workload to protect Yates’s flanks and push him as high as possible up the GC table all the way to Verona.
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On Monday, Craddock and the rest of the Giro entourage flew to Sicily following three days of racing in Hungary. VeloNews caught up with Craddock ahead of the decisive climbing stage at Mount Etna. Here’s what he had to say:
VeloNews: How have the first few stages gone in the ‘big start’ in Hungary?
Lawson Craddock: It feels like this race hasn’t even truly started yet. So far it’s been a pretty great start for us. It’s pretty special racing here in Hungary. I don’t know if any of us expected the sheer amount of fans to come out and support us, which has been really nice. Yates and Sobrero had really great rides in the time trial, and getting that win early takes a little pressure off going into the rest of the race. It confirms the level where the team is currently at, which is a big confidence booster going into the Giro.
VN: After racing two years in COVID conditions, what was the sensation like with so many fans back on the road again?
LC: It’s a bit of a shock. You hear that wall of noise and it’s pretty encouraging and motivating to have that support again. This is only the beginning. All of us are looking forward to getting out of Hungary safely and getting into Italy. And we’re just getting the Giro going.
VN: Another ‘big start’ in a faraway city, how do the riders view these exotic locations to start a grand tour like the Giro?
LC: It’s the same for everyone and we all have to do the travel, so I wouldn’t say it affects us any more than the next guy. Everyone has to deal with the same amount of travel, from getting from one place to another. I think it is quite cool that we can see a different part of the world. Cycling is the only things that would bring me to Hungary in my life, and the fact that I and here and I get to see a different country is pretty special. It’s been a really enjoyable start for us, and the weather has been great, and the racing’s been nice. It makes you happy that we’ve come here and started here.
Goodbye Hungary 👋
You’ve been good to us 💕 pic.twitter.com/Y9AsHROxkh
— Team BikeExchange-Jayco (@GreenEDGEteam) May 8, 2022
VN: Simon Yates is racing for the win, what is your role on the team?
LC: I think it’s no secret that Simon is our guy for the GC. I am here to be there for the team, and help put him in the best possible position to be as high up in the GC at the end of the three weeks. My role will probably be taking a lot of wind over the next couple of weeks. We have a pretty dialed in team and everyone more or less knows their exact role and what we can do to support our leader. I think it’s pretty special to be part of a team like that, coming into the Giro knowing that if everything goes well and you make it through safely and healthy, you have a good shot to actually do something special. It’s been a lot of motivation for the training and the lifestyle coming into the event. I am really excited to be here.
VN: Yates won the time trial Saturday, was that a bit of a surprise for the team?
LC: Yes and no. The course suited him well. It was a really short climb, and he is the guy who can make those snappy accelerations, and with a climb at the end, he’s going to have one of the fastest times of the entire race. He had a great ride at Paris-Nice earlier this year, and had a similar day where he was quite close to the win. It’s been a lot of focus on this team of just dialing in the time trial. It seemed like there’s been a huge jump and a lot of that has to do with special partners coming in, like Giant, and Cadex. Marco Pinotti is our TT specialist, he’s putting a lot of effort into making sure that we truly have one of the fastest set ups for time trialing in the entire peloton. Yesterday was confirmation of that.
VN: How decisive will this next week of racing be, with Etna and Blockhaus up next?
LC: You look at this Giro and the climbs are just kind of sprinkled out across three weeks. There are some really challenging stages in the first two weeks. I think this team and Yates is focused on building on that early success. Blockhaus isn’t a climb we’ve done a lot, and it’s going to be extremely selective. I think the second week of the Giro will really set the tone for the Giro overall, and it’s really backloaded with some heavy stages. You have to take it as it comes, day by day, and the first step is just getting out of Hungary safely and healthy.
VN: How are you feeling coming out of that crash before E3 Saxo Bank Classic? What happened there?
LC: I was leaving the team presentation before E3, and it’s just one of those things you do a 1,000 times and I will do another 1,000 times. There are these covers that go over the cables that run from the presentation, and when I lifted my back wheel over it, it just rocked me over, and I landed with my hand directly underneath my chest. It was a small fracture on the hand and a couple of bruised ribs. It kept me out of those races, but I could get back on Zwift two days later, and I could start specific preparations for the Giro.
VN: How disappointing was that because you told us earlier how excited you were about racing the classics this spring?
LC: It was a challenge to overcome, and at the end of the day, the spring was really quite tough. Getting COVID after Saudi Arabia was way worse than I expected, and just coming back from that took a long time. For most of the spring, I felt like I was battling to get back to a normal level. When that happened, it was tough and I was bummed out for myself, but it offered me a chance to hit the hard reset button on the spring, and start the preparations for the Giro.