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SAINT-LÔ, France (VN) — Even if he has yet to pedal one stroke in the Tour de France, Lawson Craddock senses he is fulfilling his personal destiny with his debut Saturday.
At 24, he is one of America’s most promising young riders. Whether he can develop into a three-week contender remains to be seen, but he’s been dreaming of racing the Tour more than half his life.
“I remember my parents getting mad at me on Sundays because I would be watching OLN, and they were yelling at me when we’re late going to church,” Craddock said Thursday. “I remember watching the Tour, and being so fascinated by the sport. Being here is a dream fulfilled, and it’s been a long time coming.”
Craddock is among five Americans starting this Tour, and the latest of a new generation of U.S. riders making an impact on cycling’s biggest race.
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As a Tour rookie, Craddock won’t have any pressure from his Cannondale – Drapac team, except to help out when he can, and make it as deep into each stage as possible. GC captain Pierre Rolland might lean on him for some support in the mountains, but Craddock expects to be a pedaling sponge over the next three weeks.
“The anticipation to race is something special,” Craddock continued. “I’ve raced against some of these guys in other races, but everyone comes to the line at 100 percent. I’ve been racing since I was 12 years, but the Tour is truly something special. I cannot wait until Saturday.”
Along with Rolland, Craddock was only one of two Cannondale – Drapac riders the team brought to its pre-Tour press conferences, perhaps an indication of just what the team is expecting from the Texan.
“Pierre needs a sidekick in the mountains, and we all know Texans love Frenchmen,” said Cannondale – Drapac manager Jonathan Vaughters. “Lawson proved he’s up for that role in the Vuelta last year. He’s also as durable as the Texas sun is hot.”
In two seasons at Giant – Alpecin, Craddock was one of the key helpers to Tom Dumoulin’s surprise stampede across the Vuelta a España last year. A move to Cannondale – Drapac this season opened the door for a possible shot at the Tour.
“There were a lot of great things about this team, when I talked to them last year at the team meetings, I thought I would have a good shot at racing the Tour,” he said. “I think I’ve shown I can be a good asset to the team, whether it’s in the crosswinds or in the mountains.”
Born in Houston, Craddock now lives in Austin, and grew up watching another Texan racing in the Tour de France more than a decade ago. After a strong spring, Craddock is ready to saddle up for the Tour. “It’s really exciting to be here, but I’m not racing just to finish,” Craddock said. “I want to gain experience, to build for the Tour next year, and for the next 10 years. I want to see how far I can go in this sport.”
Once the race starts, Craddock said he’ll be dipping into the Tour de France clichés (featured here), “We have so many talented bike racers here, so we will be looking to create some opportunities. For me, I will just take it day by day. I will have to put those clichés to good use!”