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FONTENAY-LE-COMTE, France (VN) — This was not the Tour de France return that Lawson Craddock was counting on.
The 26-year-old Texan, back at the Tour for his second career start, crashed heavily in the day’s feed zone Saturday and bravely rode across the finish line bloodied in last place at nearly 8 minutes behind the winner.
An emotional Craddock spoke to reporters after the stage following a medical check-up.
“It’s not an ideal start of the Tour for me,” he said. “We’ll have to see how I feel tonight and maybe get on the bike in the morning just to give it a feel.
“I’ve put too much work into it … ,” he said before choking up when asked if he might be forced to abandon.
The medical report confirmed a possible hairline fracture to his shoulder blade and a heavy cut to his brow that required stitches. The team will wait and see Sunday if he can start.
Just 48 hours ago, Craddock was optimistic about his return to the Tour following an up-and-down 2017 that saw him struggle with results all season. This year, Craddock returned to his best as one of America’s top young promising talents to earn a spot on the EF-Drapac eight-man team.
“Last year was so hard, but the team supported me to get back to my normal level,” he said Thursday. “I am so thankful for that. And I am here to pay them back and do everything I can to help Rigo [Rigoberto Urán] win the Tour.”
There were no details of what caused the crash, but TV cameras soon captured a bloodied Craddock riding alongside the Tour’s medical car with cuts and scrapes to his face, shoulder, and back.
Once the Tour medical staff confirmed that he did not have serious injuries that might have forced him out of the race for his safety and for others in the peloton, EF-Drapac officials supported Craddock the best they could.
“We basically left the decision in his hands if he felt safe to continue,” said sport director Charlie Wegelius. “We tried to reinforce to him that he shouldn’t put himself or anybody else in danger if he couldn’t hold the bars”
Craddock managed to regain contact with the peloton, but could not hold the wheel as the pace ramped up in the final 20km as the bunch rumbled in for a mass sprint.
Determined to finish the stage, Craddock received a big cheer from the crowd at the line as he rode in as the 176th placed rider at 7:50 back.
The team’s immediate concern is for Craddock’s wellbeing, but his loss would be a blow for the team’s GC ambitions. Craddock was tapped as an important engine for Monday’s team time trial as well as to provide help for Urán in the mountains.
“He made it to the line and now we’re going to assess what the situation is,” Wegelius said. “It’s definitely a blow because even if it isn’t broken and he continues, he was one of our big assets for the team time trial, so that’s a little bit of a disappointment.”
To add insult to Craddock’s several injuries, he was forced to undergo anti-doping controls after the stage.