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Then, on Wednesday, Craddock was at it again. He attacked into the day’s main breakaway and rode aggressively to help the move keep its advantage. While Craddock missed the winning attack made by Basque rider Mikel Iturria (Euskadi-Murias), Craddock finished a close third place in the sprint.
“In the end, that’s racing. The Murias guy made a great move and played his cards right,” Craddock said at the line. “I felt great I thought I had the legs to win, but sometimes, when you feel too good you show it a bit too much and everyone starts looking at you. You have to start thinking a lot more than that, using your brain a lot more than your legs. Unfortunately today I just wasn’t able to cap it off. Today was a great opportunity and for a rider like me I don’t get a lot of those — frustrating to say the least just to miss out on the win.”
The 27-year-old Texan is midway through his fifth career grand tour. The team’s GC plans were upended when captain Rigoberto Urán crashed out in the first week. That’s opened up the race for the rest of the team, and Craddock, back to grand tour racing after his dramatic 2018 Tour de France, is intent on making his mark.
Craddock took a few moments to talk to VeloNews before the start of Wednesday’s 11th stage, no wonder he was in a hurry. Craddock promptly rode into the day’s main breakaway.
VeloNews: You had a great performance in the time trial in Pau. How important was that for you?
Lawson Craddock: I am definitely really happy with yesterday’s performance. A lot went into it. There was a lot of homework, a lot of attention to detail from, from the team and from my coach, Jim Miller. I’m just trying to make sure we prepared as well as possible. You always want maybe a little bit more out of yourself initially, but at the end of the day, fourth in a time trial in a grand tour is definitely a good result for me.
VN: The team’s priorities changed with Rigoberto Urán crashing out, did that allow you to save a little bit more in these last few days?
LC: Yes and no. Our goals definitely shifted after everyone crashed, but our mentality never did. There are a lot days we are still looking for opportunities. And there were some good stages for us to get a result, but in the end, things just didn’t work out yet. And it’s been hard racing up to this moment. Even after the Andorra stage, you race flat out and once we get that one done, then it’s turning your attention to recovery and just preparing yourself the best possible performance.
VN: How brutal was that stage in Andorra over the weekend? You’ve had some extreme conditions in your career, but hail, rain, gravel and mud, how did that day rank?
LC: That day definitely didn’t disappoint. I think we’ve all come to expect it out of Andorra. It’s in the mountains and it’s always unpredictable racing. You know it’s going to be hard, and there are no flat roads. It’s all climbs, all descents and the weather is always unpredictable, so it was a tough day for the entire peloton. The hail didn’t make it any easier, so it was pretty painful. But you push through it and say, what’s the next one?
VN: So without the GC, the team is going to try to get a stage win out of these final 10 days?
LC: We still have a lot of highly motivated guys left. This race definitely got thrown up on its head pretty early for us, but now we have this young guy, Sergio Higuita, who’s having a phenomenal race. Maybe a lot of guys haven’t said his name yet but we’ve all shown that we’re here and motivated to have success.
VN: How important for you personally is this return to a grand tour after having such a hard Tour de France last year?
LC: It’s a lot easier doing these races without a broken shoulder. I was definitely disappointed to miss out on this year’s Tour. The Vuelta is a highly prestigious race as well and it means a lot if you can have success here. I put a lot of effort into making sure I was fit as possible and I’m feeling great so far. And the next 10 days will be pretty decisive.
VN: Some are saying this is the hardest first week of the Vuelta ever. Do you agree?
LC: Yes, it was pretty grueling. It’s definitely taxing on the body. When you look at every single stage here and there’s no easy stage. We definitely feel that, so the rest day came at a good time. All you can do is regroup a little bit and try to have a good last two weeks.