Lawson Craddock had one of his best seasons as a pro, and it came in large part because he wasn’t trying to win. Well, to win the GC, at least.
After testing his limits as a GC rider for the first few seasons of his career, Craddock changed things up in 2019, and delivered some of his top results of his pro career.
Management paid back the Texan with a contract extension that will keep him in EF-Education First team colors for two more seasons.
“I thought he could grow into a top-10 three-week grand tour rider, not necessarily a contender but a guy that could finish in the top 10,” said CEO Jonathan Vaughters in a press release Wednesday. “I was training him for that, and I don’t think that was the right decision for him. Now he’s more focused on getting into breakaways, his time trial, helping his teammates. He’s where he should be in the sport now.”
Instead of following the wheels, Craddock is attacking. In this year’s Vuelta a España, he was one of the most combative riders in the race, sneaking into several breakaways, and earning some impressive results along the way. He also put new focus on time trialing capped by sixth at the 2019 road worlds in Yorkshire last month, fourth in the stage 10 time trial at the Vuelta, sixth in the Tour de Suisse opening stage time trial in June and seventh in the time trial at Paris-Nice in March.
For Craddock, it’s all about his evolution as a rider.
“EF is a great place for me to continue to grow,” Craddock said. “I feel like I’m in a really good spot in terms of my role in the team. I stepped into the domestique role a bit more than I have in the past, and I discovered it’s actually something I really quite enjoy, being there and helping our leaders as much as possible to deliver them to success. In the second half of the season, I also had a few opportunities to race for myself, for my own results.”
After finishing the season off strong, Craddock is already looking ahead to 2020. With the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, the Texan is doubly motivated for a big year.
“In terms of other ambitions next year, I’m well-suited towards races like Amstel Gold Race,” Craddock said. “I had a good race there this year, helping [Simon Clarke] get second, and next year I’d love to have another crack at that, whether that’s helping the team or getting a chance to go for it for myself. I also really want to make the Olympics team for the USA.”
Vaughters lauded Craddock’s professional attitude, especially after he was not part of EF’s eight-rider selection for the Tour de France.
“You know, he didn’t make the Tour team this year, and he showed a lot of grit and gumption to come back in the second part of the season to do a great Vuelta, a great world championships,” Vaughters said. “I was really proud of the attitude he showed surrounding that. That’s the kind of thing we really appreciate on this team — someone that takes a hard decision and comes back stronger from it.”
Craddock, 27, joined the WorldTour in 2014 with Giant-Shimano after coming up with the Bontrager-Livestrong team. He joined EF in 2016.
Craddock’s permanence is part of a few shakeups at the team. Matti Breschel retired while Nate Brown (Rally-UHC), Dan McLay (Arkea-Samsic) and Joe Dombrowski (UAE-Emirates) are changing teams. New arrivals include Neilson Powless (Jumbo-Visma), Magnus Cort (Astana), Kristoffer Halvorsen (Ineos) and Jens Keukeleire (Lotto-Soudal).