Lawson Craddock is hoping for a bumpy ride in the spring classics in 2022.
The Texan moves across to BikeExchange-Jayco on a two-year deal, and is raising his hand for a crack at the cobblestone classics.
“I’d love to give them a crack,” Craddock told VeloNews. “I’d love to be there. It’s true, pure racing in its most primal form.”
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Craddock’s newfound awe of the northern classics came in the wake of the 2021 road worlds in Flanders.
Racing across the bergs and pavé that week with Team USA reminded him of just how enthralling and challenging the punishing one-days are in Belgium and northern France.
“I believe I can hold my own in those races,” Craddock said of a possible run at the classics. “Racing in Flanders at the worlds was incredible. I really enjoyed racing there as a whole.”
Craddock: ‘The opening weekend is on the list’
The funny thing is that Craddock’s never raced any of the big northern classics before since turning pro.
Of the five monuments, he’s raced in three, with starts at Milano-Sanremo, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Il Lombardia.
Like many of the American riders of his generation, he got a taste of racing in Belgium and the Netherlands when he was part of the U.S. development team. As a junior and U23 rider, he joined teammates in the famous “USA House” that was based in Flanders and later in the Netherlands.
Craddock used those bumpy roads and intense races to help him leap to the WorldTour in 2014.
After six seasons with the Slipstream franchise, he joins the Aussie-backed GreenEdge group on a two-year deal. He’s already expressed his interest to his new bosses about getting a shot at the cobbles this spring.
“I’ve been asking for a couple of years to do those races,” Craddock said. “When I got on the phone with ‘Whitey’ [lead sport director Matt White], I expressed my interest in those races. I’ve had some decent riders as a U23, and I said wouldn’t want to take a spot of someone else, but just doing those races can help me learn and I can help the team.”
Craddock isn’t expecting to race and shine immediately at such iconic races as Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix.
Right now, the team penciled in Craddock to race the “opening weekend” later this month in Belgium, with starts at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
“The ‘opening weekend’ is on the list,” he said. “That will be my first true crack at it. We’ll see how they go and see how I can help the team, and maybe I can do a few of the other ones, like E3 [Saxobank Classic] or Gent-Wevelgem.”
Craddock is already jazzed on what he’s seen with BikeExchange-Jayco.
Following a few fallow years marked by some injuries and diminishing race days, he knew it was time for a change. Last fall was tense and emotional for Craddock, who saw a few deals fall through.
The Australian team came through with a contract this fall just as he found out EF Education would not be offering an extension.
“Ever since I got on the phone with BikeExchange, we hit it right off,” Craddock said. “They saw me the same way I saw myself. I’ve been pro eight years, and I know I’m not going to come out win eight, 10 races a year at this point, but they saw me as a valuable member of their team, to be an engine, to be a great domestique.”
Keen to make up for lost opportunities, Craddock is hoping to race as much as he can this season.
Following an altitude camp at Spain’s Sierra Nevada, he already debuted the season at the Saudi Tour, where he helped fellow newcomer Dylan Groenewegen hit two victories in the sprints.
He’s also on the shortlist for the Giro d’Italia, where Simon Yates will be racing for the win.
“It gives me that vote of confidence that I can have an open line of communication with the team, and we can work with each other to get the most out of our relationship,” Craddock said. “I loved the belief that they showed in me. I am looking forward to trying my hand at races like the classics. They have an experienced team to learn from in the classics, and I think I can help. I am really excited to get the year going.”
Confidence breeds success, at least that’s what Craddock and BikeExchange-Jayco are banking on.