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After an emotional rollercoaster last fall, when he thought his days as a professional cyclist might be ending, Lawson Craddock is back doing what he loves to do.
The Texan is currently camped out on the flanks of Spain’s Sierra Nevada, bashing his pedals, and preparing for what will be his ninth season as a professional racer.
The 29-year-old secured his future in the peloton when he penned a deal last fall to move to the Australian-backed BikeExchange-Jayco.
“It’s a great team and a great culture, and that really helps with success on the bike,” Craddock told VeloNews. “It was a natural fit. I cannot think of a better place to be for the next two years.”
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Craddock is already fitting in, and said he is looking forward to a restart on his career after six years with the Slipstream franchise.
Though the 2022 racing calendar is not written in stone, he will slot into a helper’s role for the team’s leaders at the major races as well as have a few chances during the season to chase his own results.
There’s an open road up ahead, and Craddock is fully intent on making the most of it.
VeloNews: How did the deal with BikeExchange-Jayco come together?
Lawson Craddock: It was after the Vuelta that I started reaching out. I had a good idea that my time with EF was coming to an end, and I contacted the management there. It was such a crazy transfer season for a lot of teams, with some big sponsors floating around, and a lot of uncertainty. It was after worlds I was able to lock down a deal with them. I feel very fortunate to be involved with them. It’s a great team and a great culture, and that really helps with success on the bike. I am looking forward to being in a place where I can be myself, also have a lot of fun, and race hard on the bike. It was a natural fit, I cannot think of a better place to be for the next two years.
VN: What will be your role at BikeExchange-Jayco?
LC: Ever since I got on the phone with BikeExchange, we hit it right off. 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. Maybe I can target the TTs, and have a few opportunities to be in a break and race for myself. I’m really happy.
VN: So playing that role as a helper is a good fit for you right now?
LC: This team does a great job to race aggressively. For me, I haven’t had the chance to be in a prime support role. There wasn’t a belief in me. Now I am in a place where we have our leaders who can win the world’s best races, and they said ‘we want you to be at their side.’ So, to have that vote of confidence and have a team that brings that kind of belief in me helps me to believe in myself. It gives me a lot of motivation.
VN: When did you find out that you would not be continuing with EF?
LC: I could feel from the beginning of the season that the relationship just wasn’t the same as it used to be. Throughout the spring I didn’t race much and didn’t have a chance to do anything. I raced nationals with only 15 race days up to that point. I could see the writing on the wall. It was sad to move on. I had a great six years there, but in the end, both parties decided it was time for a change.
✍️ NEW SIGNING ✍️
Join us in welcoming America TT champion @lawsoncraddock to the team for 2022 & 2023! 🇺🇸
“I will have new challenges, roles, and a different calendar of races, so it should be refreshing for me and for my motivation.”
— Team BikeExchange-Jayco (@GreenEDGEteam) November 5, 2021
VN: How were you told that there would be no contract?
LC: I got the email that I was not going to be offered a contract, so that was a tough pill to swallow. There’s more to it, and it’s not just cut and dry. There is a business side of things, too. In the end, I felt very fortunate to make the roster at BikeExchange-Jayco. It is the best place for me to be right now. It was a bitter end to what I thought was a great relationship with EF.
VN: I remember you were quite emotional during the worlds. What was happening then?
LC: I was very emotional at the worlds. There was a lot of uncertainty. I was just told that I wouldn’t stay at EF, and there had been a couple of teams I had talked to and the deals had fallen through. I just didn’t know if I’d be racing this year or not. Contract years are pretty difficult and very stressful, and then you realize how hard it is to get a contract and stay in the sport. I had that stress hanging over my head during that whole week. We had a good group of guys at the worlds, and we raced well. Having Neilson (Powless) up there at the end of the race contending for gold was amazing. In the back of my mind, I thought if this is the end, there is not a better way to go out.
VN: So this move to BikeExchange-Jayco must feel like a bit of a fresh start?
LC: I’m not as young as I used to be. I’ve been pro for eight years, and though I’m not done yet, I suppose I am a bit closer to the end than I am to the beginning of my career. There are still a handful of things I’d like to accomplish in the sport. Living that double life is pretty hard, then you add kids, and you’re forcing your kids to say goodbye to their friends twice a year, and uprooting their lifestyles. That’s added a different element to my career.
VN: What things do you still hope to check off?
LC: I’d love to win at least a couple of races. I’ve only won one TT, and that was at nationals last year. I’d also love to be part of a team trying to win a grand tour and actually win the grand tour. That would be something so special. The biggest thing in my mind is I feel like the Olympics in 2021 were a massive disappointment for me. I just did not have a good day in Tokyo. I would like to go back and redeem myself. I’d love to go back to the Olympics, hopefully, for Paris, that would be special. I’d also like to give these cobbled classics a shot.
VN: How’s the calendar shaping up?
LC: I’ll start with the Saudi Tour. The Belgian “opening weekend” is also on the list, and that will be my first true crack at it. Racing on the Flanders-style course at worlds made me realize I can hold my own in those kinds of races. We’ll see how things go at Omloop and Kuurne, and maybe I can do a few more of the Belgian classics, like E3 or Gent-Wevelgem.
VN: And the Giro?
LW: I hope so. The course looks incredible. It’s a lot of motivation for me to try to make the Giro team, especially riding for Simon [Yates], someone who’s won a grand tour and you know he can win another one. Just to be on that list is a good feeling. It gives me a boost of confidence. There is a level of belief that I haven’t had in quite a few years.