Lawson Craddock (Giant-Alpecin) cut a despondent figure on Thursday after cramping up and crossing the line four minutes back on the first real climbing stage of this year’s Tour de Pologne. One day on, though, the picture is decidedly different.
On the queen stage of the race, the 23-year-old stayed with the top climbers and GC riders across the eight category 1 climbs and ended up beating all but two of them.
“Yesterday [Thursday] was tough. I haven’t raced since Dauphiné and now it’s a month and a half, two months on. I did a lot of training before Poland but didn’t quite have the race fitness, so I knew a 223-kilometre stage, especially with how hard the parcours was, was going to be difficult. It’s been a while since I cramped, and I think just not having the race fitness was a big factor,” Craddock told Cyclingnews after a trip to the podium in Bukowina Tatrzańska.
“But I fought through in the end and was able to recover today. I had a lot of help from my team, they fought as long as they could, put me in a good position. I’m just really happy to bounce back and be able to make up for it. In this sport you have to have a short memory so I put yesterday in the past and focused on today and I’m just really glad it worked out.”
Craddock wasn’t just hanging in there; he was clearly feeling good and attacked from the select group over the top of the penultimate climb, dragging Mikel Nieve and Ben Hermans with him and staying clear for a brief period. In the end Sergio Henao crossed the line solo for the win but Craddock still had the legs to take third in what was a hugely encouraging day.
“Obviously, with the finishing climb as hard as it was, I knew it could be tough but I was feeling really good the entire last lap. I was kind of surprised to be with Aru and those guys, and once they slowed down we just wanted to keep the speed up,” said the American.
“So yeah, it’s the first time I’ve really been able to be up there with those guys, so [with the attack] I got a little bit too excited maybe, but it’s all learning, it’s all fun.”
Craddock caught the eye with third overall at the Tour of California last year in his first season at WorldTour level with Giant-Shimano but things didn’t run so smoothly after that. He abandoned the Vuelta a España on stage 14, starting a run of DNFs that carried through to the end of the season and into the new one at the Tour Down Under and Volta a Catalunya. He got things back on track, though, and there’s every indication he’s on course to put in a strong showing at the race he has been looking forward to for nearly a year now.
“Hopefully I’ll be lining up at the Vuelta – it’s been my big season goal since dropping out of it last year. It seems like I’m on a good wave for it,” he said.
“I imagine it’ll be a little different [to Poland]. The other guys that are here will be fighting it out for the overall win, whereas maybe I’ll just be targeting a couple of stages. Today was definitely a big confidence boost anyway.”