Lawson Craddock's first trip to Australia for the Tour Down Underended abruptly when the second-year Giant-Alpecin rider crashed hard during the opening kilometres of stage 4. Now the 22-year-old Texan is recovering in Houston and refocusing his efforts on returning in time to defend last year's podium result at the Tour of California in May.
Craddock suffered fractures to his sternum manubrium, one rib and his left wrist in the fall, which occurred as he was navigating a divided road on the outskirts of Glenelg.
“We were on a fairly straightforward downhill descent,” Craddock recently told Cyclingnews from his home in Texas. "Because it's Australia we started on the left-hand side of the road, but I was on the right-hand side of the road descending when I saw a large grate ahead of me. It was sunken into the pavement pretty far. I tried to bunny hop it, but we think my wheel hit the lip and punctured and that catapulted me into the air and over the handlebars.”
The pain on Craddock's right side let him know immediately that he would not be jumping back into the race that day, suspecting initially that he had broken his collarbone. But a quick check by a paramedic in the ambulance that would take him to the hospital revealed the fracture to his sternum.
Craddock spent three days in a local hospital before being released for the 15-hour flight home, which was made more bearable because his team arranged with the airline for him to occupy an entire row of seats.
"I took some painkillers and slept through most of the trip," Craddock admitted.
Now Craddock faces what is the biggest obstacle of his young career so far. Aside from a jet-ski-related compression fracture that occurred in the off-season when he was 17, Craddock has suffered mostly only road rash from his cycling mishaps. Recovering from multiple broken bones is certainly something new, but he is trying to keep a positive attitude.
Despite having to miss the series of Spanish one-day races that were next on his calendar, along with planned starts at Volta a Catalunya and Pais Vasco, Craddock is confident he can return to racing in time to put in some quality training and several races before returning to California, where he was third overall last year.
He is currently sporting a cast on his wrist, and doctors have said he'll need to wear it for three weeks. His sternum fracture could take up to six weeks to heal, however, and could prove the biggest barrier to maintaining the early season fitness he spent building this winter.
“We'll try and set up the trainer so it doesn't put pressure on my sternum so that I can at least spin the legs,” said Craddock, who figures he will still be able to get two-and-one-half months of training – and possibly some racing – before the California tour.
He's also hopeful that the forced time off of the bike over the next month or so could leave him fresher for the end of the season, when he'd like take another crack at finishing the Vuelta a España.
“Honestly, I was pretty toasted at the end of the season last year,” he said. “I don't think that will be a problem this year.”