Craddock will lead Cannondale at Tour of California

Talansky to ride support role as he builds toward the Tour de France

Lawson Craddock will be looking to rekindle old times when he returns with his new team this year to the Tour of California, where he finished third overall in 2014.

Craddock will lead the Cannondale Pro Cycling team in California after moving to the US squad in the offseason following two years with Giant-Alpecin. Craddock made a big splash in California two year ago during his neo-pro season with the Dutch team, coming in third during the punishing Mt. Diablo stage and finishing on the overall podium behind Bradley Wiggins and Rohan Dennis.

The 24-year-old earned his leadership spot this year in California after he exceeded expectations last month at Pais Vasco, where he finished ninth overall.

"I think Lawson earned his place as a real leader for this race in the spring," said Cannondale director Charly Wegelius. "I think he's got the papers in order to really go for the top result. That's going to be our first priority, to support him.

"We had good expectations of Lawson in Pais Vasco, but our expectations were actually lower than his performance," Wegelius said. "Now we're in line. He's ready; the team is ready to support him. This is what he's been working toward with his results."

Supporting Craddock in California will be Andrew Talansky, who is beginning his build up to the Tour de France after taking a short break to train near his home in Napa Valley, Patrick Bevin, Phil Gaimon, Ben King, Alan Marangoni, sprinter Wouter Wippert and 2015 stage winner Toms Skujins.

"Looking at the team, it's easy to tell that we have one of the best overall groups of guys heading to the race," Craddock said. "There won't be a moment that we aren't prepared for.

"Being the leader in California is something that I really enjoy and take true to heart. I have a lot of experience at this race, and I am really looking forward to bringing that to the team to help achieve the best place possible."

Talansky said he has no doubt that his new teammate is up to the challenge of leading Cannondale at the premiere US race.

"The entire team will be looking to race aggressively and do all we can to put Lawson on that top step at the end of the week," said Talansky, who was forced because of illness to abandon last year's Tour of California during the first stage. "If we can do that, and I can come out of the week stronger than I came in, then I will consider the Tour of California a success."

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