Lawson Craddock has been waiting a long time to race the Tour de France. The iconic French tour has been in his sights since he first straddled a bicycle top tube in his youth and started the wheels rolling.
The 24-year-old from Texas will get his chance this week when Cannondale Pro Cycling lines up in Manche with the best of the best at the 103rd Tour. Craddock will be riding in support of Pierre Rolland's general classification ambitions, but the team made it clear when it announced the full roster today that Craddock will look for chances to ride for himself.
Craddock has been focused on July since signing with Cannondale in the offseason following two years at Giant-Alpecin. He had a busy winter and spring, putting in 37 race days before taking a break after the Tour of California. Along the way he finished in the top 10 overall at the Tour of the Basque Country, Critérium International and the Tour of California.
He took a break after the Tour of California and spent time at altitude in Nederland, Colorado, with teammate Mike Woods. He joined the team for more training at altitude in Europe in preparation for the Tour.
"The anticipation to race is huge, and I can't wait to get to France and put the race wheels on," Craddock said. "I imagine that the few days leading up to the start I'll have a few more nerves than normal, but at the end of the day it's just another bike race. Once the neutral flag goes down on the first stage I'm sure those nerves will be replaced with pure adrenaline."
Craddock said it's hard to know where to place expectations for his first Tour, but he does expect a bit of culture shock with the size and scope of the race.
"I've heard stories about the Tour with the stress both on and off the bike," he said. "My main goal is to come in and show that I can race consistently at a high level throughout the whole race. Personally, I think that's the next step in my development. If I can do that, and just be able to put the team in the best possible position for success, then I will be happy.
"Just lining up on the start line of the Tour is a dream come true, so if I were able to wear a jersey there, then I think my mind would just explode. That being said, I'm a born-and-bred bike racer, and I line up to every race I do with dreams of winning. I'm not just going to the Tour to be pack fodder."