EF Education First-Drapac's Lawson Craddock has made it to Paris having battled, and beaten, the injuries he sustained during a crash on the opening stage of the Tour de France more than three weeks ago.
Finishing in the historically prestigious last place as the race's 'lanterne rouge' more by necessity than desire, the 26-year-old American used his suffering for good by pledging $100 for each stage that he could finish to raise funds for the Alkek Velodrome in Houston, where he raced as a junior.
The velodrome was flooded and badly damaged during Hurricane Harvey in September 2017, and Craddock decided to pledge the money to assist in restoring the outdoor track, hoping that others might join him in the fundraising effort.
As he reached Paris, that figure stood at $195K, as others had indeed been inspired by his story of suffering over the three weeks and added their own contributions, and the figure was set to reach the $200K mark as the significance of his achievement continued to be recognised.
Craddock – wearing race number 13 – crashed on stage 1 of the Tour between Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile and Fontenay-Le-Comte, suffering a deep cut above his eye that required stitches, but also, even more importantly and painfully, fracturing his shoulder blade.
While he managed to finish the opening stage, it seemed unlikely that he would be able to continue in the race, but the American has confounded the voice of reason – and stunned the medical profession – and has not only made it all the way to Paris, but has raised a huge amount of money in the process.
Even before the Tour had begun, Craddock had made public his intention to auction off the special black-and-white 'Houston Strong' cycling shoes he'd worn during the Tour of California and the Critérium du Dauphiné this season, but his crash during the Tour – while painful – had served to raise awareness even further, and soon began to attract interest, and, more importantly, donors.
"It's been an incredibly testing three weeks," Craddock said in a team press release. "I've pushed myself well beyond my limits. There were many times during the race that I wasn't sure if I could make it, but the encouragement and generosity the whole world has shown me motivated me every step of the way. To reach the finish line in Paris has been incredibly emotional."
EF Education First-Drapac team boss Jonathan Vaughters had nothing but praise for the way his rider had battled on to finish the race.
"It was a very selfless thing Lawson did – to stay in the race and to raise money for the velodrome he grew up racing on," said Vaughters. "In the end, it was down to Lawson's grit and his determination. He did that with a lot of panache and a lot of honour."