As Giant-Alpecin go from strength to strength in the Vuelta a Espana, leading the race overall with Tom Dumoulin, their young American rider Lawson Craddock has found himself in the thick of the action - and enjoying the challenge, too.
Craddock, taking part in the large breakaway on stage 10, told Cyclingnews before the start in Valencia that Giant-Alpecin had come to the Vuelta looking for a good run of success but that the team’s dream start to the race with Dumoulin was far beyond expectations.
“He came in after crashing out of the Tour and you could definitely tell he was putting the work in and it’s showed in the Vuelta,” Craddock tells Cyclingnews. “So it’s really exciting being a part of it.
“Our main goals pre-race were winning sprints with John [Degenkolb] and looking for opportunities on the harder stages and that’s kind of shifted a little bit.
“We’re still looking to win a couple of stages with John, but I don’t think any of us expected this [degree of success] coming into this race.”
The 23-year-old Texan, who has an all rounder’s role in his second Vuelta, ranging from working for Dumoulin on the climbs to supporting Degenkolb on the flatter stages, says the team are keeping their feet on the ground despite the top results so far.
“There’s definitely a really long way to go and I’d say the Vuelta” - in terms of the fight for a final general classification result - “really starts after the first rest day," he points out. "But we’re very motivated to keep fighting for more stage wins.”
Stage 11 and its six classified climbs in 138 kilometres is looming ever larger on the Vuelta peloton’s radar, and Craddock is no exception. “I don’t know the mountains, I’ve never been to Andorra. But I’ve heard people talking about the stage and I’ve heard it’ll be absolutely ruthless. For sure, I’ve heard horror stories ever since they came out with the route seven months ago.”
On a personal level, Craddock is getting through with only minor issues to date. “I went down in the big pile-up in Murcia two days ago, fortunately it wasn’t too bad," he said.
“I hit my hip pretty hard and kind of suffered yesterday [Sunday], but it’s actually a lot better than I expected. Hopefully I’ll be able to fight through today [Monday] and then really recover tomorrow, get fresh for that Andorra stage.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.