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Craddock laser-focused on US Pro road race and Olympics

Lawson Craddock (EF Education-Nippo)
Lawson Craddock (EF Education-Nippo) (Image credit: getty Images)

Lawson Craddock (EF Education-Nippo) took a big step towards his goal of a medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games by winning the time trial at the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships on Thursday.

Craddock finished the 34.9-kilometre course in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in a time of 41:33, 17 seconds faster than silver medalist Chad Haga (Team DSM). Two of his EF Education-Nippo teammates finished close behind, Tejay van Garderen 29 seconds back in third and Will Barta 59 seconds back in fifth.

“It’s extremely special any time you get to represent the US and getting to race in the stars-and-stripes is going to be a big honour of mine, and something I’m looking forward to for the next year,” Craddock said after the race. When reminded that his last national title came just over a decade ago when he took the US Junior TT crown, “now I feel old.”

The last time Craddock competed at the US Pro Road Championships was in 2013, when he took silver in the time trial. He will now carry the title of national champion when he competes in his first Olympic Games next month, which he said is special.

“Making the Olympics was a big goal mine for, well before my professional career started. And I was able to realize that this year and that’s such an incredible opportunity and something I can take with me for the rest of my life,” said Craddock. “Things are definitely starting to click this year for me, and I’m excited to move forward and get the year going.

“Sunday is also a big target, so I didn’t just come here to focus on the TT. I do the road race and then I’m back to Europe with the family on Monday. Just laser-focused for Tokyo from there.”

Next will be the pro road race on Sunday, where Craddock will line up again with his teammates van Garderen and Barta as well as defending US Pro Road Champion Alex Howes.

The 29-year-old has spent most of his career in Europe, first with Team Giant for two seasons and then the EF programme since 2016. Most trips to the US were solely to race a UCI stage race such as Tour of California or Tour of Utah. 

“I haven’t been able to really race the national championships that much since turning professional, I’m always in Europe this time of year. Beginning this year I wanted to come back and give it a crack. When that spot opened up on my schedule this year, it’s been my focus for the last couple of months.”

Craddock showed great form on the road at the recent Criterium du Dauphine by wearing the blue polka-dot mountains classification jersey for several days, before a crash on the final day kept him away from taking additional points and he finished second for the honour. He only had two TTs in racing this year leading up to the national championships, both top 20s at the Dauphiné and UAE Tour. It has been two years since he was sixth in the race against the clock at the World Championships.

“It’s been a tough year, a lot of reasons for me a lot of things just didn’t go my way. To be able to come here and win the time trial is extremely special to me,” Craddock said. 

“2020 was definitely a tough year, but it was a tough year for everyone. I can take some good stuff from it also like spending time with the family and learning to slow down a bit and enjoy things that I didn’t get an opportunity to do before. It’s been a long road, and kind of start building again to show the world what I am capable of.”

The Texan has spent over a decade in the pro peloton. He began with silver (2009) and bronze (2010) medals at Junior Worlds in the time trial. Back in the US, he took double titles as a 19-year-old junior in the time trial and road race in 2010, then a couple of silver medals the next two years. 

“Without USAC’s development programme I’m not sitting here, for sure. Having USA Cycling there to support riders at a young age and helping them progress makes it a hell of a lot easier,” Craddock said.

“The most special thing I have is what I have at home with my wife and two kids. They’re in Europe right now and unfortunately couldn’t be here with me. That’s the number one priority for me, but also making the Olympics was a big goal of mine well before my professional career started and I was able to realize that this year. That’s such an incredible opportunity and something I can take with me for the rest of my life. Things are definitely starting to click this year for me this year.”

Jackie Tyson

Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in  Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).