Aside from Geraint Thomas' win and the usual slurry of crashes and abandons, one of the most compelling stories of the 2018 Tour de France was Lawson Craddock's battle to finish the three-week race after breaking his clavicle on the opening day.
The 27-year-old American battled through the pain, using publicity from the effort to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the velodrome in Texas where he started racing. It was no wonder, then, that the EF Education First rider was intensely focused on returning to the French Grand Tour this year to have another crack.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. EF Education First passed over Craddock, taking a roster the team believed was best suited to support the GC ambitions of Rigoberto Uran and Tejay van Garderen.
Craddock was obviously heartbroken.
"Initially, it was very disappointing," he said Monday after finishing second in the Tour of Utah prologue time trial.
"I put a lot into trying to make the Tour de France team this year, and I felt like I could have been a great addition. That’s not to say that they didn’t take a strong team, but it just goes to show you the true depth that we have at EF Education First."
Fortunately, the rider had strong family support to help put the disappointment into perspective.
"It was extremely disappointing, but it only took about the drive home and seeing my daughter smiling at me to get over it," he said. of his daugyter, Caroline, who is less than a year old. "I was pretty fortunate to spend the month at home with my family back in Texas. That was really nice. I haven’t spent a summer at home relaxing like that in quite a long time."
Craddock then refocused his efforts on the second half of the season, starting with the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah this week and a hoped-for berth on the team’s roster for the Vuelta a Espana, which starts August 24.
"Obviously, when you have disappointment like that in any kind of sport or any professional environment, you want to come back as strong as possible, so I put a lot of effort into training in Texas and then coming up to Utah a couple weeks early and taking a look at a couple of the stages and hopefully turning my focus to the Vuelta if I can make that team," he said.
Craddock took his first steps toward making EF Education First’s Vuelta team Monday with a runner-up result in the 5.3km prologue time trial at altitude at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, which sits at 2,335 metres.
Craddock covered the up-and-down course in 8:43, six seconds slower than winner James Piccoli (Elevate-KHS) and tied on time with Romanian time trial champion Serghei Tvetcov (Worthy Pro Cycling).
"It was a really tough course, and the altitude really makes a difference," he said after the stage. "You have to take that into account when you’re preparing for a race like this, preparing your equipment and your pacing strategy.
"For me, I knew maybe it was a bit better to be conservative in the first part of the climb and then really lay it down over the last kilometre-and-a-half of climbing. So that’s what I did. I think I paced it pretty well. It took about an hour and a half for me to feel like I wasn’t going to vomit. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to win. So congrats to James and everyone else out there."
The Tour of Utah continues Tuesday with a 135.8km stage that starts and finishes in North Logan City, where a sprint finish is expected.