Craddock shows climbing strength at Pais Vasco

Lawson Craddock (Cannondale) has shown that he is capable of climbing with the best in the world after finishing ninth on a challenging stage 4 at Pais Vasco. It was no surprise to the American, who said he knew he was coming into the season strong.

“I wouldn’t say that I’ve surprised myself,” Craddock said in an interview following the stage finish in Orio. “I knew coming into this year what I'm capable of, and so far this spring I think I have shown others the same.

“It’s a direct result of the hard work that I’ve put in over the offseason as well as the faith put in me by the team and my coaches. I still have a lot of improvement, though, and I look forward to taking the next step in my career.”

Craddock burst onto the cycling scene in 2010 when he won three junior national titles in the time trial, criterium and road race, and at that time received a tip on Twitter from Lance Armstrong as the next big rider in cycling.

Promising results with the development team Bontrager landed him a WorldTour contract with Giant-Alpecin. Last year, he helped his teammate Tom Dumoulin to a sixth place overall at the Vuelta a Espana. He also took a podium performance in a stage at the Tour of Poland and top 10 in a stage at the Tour of California.

Looking for a fresh start with Cannondale in 2016, he’s had strong performances, finishing sixth overall at Criterium International and 11th overall at International La Provence.

He’s been riding with the GC contenders at Pais Vasco, and after his ninth place in Orio, is sitting in 13th overall, 21 seconds behind leader Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo).

“We did the same finishing circuit last year at Pais Vasco, so I knew what was coming,” Craddock said. “With the rain, position was crucial going into the final circuit, and the guys all did a perfect job of keeping me safe and up there.

"From the moment we hit the final two climbs it was all just suffering as long as I could. Fortunately, I was able to stay in contact with the group of favorites over the top, and be there in the finale.”

The small group over the top of the climbs included Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Sergio Henao (Team Sky), among others, all watching one another and trading blows on the steep slopes of the Aia, and the final small kicker toward the finish line.

In the end, it was Samuel Sanchez (BMC) who got away and powered toward the finish line with the stage win. He was followed closely by chasers Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), also on the podium. Craddock finish with the same time in ninth place.

“My result today was a testament to how the whole team has been riding all week. From the gun today we were extremely attentive with Pierre [Rolland] and Mike [Woods] jumping into the dangerous moves. There was even a moment when there were only 30 guys left in the front group, and we had five still in there,” Craddock said.

“I’m just glad that I could help repay the incredible work that the guys have been putting in over the last couple of days.”

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