When it comes to a contract year, the riders who haven't already scored major results face immense pressure to show themselves in order to keep their jobs. It's an unfortunate result of the sponsor-driven model of pro cycling, and one that often puts young riders in the all-too-common situation of training so hard in the off-season that they come into the year already overcooked. That's what happened to Cannondale-Drapac's Lawson Craddock, and he's at the Colorado Classic hoping to turn around a dismal year.
"I had big ambitions for the spring. Races like Liege-Bastogne-Liege, [Vuelta al] Pais Vasco and then turning the focus to the Tour de France," Craddock told Cyclingnews before the start of the race in Colorado Springs.
"Maybe I was a little too motivated in the early part of the year, I trained a bit too much, dieted a little too hard and it caught up with me when the spring rolled around. For my biggest races I was sitting on my couch watching it on TV. That was definitely rough."
Watching his team score second overall in the Tour de France with Rigoberto Uran, a stage win and two days in the mountains classification was especially difficult. "Especially with how they rode, I'm really bummed I missed out on that one."
Craddock's last attempted comeback was at the Tour of California, which was followed by a trip to the Tour de Suisse. But he dropped out on stage 4 and hadn't raced since.
"It was one of those things where you keep trying to come back and you come back too fast and too hard, and you have to take a step back again. It hasn't been the easiest year. There's been a lot of stuff that's made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to make a living off of pedaling a bike."
The opening stage in Colorado Springs was another rough one for Craddock, who lost contact on the penultimate lap and finished with a small group 10:23 behind. But it's not surprising for the Texas native, who did no altitude training before coming to the race. His goals are focused a bit further down the road to Tour of Alberta and the WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal. In Colorado, he's strictly in a support role.
"With Rigo coming from the Tour and [Alex] Howes really motivated, having trained hard for this race and riding really well, I think it will be more of a support role.
"I'm motivated for the rest of this season. Fortunately the seasons keep getting longer and longer."
When asked about his contract situation, Craddock, 25, said he would like to stay with Cannondale-Drapac if they'll have him. "But I also understand that there are other things that have to come into effect."
If not, Craddock might look to the Pro Continental ranks, which will include two new American teams next year, Rally Cycling and Axeon Hagens Berman.
For the moment, Craddock is just happy to be racing his bike for a living.
"Hopefully it's a long career for me and I have enough time to turn it around in the future."