Lawson Craddock is one of five new riders at Team Giant-Shimano for 2014. The American signed a contract after top ten finishes at the Tour of California and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, although the then-Argos-Shimano team management had already scouted him before those results came about.
“I talked to [general manager] Iwan [Spekenbrink] as early as March 2013. I felt really good vibrations from the team. It was the right fit. This really was a no-brainer to me. This team can help me become the best cyclist I can possibly be,” Craddock told Cyclingnews at the Giant-Shimano team launch in Lelystad, the Netherlands.
The 21-year old Craddock comes from Texas and is proud to be born and raised in the Lone Star State. “I started riding because of my dad. We did tandem rides together. When there was a race one day with a bike as grand prize I entered, and won the bike. It’s good racing in Texas, flat and rolling terrain together.”
Craddock rode in Europe with the USA national team as a junior and was on the podium of the world time trial championships twice, claiming a silver medal behind Luke Durbridge in 2009 and a bronze medal behind Bob Jungels and Jasha Sütterlin in 2010.
“That is still my number one dream, to win a world title. To be the best in the world. I have come so close in the past but I have also been working on my climbing. Our team manager Axel [Merckx] always made fun of me and called me little fatty. I lost some weight last year, especially the baby fat, and it helped me improve on the climbs.”
Craddock was scouted by Bontrager-Trek and signed a contract with Axel Merckx’s development team for his first year as a senior. Bontrager, now rebranded as Bissell Development Team, delivered four riders to the WorldTour this year, with Nathan Brown signing for Garmin-Sharp, Antoine Duchesne landing at Europcar and Jasper Stuyven going to Trek Factory Racing. Previous alumni include Alex Dowsett, Taylor Phinney, Ben King, Jesse Sergent, Ian Boswell and Joe Dombrowski.
“Bontrager-Livestrong was a great team to be with,” Craddock said. “It was all very relaxed. Even before the big races like Tour of California or the USA Pro Challenge, we didn’t have the jitters or something. We were just laughing and having fun together. That attributes to the success of the team.”
With top ten finishes in high-profile races like the Tour of California [8th] and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge [7th], as well as stage wins and second place overall in the prestigious U23 race Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux in the Ardennes, Craddock was a coveted rider on the market.
“For sure. As an American obviously, everyone expected me to go to an American team and it would have been great to race for one of them. But I was not going to choose a team just based on nationality,” he said. “Giant-Shimano practice what they preach when it comes to improving cycling. The fact they have a men’s WorldTour team, one of the top UCI women’s teams as well as a development squad, speaks leaps and bounds.”
Together with fellow Texan Chad Haga and Tom Peterson, Craddock will be the third American on a team with a total of 14 nationalities. He looks forward to learning and improving in his first year on cycling’s global stage.
“Dubai will be my first race and then races like Circuit de la Sarthe and Three-Days of West-Flanders,” he said. “The Tour of California will be one of the main goals of this season. The first half of the year will be about learning and focusing on shorter stage races. I have shown I can be successful in those but I’d love to ride a Grand Tour at the end of the year, to be on the Vuelta squad."
Craddock’s teammate Warren Barguil was very successful in his first year as a professional with two stage wins in the Vuelta a España. Craddock wants to get everything he can out of his first year as a pro. “I want to improve all-round and not have what-ifs or could-have-beens after the season. I am really hoping that I can improve as a cyclist and as an ambassador for the sport.”
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