They say that finishing a Grand Tour can change you physically, and Lawson Craddock is hoping that his first Grand Tour finish will carry into 2016. Craddock was part of the Giant-Alpecin team that supported Tom Dumoulin when he became a surprise GC contender at the Vuelta a España last season.
The pressure was high on the team but a year after calling it quits on stage 14, Craddock was able to complete his first three-week stage race. The 23-year-old has just embarked on his third season as a professional and is looking to bring his new-found strength into his racing.
“I’ve already noticed a huge difference just in training. You tend to blow the motor in a way that you don’t get anywhere else when you finish a three-week race,” Craddock told Cyclingnews at the Tour de San Luis. “You just push your body to limits and take the next step. That’s what I knew coming into it, that if I was able to finish then I would be able to progress, and make the next step in my career. I was happy to be there all the way to the finish, and I am really looking forward to taking it into this year.”
Craddock turned professional with Giant-Alpecin in 2014 after showing some promising results the previous season, including top 10 finishes at the Tour of California and the USA Pro Challenge. In his opening season with the since German-registered squad, he reaffirmed that promise when he finished on the podium at the Tour of California. His second year didn’t go as well with a heavy crash at the Tour Down Under, but there were some good signs during the Tour de Pologne.
After completing his apprenticeship as a neo-professional with the Giant-Alpecin team, Craddock has moved onto new pastures with Cannondale Pro Cycling. Craddock had come close to signing for Jonathan Vaughters’ team before but it didn’t come to anything until last year. “I’ve talked with JV a lot of times during contract years before, about possibly joining his programme, but it just never worked out,” said Craddock.
“I was in a contract year with Giant, and I really got to know his programme and saw the team is run really well, especially from living with Nate Brown in Girona. That was good for me to see, and having a look at my career and where it was and what team is going to provide me with the best opportunities to take the next step in my progression. For me, I thought that Cannondale was that team, and I’ve enjoyed it so far.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time on [Giant-Alpecin], they really helped me out. They gave me a lot of really good opportunities. I don’t think that I would have got into many other races as I did. That was awesome, being part of the Vuelta squad where Tom had the red jersey up until the last stage. That was really exciting. It was huge to be a part of and they really helped me to progress. I learned about the sport and the lifestyle on the WorldTour, and I’ve got a lot thank them for.
Craddock appears to have settled in very easily to his new surroundings, possibly helped by the common language and nationality. Craddock is currently competing in his first race for the team at the Tour de San Luis. He will return to his home in Texas briefly before heading to Europe for the Tour du Haut Var and the new French event, the Tour Cycliste International La Provence.
He will then target his first Paris-Nice and the Vuelta al País Vasco before going back to the United States for the Tour of California. Craddock is hoping that he can put the bad luck of last season behind him and enjoy a season of solid performances.
“For me, I just hope to be more consistent all year and showing that I can ride at a really high level for a big majority of the year. I’d also like to pull out some good results at some of these week-long stage races that are suited towards me. I know that if I can put the work in that I know I can the chances are there for me to succeed,” Craddock said.
“A big part of what the Vuelta showed me last year was that I can really race for three weeks at a really high level, so that was a really big confidence boost for me. Maybe in the future, I’d like to be targeting those but that’s years down the road. I’m just trying to progress naturally and get some good solid results and some bigger races down the line.”