The first Texan to ride in the Tour de France since 2005, Gregory “Lawson” Craddock (Twitter, Strava) who is from Houston but lives here in Austin, Texas first appeared in the TDF in 2016. Returning after a not great 2017, on Saturday during on Stage 1, he crashed due to a water bottle in the road. Diagnosed with a fractured scapula and gashes on his forehead and elbow, he received treatment en route and finished the ride. After recovering some on Saturday and a tearful interview declaring he had come too far to give up so easily, he rode again Sunday and again today. He’s using his misfortune to inspire others and for charity, too. A Dude Abikes salutes his grit and gumption, so I had to give him a shout out from my little speck of the internet. Go Lawson!
Le Tour de France Is Not for Wimps
The Tour de France is over three weeks (with two rest days) from July 7-29, 2018. It is the 105th race and covers 3,351 kilometers, or 2,082 miles. Professional cycling is not followed nearly as much in the U.S. as in Europe or other areas where the sport is very popular (Australia, Colombia).
Pro riders look like a stiff wind might blow them away, but they are tough as nails. Lawson proved this by crashing and not giving up (so far — his injuries could worsen and no one could argue if he had to withdraw). Other riders have crashed and been knocked out of previous races. Today a rider withdrew due to being sick. But Lawson just keeps going.
Getting Back on the Horse: Impossible & Inevitable
Face and other body parts bloodied, left shoulder in excruciating pain, and who knows what else, he got patched up and remounted his bike and just kept riding. He was listing badly to port, to favor his damaged left shoulder. Teammates came back to help him, at least one riding with a free arm on his back for some time. Competitors gave him words of support and encouragement. His team manager in the car and in his earpiece, urged him on. The fans cheered. He finished dead last of 176 riders and lost eight minutes, but within the time limit so was not disqualified. The point is, he gutted it out and finished.
Now, I have had a wreck that slammed me hard to the ground (thanks shitty City of Austin sidewalks!). Some body parts really hurt for weeks, took alot of skin off, and had to ride home a few miles. But I did not break anything (that I know of), or require stitches, or have to ride not 35 miles as he did. But I can relate a little bit.
Let me tell you, getting back on the horse is both a very hard thing to do both physically and psychologically after a crash. However, not remounting is really not an option unless you’re really prevented from it medically. My injuries were serious and not the same, but I can tell you, this guy has testicles of steel.
Perseverance, Courage and Guts
What made him break down when interviewed after the ride was that he had prepared so much and missed the tour in 2017. He didn’t want to let down his team, sponsors, friends, or family, either. All the training he did prepared him for the insanely rigourous bike race, but one can never prepare for a crash. Although surely it was not his first, it’s also possible he suffered a slight concussion. Certainly he had a big shock and his pride was injured. But riding a bike is his full-time job, so there was alot more impetus for him to continue. With one less rider allowed this year on the teams (eight instead of nine), it would be that much harder for the team to succeed withouthim. But he kept going not just to please his employers or support the team leader (last year’s second place overall, Colombian Rigoberto Uran), but also because he loves cycling. That’s what he does.
As the NBC Sports Gold annoucers Matthew Keenan and Robbie McEwen (a former three-time winner of the sprint classification) said, contorting his body on the bike, not being able to sleep well due to pain and the road rash, and possible infection are all things he will have to fight through. It will get worse before it gets better. Fortunately, today was the team time trial, so a shorter ride. But after that, he still got back out there and did another short training ride. If I’m not conveying how incredible this is, consider watching some of the Tour.
Even that does not give an accurate picture of the effort involved. The motorcycles following along with cameras are going the same speed. They average 25 miles over hills, valleys and the freakin’ Alps and Pyreenees for three weeks. There’s all kinds of weather, insane fans lining the road, crashes possible all the time, possibility of illness from food or other things, losing weight despite eating 8,000 calories a day, and all other kinds of difficulties. So I have the utmost respect for Tour riders. Ask Sheree, who is a bike rider and chef who lives in France and writes the View from the Back blog was at the opening stages, can attest to this. (Check out her blog here: View from the Back.)
Turning Tragedy into Charity
A further testament to Lawson’s character is that he is using his crash to inspire others and to raise funds for the Greater Houston Cycling Foundation. Their Aktek Velodrome helps young cyclists have a place to learn, train and develop as bike riders. It gets damaged in the heat and was damaged in Hurricane Harvey. He decided to challenge himself and others to “Fight for Paris.” He is donating $100 for every stage he finishes. So far several hundred other people have too, raising almost $30,000 for the cause. You can donate here on his GoFundMe page (note that it’s listed by first name, Gregory Craddock).
Here is his pitch. If you are in a position to donate, please consider doing so.
A lot of hard work and sacrifice went into making EF Education First – Drapac powered by Cannondale’s Tour de France team for 2018. I came into the race extremely motivated for a great month of racing. Unfortunately, this all went pear shaped when I crashed during the first stage fracturing my scapula and having a cut above my eye that needed stitches. I fought on for the next 50 miles to finish the stage before an X-Ray revealed my injuries. Not being one to give in, I told myself that I wouldn’t stop the race unless it was absolutely necessary. As extra motivation I have decided to give $100 to the Greater Houston Cycling Foundation for each stage that I finish. I have truly been blown away by how many people have offered to donate as well. It has been overwhelming and extremely motivating to continue this race.
This money will be directed towards the Alkek Velodrome which is where I got my start in cycling. The outdoors concrete velodrome has suffered during the Texas heats, and especially by Hurricane Harvey in September of 2017. Please help us put them back on track, and support the next generation of cycling! Everything and anything helps and is greatly appreciated.
Thank you, Lawson, for your example of commitment, courage and perseverance in the face of adversity. Rubber side down for the rest of the Tour, brother!
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