I met Lawson Craddock tonight and was impressed. Not because he’s a hero or did something heroic (which he denies being or doing). But because he’s a human being who rides a bike and overcame adversity to accomplish his goal. And he has thus far maintained what seems to be an authenticity, humility, humor and quiet strength. And also because he’s community-minded, aware of his good fortune and support he has from friends and family and the wider world. Many of those things resonate, inspire or apply to me, and maybe to you too. So as so-called heroes go, he’s very relatable. That plus of course he’s a kick ass cyclist and a nice guy to boot.
The Real Deal on Two Wheels
Tonight’s event was hosted by Mellow Johnny’s (known as MJ’s to locals), the bike shop started by Lance Armstrong. It opened 10 years ago, but a year later, Lawson moved to town from Houston and his first stop was at the shop. So he’s been a customer and fan ever since. During his Tour de France, the management decided to support his fundraising effort for the Alkek Velodrome (that he trained on as a youth in Houston) by making a limited edition t-shirt with the #13 upside down on it. (This was his actual race number, and tradition has one of the two labels turned upside down.) It turns out they raised $30,000 for his fundraising drive to repair the bike track! Looks like you can still get yours at MJ’s online store.
There were easily 200 people in the shop and they weren’t there just for the free little bar-b-que sandwiches and sparkling water or pay beer. Lawson loves the beef ribs at Iron Works, and Karbach beer. In fact his wife brought some over to Paris for him to enjoy after finishing the Tour. He stood in the rear for a while, watching the crowd. He looked a little amused and a tad nervous. I think he’s getting used to the attention but still may be a little embarrassed by it all. Then an announcer came to a little stage and called him up to big applause and cheers. I had biked down to the shop with mostly retired reclusive rider Saurabh, who said he was glad he attended.
A guy came up and introduced himself as having a podcast. I didn’t catch his name or but here’s another one on Life in the Peloton by Mitch Docker, a British rider on his bike Team Education First – Drapac – Cannondale. (When I find it, I’ll share it here.)
The questions revolved around his crash but then into other aspects of racing in the Tour, life on the road, about the Alkek Velodrome fundraising effort, and other things. The best line of the night (that I caught) was this one:
“There has to be a better way of getting more followers” (than crashing).
There were other interesting things he told the rapt audience. For example, he would be following a sprinter as Lanterne Rouge (last on the race). And then that sprinter would quit riding or missed the cut off time and was out the next day. And that really ticked him off because he had just figured out how to do enough to stick with that particular sprinter.
He took a few questions but I didn’t really have one good one; I had lots to say but not really well planned out. But then it was over and people mobbed him for pictures or to sign t-shirts. I thought about asking him to sign my jersey, and then I realized, not this one — it is MY jersey.
Behind the Scenes
It was interesting to hear him talk about the behind the scenes things discussed by the Tour announcers but from his perspective. For example, he was originally told that the woman he crashed into was OK. But an angry person on Twitter (isn’t that almost all of them?) was a friend of the woman, so he reached out. Her name was Natasha and the impact and fall had caused her to get a broken collar bone and a concussion. He was unhappy to hear about that, but it was the team management trying to keep him focused on finishing the ride.
Another facet of the whole experience for him was dealing with the emotions. Naturally it was extremely stressful to go through the wreck itself, then the medical attention. But there wasn’t time to do much besides eating, sleeping, and keep going in the race.
After the initial interview, he teared up thinking about all the work he put in to get back to the Tour after a not so great 2017. Then he made the team, the Tour started, and he crashed. So he pretty much just had to gut it out. But the last night of the Tour before the final stage into Paris, he realized he had done it. That was a big realization and moment of relief and release of tension.
And Then It Was Time to Ride On
As the event wound down, retired rider Saurabh and I were near the end of the line. When the time came, we only chatted for a minute. I mentioned his flyby from the other day and that I have a blog (pictured on the back of my jersey) and wondered if he’d consider letting me interview him for it. He didn’t know what to make of all that, and I wasn’t really prepared. But I told him I watched the whole Tour and him in it, and was inspired, and also congratulated him on becoming a father soon, and he thanked me for that. (He had joked his wife was either pregnant or eating too many tacos or something. I congratulated her too.) I’m not used to celebrity and maybe was a little star struck but more like, well, that interviewer sure asked most of my questions.
Then I realized something: this blog is a lot about me and my struggles to ride a bike, and Lawson is in a different realm. The profiles I’m doing (like about David Walker – stay tuned for more!) are about other regular amateur riders, some who do great things, but aren’t Lawson. He is not really the right person for this blog, believe it or not. And that gave me some perspective. Should this blog ever get noticed by alot of people, then maybe I will merit getting to interview the big name celebrities of the moment, even if they are only bike famous.
Meanwhile, I’m happy to have met and heard him talk, and that’s enough for me. The lesson for me was to meet your heroes, and learn from them and their qualities, but you still have to be your own person. Then I went out for an 18-mile ride, making for a 34-mile day. Must be the bib shorts. Or maybe inspiration from the 145th top rider in the world. He’s a pretty cool dude, for sure.
P.S. Thanks to Sheree from ViewFromTheBack.com in France for the tip that he was speaking!
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