Lawson Craddock returned to Austin this week after competing in his first Tour de France. Photo by Graham Watson

hat’s one Tour de France in the books for Lawson Craddock.

The 24-year-old professional cyclist returned to Austin this week after finishing what’s been called the hardest endurance sporting event in the world.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Craddock, 24, who lives and trains in Austin during the winter months. “It was humbling. It’s a very difficult race.”

Iron Works Barbecue, 100 Red River Street, will host a party to celebrate Craddock’s accomplishments starting at 7 p.m. Saturday. The public is invited to the free event.

Lawson Craddock relaxes with his family after a stage of the Tour de France. From left are father Tom, fiance Chelsie, Lawson, and mother Ellen Craddock. Family photo

The Tour de France spans 21 days and covers more than 2,000 miles. Craddock calls competing in it the fulfillment of a lifetime dream.

“The race itself is on a whole different level,” he said. “There’s a reason it’s the hardest endurance sporting event in the world. There are a lot of highs and lows over a three-week race and I definitely experienced some of that.”

The cyclist started off well at the Tour, but crashed about halfway through it. “I landed hard on my knee and finished the last person on the road one day,” he said. “After about two weeks, a crash takes a toll and your body stops recovering.”

He says suffered through the last week of the race, but expects to return to it in the future.

“This year was a big step for me, getting to the race, making it through and finishing,” Craddock said. “They say you’ve got to ride the Tour once before you can really truly race it. I’m happy to get my first Tour under my belt.”

He’ll train in Austin for the next few weeks before heading to Canada to compete in the Tour of Alberta, which starts Sept. 1. Central Texas, he says, offers some of the best training in the country.

“During the winter, Texas has some of the tamest weather. It allows you to be on the bike almost every day and not get snowed in. It never gets really too cold to ride,” he said. “And the cycling community in Austin is incredible.”

During winter training, he rides an average of six days a week, pedaling 80 to 100 miles a day. One of his favorite routes? Pedaling to Wimberley to get breakfast tacos.