Austin cyclist Lawson Craddock, who crashed midway through the first stage of the Tour de France, finished the seventh stage of the race Friday, despite a broken scapula and nine stitches in his eyebrow.
That’s good news for cyclists back in Texas, because for every stage he completes, Craddock has vowed to make a donation to help repair the Alkek Velodrome in Houston, where he learned to race. The facility suffered damage during Hurricane Harvey last year.
Craddock, wearing race number 13 – pinned to his jersey upside down, per tradition, to break the unlucky spell – hit a full water bottle dropped by a cyclist in front of him at a feed zone on Day 1 of the 21-stage, 2,082-mile Tour de France. Without any room to maneuver, he careened off road on his bike, hit a spectator and crashed spectacularly. In typical Craddock style, he picked up his bike, hopped back on and continued, blood streaming down his face. At the finish line, a doctor examined him and found a fractured scapula, or shoulder blade. The cyclist also needed seven stitches in his eyebrow.
“It was a huge mental blow, really. I put a lot of work in just to make it to the Tour this year,” Craddock says. “I knew immediately something wasn’t right, but halfway through the first stage you don’t want to pack up the suitcase and go home.”
That’s when the story gets really good.
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Craddock, who had decided before the tour began that he’d auction off a pair of custom Houston Strong cycling shoes to raise money to repair the Alkek Velodrome, amped up his efforts to motivate himself to push on. He decided to donate $100 for each Tour stage he completed, and invited fans to join him. So far the Go Fund Me effort has raised nearly $70,000 for the Greater Houston Cycling Foundation, which runs the velodrome
“That blows my mind,” Craddock says. “When I get on after every stage and wake up in the morning, I check the donation page. There’s been a lot of suffering in this last week, but seeing the support I’ve received all across the world has kept me going. It just really makes me proud to be in this race and know every pedal stroke I make, every time my shoulder gives me a jolt of pain, it’s all really worth it.”
Craddock covered about 140 miles in Friday’s stage, then plopped onto a table for a vigorous massage and some chiropractic work.
“It definitely doesn’t feel great, but every day has gotten a little better,” he said by phone from the table. “The biggest issue wasn’t the fracture, but the muscles contracting around it every time I move my arm. It’s not ideal, it’s not pain free and it still hurts, but I’ve made leaps and bounds over the last week, and it’s given me a lot of hope I’ll be able to continue the race.”
No telling if he’ll make it all the way to Paris. He’s already fatigued.
“When after a week your body is working overtime to recover a fractured bone, and then add the stress of the Tour de France, it’s not ideal for the race,” he said. “But I’m looking at this as 21 individual races, and waking up in the morning with my only focus being making it to the finish that day.”
First, though, he’s got to make it through Sunday’s Stage 9, the Roubaix stage, which winds over rough and punishing cobblestone streets.
“Your body gets jolted all over the place,” Craddock said. “I haven’t sat down and thought about how to get through that, because the main focus has been finishing the stage at hand. If I can get through tomorrow, that will be a big obstacle to manage those roads.”
Craddock started track racing at Alkek Velodrome in Houston at age 10. He moved to Austin in 2011 and has been racing at the sport’s highest level since 2014. He counts among his career highlights competing at the World Championships in Richmond, Va., in 2015, and winning a stage of a multi-day race on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in 2011, where an official race car clipped him as he crossed the finish line, knocking him down. He still won the stage and saluted from the ground.
He rode in the Tour de France in 2016, becoming the second Texan (after Lance Armstrong), to complete the grueling stage race. He didn’t make it to the Tour last year, but landed a seat on the EF Education First-Drapac team this year, alongside team leader Rigoberto Urán, runner up in last year’s Tour.
“Ambitions were high. The main goal was to win the Tour de France,” Craddock says. “I was looking forward to being part of that.”
To donate to the velodrome fund-raiser, go to https://www.gofundme.com/lc039s-fight-for-paris.
Mellow Johnny’s is also selling a shirt featuring Craddock’s race number, 13, placed upside down. See it here. Profits from the shirt benefit the velodrome.