EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale’s Lawson Craddock became the first American to earn the unlikely honor of “Lanterne Rouge” when he crossed the Tour de France finish line in Paris on Sunday. The title, an informal one, is awarded to the rider that finishes in last place on the general classification.
The Texan has occupied the final spot on the leader’s board for the duration of the race. He crashed on the opening stage when he hit a water bottle and bounced off the road. Craddock climbed back on the back and finished the stage.
“It’s been an incredibly testing three weeks,” said Craddock. “I’ve pushed myself well beyond my limits. There were many times during the race that I wasn’t sure if I could make it, but the encouragement and generosity the whole world has shown me motivated me every step of the way. To reach the finish line in Paris has been incredibly emotional.”
Craddock went straight from the stage one finish line in Fontenay-le-Comte to the Tour’s mobile x-ray truck. Diagnosis? Stitches required for a laceration above the left eye and a broken scapula.
He broke down in tears when the media questioned him following x-rays.
When Craddock expressed a desire to stay in the race, the team rallied around him to help make it happen. He required chiropractic sessions three times a day, regular consultation with the team’s medical staff, and assistance from team directors and his teammates en route to the finish line.
While the team’s efforts largely addressed Craddock’s body, the Texan knew he needed something to hold onto to address the mental challenges. Lying in bed the night after his crash, he landed onto what he came to describe “a way to turn a negative in a positive.” He would donate $100 to Alkek Velodrome for every stage he finished. Craddock grew up racing on the Houston track that was hard-hit by Hurricane Harvey.
He sent out a tweet announcing his intentions and challenged others to match his donation. He went to sleep shortly after sharing his plans and woke to hundreds of responses – a choir of “how do we donate, too?”
Craddock set up a GoFundMe in response. At the time of publication, he has raised $195,000 for his home velodrome.
“Without the fundraiser, I probably would have gone home a couple of weeks ago,” said Craddock. “Especially in the days immediately after the crash and in the recovery process, I drew a lot of motivation from the campaign. It’s going to change the future of the track.”
Craddock’s story of strength, courage and positivity resonated around the globe. Fans used #CraddockWatch on Twitter to trade notes on Craddock’s location throughout any given stage. Media requests poured in. Craddock regularly featured in VeloNews, CyclingNews, CyclingTips, Bicycling, and SBS, but his story reached far further than the cycling world. He gave interviews to ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Wall Street Journal, NPR and CBS Evening News.
“It was a very selfless thing Lawson did – to stay in the race and to raise money for the velodrome he grew up racing on,” said #PinkArgyle CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Across the board, the team was also very selfless in supporting him on a day-to-day basis to get him through the race. From the first day, when he broke the scapula, from Pierre Rolland opening up gels for him to feed him at the very back to the incredible work our chiro did.
“In the end, it was down to Lawson’s grit and his determination. He did that with a lot of panache and a lot of honor.”