Tour de France 2018 : Deep in the heart of Texas

Luke Allingham, a good friend of VeloVoices, has been flexing his writing muscles again. What or who inspired him to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)? Lawson Craddock, that’s who! Here’s his first (of hopefully many) special features for VeloVoices. 

No matter the course, teams, or riders that make up the Tour de France, it seems there is always one story of a rider displaying heroism, unbelievable courage, or overwhelming panache while riding through injury.

In 2011, Johnny Hoogerland soldiered on after being knocked into a barbed wire fence by a France TV car. Last year, it was Dan Martin, who quietly rode 12 stages with two fractured vertebrae before placing sixth overall in Paris. Less than a week into the 2018 edition, the Tour found its latest hero. His name is Lawson Craddock.

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Whether we watched it happen on our television screens, saw the photos go viral on Twitter, or read about it in various post-stage recaps, we all know the story of Craddock by now. The 26-year-old Texan crashed hard in the feed-zone on the opening stage of the Tour de France. Images of the EF Too Long to Type rider grimacing in pain as blood streamed out of his left eyebrow and down his face set Twitter ablaze as they rapidly reached viral status. Cleared by race doctors in preliminary checks, Lawson finished the stage nearly 8 minutes behind the stage winner. In post-stage medical evaluations, it was confirmed he had fractured his scapula, and that the cut to his face would need stitches.

Faced with the choice of abandoning his second-ever Tour or riding through the pain, Lawson – or L-Awesome as some call him now – said he would continue riding, but only if he felt that he would not be a further danger to himself or fellow riders. By this point, I had already begun to view my fellow countryman as a hero of this year’s Tour, and as a display of unbelievable courage. I have ended group rides early, in tears, when all my bones were intact. Soldiering on with a fracture in one’s shoulder? Absolutely inconceivable!

Then, I saw Lawson’s tweet. In even further heroic fashion, Craddock decided that, for every stage he could finish, he would donate $100 to the Alkek Velodrome – an outdoor velodrome located in his hometown of Houston, Texas, that was destroyed by last year’s Hurricane Harvey. He asked if anyone would be willing to match. Cycling figures such as Mark Holowesko, Axel Merckx, and all-around lover boy Taylor Phinney agreed to match his pledge. T-Mobile CEO John Legere took it a step further – agreeing to donate $200 per stage. (I was not aware that John was a cycling fan, but his giving makes me proud to be a T-Mobile customer.)

Now, there’s something to know about me before I continue. I’m quite frugal with the money I earn. I hesitated to buy myself a laptop as I started college last autumn, and my girlfriend routinely shakes her head at the fact that I refuse to buy myself a second pair of jeans. Yet, there was something about Lawson’s tweet and the pain that he was willing to push himself through in the name of charity that made me want to join him in donating. So, I sent him the following tweet: “I can’t match at $100, but I’ll donate $5 to the organization for every stage you finish. Wishing you the best of luck!”

Less than 24 hours after hitting send, my tweet had accrued nearly 130 likes. I had never seen anything like it – in a sport with so much division, Craddock had found a way to unite people. So, I came up with another idea and pressed send on Twitter.

Perhaps after reading thus far, you are left asking yourself “why?” That is okay to ask – my girlfriend and parents pondered the same question when I told them, I am sure. To be honest, I pondered “what have you gotten yourself into this time?” over the course of the following day. Then, the answer hit me.

In a sport filled with skepticism, elitism, and disappointment, Lawson Craddock has brought heart, giving, and passion to the forefront. In a Twitterverse too often filled with trolls and senseless arguments, Lawson Craddock has found a way to show that love, compassion, and the willingness to help still reign supreme. The young Texan is one of a handful who keep my passion for cycling energised. If he can do all of that while riding in cycling’s toughest race, then the least I can do is to support him in his effort to benefit the Greater Houston Cycling Foundation and Alkek Velodrome.

Nearly finished with his second week of the Tour, Craddock is still pushing on, healing up and confident he will reach Paris with the rest of the peloton. He has conquered the cobbles of Roubaix and the opening slopes of the Alps. Riding as number 13, he stands alone as the race’s Lanterne Rouge, sitting at the bottom of the overall leaderboard more than two and a half hours behind the race leader. Even more impressive and powerful, however, is the fact that he has collected more than $100,000 in nine days for the Alkek Velodrome.

In one of the world’s toughest sports, on some of the world’s most challenging terrain, Lawson Craddock is winning my heart, and leading my “most heroic rider” competition. Even if he insists that he is no hero.

Luke Allingham is a cycling fan who hails from Chicago, Illinois, who is hoping to file cycling features for us, as and when the sport inspires him. We’re hoping he gets a lot of inspiration throughout the rest of the season – we’re thrilled he’s with us! 

Header picture: ©GETTY/Velo/Chris Graythen

4 thoughts on “Tour de France 2018 : Deep in the heart of Texas

  1. Jen says:

    Loved your story Luke. We are road tripping and I read it aloud to my companions. I was so proud to say that I have followed your endeavors for many years. You are very talented.

    • Luke says:

      Many thanks, Jen! Thank you for the kind works and following along for so long! I’m happy to be able to share such a story with everyone. 🙂

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