“We only have five riders here, but we’re five really great, strong riders, and we wanted to use that to our advantage.”
– Lawson Craddock
Four kilometers from the Tour of Utah stage one finish in North Logan, Utah, Lawson CraddockLawson Craddock launched an attack that inspired the race-winning late escape. The Texan came second in a six-up sprint, scooping up six bonus seconds and moving into the yellow jersey.
“The team plan today wasn’t really to take the yellow jersey,” said Craddock. “We wanted to race for the stage win, and we had a couple options for that. We only have five riders here, but we’re five really great, strong riders, and we wanted to use that to our advantage today.”
The first road stage of Tour of Utah was the longest of the seven-day race. Starting and finishing in North Logan City, the 140-kilometer course featured the Bear River Mountains and 1313 feet of total elevation.
Ten kilometers into the stage, the day’s breakaway had taken shape. The peloton, led by Elevate KHS, never ceded more than three minutes to the five-man move. EF Education First Pro Cycling kept a low profile until the race hit the 11.9-kilometer North Logan finishing circuit.
The breakaway fell apart on the finishing circuit, and the bunch swallowed up Travis Samuel (DC Bank), the last man standing, 20 kilometers from the finish.
It was time for the sprint teams to come to fore but instead several teams without pure sprinters began to launch attacks.
“Alex [Howes] made a great call out on the road,” explained Craddock. “He noticed a tough moment, a roller four kilometers from the finish, and with two laps on the road, he said on the radio that this was the moment we’d go. We’d try that with me, and he’d try the sprint.”
“Alex sacrificed his chances for me,” Craddock added. “A guy I’ve been teammates with for awhile now, a guy I really respect, and he’s racing in the US in the national champs jersey for the first time in his career. I think that shows a lot about who he is. I really appreciate his work and the work the rest of the team did to set me up today.”
During the last lap, Craddock attacked at the designated moment from a severely reduced bunch. Initially Craddock flew solo, but he was eventually joined by Umberto Marengo (Neri Sottoli – Selle Italia –KTM), João Almeida (Hagens Berman Axeon), Edwin Ávila (Israel Cycling Academy), Griffin Easter (303 Project) and Sebastian Schonberger (Neri-Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM).
“No one really wanted to work at first,” said Craddock. “We had one of the riders from the Italian team jump in, and he sat on immediately because he had a sprinter behind. Then another rider from the team came across and that changed the dynamic of the group because it gave them two cards to play.”
Schonberger was the first to play his card, attacking in the final kilometer. Craddock took responsibility for the chase.
“I knew it was going to be between me and João, from Hagens-Berman, to chase Sebastian down,” noted Craddock. “I also knew if he beat me at the finish, he’d take the jersey from time bonus seconds. I had to risk losing, risk getting caught.”
Although the energy expended with the late chase disadvantaged Craddock in the sprint, he had enough left in the tank to contend in the sprint.
“I definitely didn’t have the biggest jump. Anyone could see that,” said Craddock. “The guys distanced me early, but I was able to hold it all the way to the line to get second on the stage. I would have loved to have come away with the win, but I’m proud to be in the yellow jersey.”
EF Education First Pro Cycling hope to defend yellow on stage two, but the team doesn’t expect the jersey to stay with Craddock. The queen stage of the Tour of Utah includes the hors categorie climb up Powder Mountain, which tops out at 2712 meters, and suits former race winners Lachlan Morton (2016) and Joe Dombrowski (2015) far better than Craddock.
“Tomorrow will be the true test,” said Craddock. “Power Mountain is incredibly difficult. As long as we keep the jersey in the team, we’ll be happy.”