Vuelta a España – Stage 11 recap

Fourth yesterday. Third today. Lawson Craddock’s show of fine form continued on the 11th stage of the Vuelta a España. The American, who finished fourth on Tuesday’s time trial, represented EF Education First Pro Cycling in Wednesday’s breakaway. The peloton granted the breakaway the stage win, and Craddock came third in Urdax-Dantxarnea. It’s a career-best Grand Tour result for the 27-year-old.

“You always want a little bit more,” Craddock admitted following the race. “I’ve never won a race. I thought I was going to a win at Utah, and it didn’t work out. I turned my sights on the Vuelta and for a few moments today, I thought I might get the win. It was a great opportunity, and I don’t get many of those. It was frustrating to miss out.”

The 180-kilometer stage through Basque Country featured lumpy terrain and three categorized climbs. The course tempted the stage chasers, and the breakaway formed early. With a large gap opening before the Col d’Osquich, all signs pointed to the escapees contesting the stage.

“We had planned that the start of the race would be really hard, and it would be long for the breakaway to form, until kilometer 41,” explained sport director Juanma Garate. “In the end the break went before we expected, which was good for the rest of the team. They had a lot of time to recover for tomorrow.”

Garate, who hails from Basque Country, followed the breakaway, delivering crucial information to Craddock throughout the stage.

“I had Juanma in the ear,” said Craddock, referencing the radio piece he wore throughout the stage. “This was his big training area when he was a rider, and he knew every single hole in every single road. Having him in the ear was great.”

“The Basque region is incredible,” he added. “I love this place. It added a lot of motivation. It’s such a beautiful are in Spain, in Europe.”

Attacks from the breakaway began in the final 50 kilometers. With every split, Craddock made the selection or fought his way back to the front. Twenty five kilometers from the finish, 11 riders remained in the lead, including Craddock.

“I felt great,” said Craddock. “I felt like I had the legs to win. Sometimes when you feel that good, you show it too much and everyone starts look at you, and you have to use your brains more than your legs.”

Mikel Iturria (Euskadi-Murias) made the race-winning move 25-kilometers from the finish line.

“We missed that moment, and I think it was because the fight started so early,” said Garate. “Lawson had to do some big efforts before. He was still trying to recover from his previous effort when Iturria went. The big names in the break all looked at each other, which gave Iturria his chance.”

“No one wanted to commit to closing the gap,” said Craddock. “You know if you do, you’re basically giving away your shot to win.”

Iturria hung on his gap by a mere six seconds. Craddock was second across the line in the chase for third on the stage.

“We had a lot of promising moments and groups to go the line, but there was no cooperation, which was disappointing,” said Craddock.

“I’m happy and sad at the same time,” said Garate. “I’m happy because we fought hard. I’m sad because we lost it […] Third and fourth is nice but it doesn’t matter. We want to win.”