Texas tough: Injured Lawson Craddock soldiers on at Tour de France

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CHARTRES, France (AP) — Lawson Craddock is giving new meaning to the term “Texas Tough.”

After breaking his shoulder and bloodying his face in an unfortunate crash during the first stage of the Tour de France, the American rider has soldiered on through six more grueling days of the world’s biggest bike race.

“My parents raised me as a fighter,” Craddock said. “I grew up in Texas and that’s just what I have grown up to be. I keep pushing my body as far as I can. At this point I am doing it for the others, doing it for the kids in Houston so they can have a good, safe environment to ride a bike in.”

Craddock has taken advantage of the attention his crash received to start a fundraising effort for the Alkek velodrome in Houston, which is where he started cycling.

He is donating $100 to the venue — which was damaged in Hurricane Harvey — for every Tour stage he finishes. He’s asking others to contribute, too.

As of Friday, the relief effort had raised $64,000.

“It gives me goose bumps just to think if I can make it to Paris what will be possible,” Craddock said of the race’s conclusion on July 29.

He grew up 10 minutes away from the velodrome. “There are not that many in the U.S,” he said. “Kids … don’t have to worry about traffic, cars. They are watched the entire time.”

Craddock’s crash occurred when he hit a dropped water bottle in the feeding zone and collided with a spectator. Blood from a cut to his left eyebrow covered his face.

He was diagnosed with a fracture of 1-2 centimeters in his scapula. “It’s stable. It’s not dangerous in any way,” said EF Education First-Drapac team physician Kevin Sprouse. “It’s safe for him to be racing. The biggest concern is not necessarily the fracture. … It’s how he can handle the bike.”

Craddock is receiving treatment day and night to ensure he can apply enough pressure on the handlebars to control his bike. Sessions with the team’s chiropractor have made him “close to tears.”

He has to ask teammates to pass him energy bars since he can’t maneuver his body to grab them from the pockets on the back of his jersey.

But after missing last year’s Tour, Craddock has no plans to give up — even with the bone-jarring cobblestoned route of Stage 9 to Roubaix approaching. He was last of 170 riders (more than 1 hour behind race leader Greg Van Avermaet) following Friday’s stage of 143.5-miles — the longest of this year’s Tour.

“I had such a rough year last year I wanted to be at this race so bad,” he said. “My focus this entire season, while trying to get the most out of the other races, was also to be at the Tour de France. To crash on Stage 1 and have this happen to me is a big blow but you know if I can still ride, why not try?”

Craddock’s perseverance has attracted plenty of attention, especially from Lance Armstrong, a fellow Texan and sometimes training partner.

“It is great he has given me so much encouragement. Hearing from him, hearing from everyone, is just incredible,” Craddock said. “It’s hard to keep up with all the messages, but I am doing my best and reading them all and I love the support I am getting.”

His ordeal has made Craddock wonder about the significance of the No. 13 he was assigned to put on his jersey. He attaches the number upside down.

“When I got No. 13 I tried to tell myself it was lucky, but when I hit that bottle in the feed zone it was one of the first things that came into my mind,” he said. “But at this point, something really great has come out of it.”

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Michael Phelps: To a naked eye, Milorad Cavic won — 10th anniversary of Beijing butterfly

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So many onlookers thought Milorad Cavic beat Michael Phelps in the Beijing Olympic 100m butterfly. Even Phelps himself.

“To a naked eye, he won the race,” Phelps said in an Omega documentary first published in 2016.

The 10th anniversary of that final — which Phelps won by .01 on a come-from-behind, half-stroke finish — is Wednesday night in the U.S./Thursday morning in China.

It marked Phelps’ seventh gold medal of those Games en route to his final tally of eight, breaking Mark Spitz‘s record for golds at a single Games. But it wasn’t without a little controversy.

Years later, Cavic jabbed again about the results that his Serbian federation unsuccessfully protested in Beijing.

“I don’t necessarily feel like it was an injustice,” the Serbian said in the 2016 film. “Mistakes were made on my side. There were things that I could have done better which would have made it a definite victory for myself, but my gut instinct is that I won.”

Cavic was arguably the favorite on the morning of the final. He broke the Olympic record in the preliminary heats, then was again faster than Phelps in the semifinals, when Phelps was coming off a 200m individual medley final.

After the semifinal, Phelps remembered walking down a Water Cube back hallway with coach Bob Bowman after the 15th of 17 total races.

“I said, ‘I’m done. I don’t have any more energy left. I’m cashed,'” Phelps said. “To put it bluntly, [Bowman] said tough s—. You’ve got a couple races to go, and you can suck it up.”

But Phelps was fired up by Cavic’s comments before the race, that it would be good for the sport if Phelps lost in Beijing. He woke up that morning and was on the starting block in lane five, right next to Cavic looking at him in lane four.

“What does a man do when the devil smiles at him? You smile back,” Cavic said. “It was a religious moment for me because I knew I was destined for this day.”

The race went out as expected, with Cavic leading at 50 meters and Phelps in seventh at the turn.

“I watched the NBC coverage of it, and [analyst] Rowdy [Gaines] was pretty much saying that I’m fighting for a silver medal,” Phelps said. “I knew [Cavic] always struggles the last 15 meters. That’s kind of my chance.”

In the last strokes, Phelps felt Cavic’s splash more and more into his own face. He was inching closer and closer. Then that last stroke. Cavic came up a bit short and glided into the wall. Phelps was even shorter, so he took one more partial stroke, slamming his fingers into the wall.

“If I were to take another full stroke, my arms would actually be at the halfway point of my stroke, with my face hitting the wall,” Cavic said. “He knew that he was behind me, and he knew that if he also had a long finish as I did, he would have lost. So his only option was to take another stroke but make it a half-stroke. It’s not textbook. It’s not something any coach ever wants to you to do.”

Phelps said that when he took the last half-stroke rather than a perfect finish, he thought that had cost him the gold. Each man turned around and stared at the scoreboard.

“The lack of oxygen in your body and in your head, it makes things very, very blurry for your eyes,” Cavic said. “It takes a couple of moments just for everything to clear up.”

“I looked back, and I saw one one-hundredth,” Phelps said, “and I was like, holy s—, that just happened.”

As for the Serbian protest and Cavic’s doubts?

“Well, the results don’t lie,” Phelps said. “That’s all I got to say. … Seeing the [Sports Illustrated] frame-by-frame and watching it in slow-mo, there’s no question in my mind that I won the race.”

That silver was Cavic’s one and only Olympic medal in four Games.

“I will be remembered,” he said. “It was the best and worst thing that happened to me.”

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Kayla Harrison set for second MMA fight at PFL 6; TV, stream info

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Double Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison returns to the cage for her second MMA bout at a Professional Fighters League event in Atlantic City, N.J., live on NBC Sports on Thursday night.

Harrison, 28, faces Jozette Cotton (8-1-0) at 155 pounds on the PFL 6 card.

NBCSN coverage starts at 10 p.m. ET, also streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Harrison, who converted to MMA after the Rio Olympics, won her MMA debut on June 21, forcing Brittney Elkin to submit via arm bar after 3 minutes, 18 seconds, of the five-minute first round.

“I was wicked nervous,” the Massachusetts native said afterward. “This is all so new. No one has ever locked me in a cage and said, go kill someone. … I can’t wait until the next one.”

LIVE STREAM: Kayla Harrison at PFL 6 — Thursday, 10 p.m. ET

Harrison announced in October 2016 that she joined the MMA promotion as a commentator and brand ambassador, but not necessarily a fighter. A year ago, Harrison said she would compete.

The comparisons to former judo training partner and Olympic bronze medalist Ronda Rousey have shadowed her for years.

They won’t stop after Harrison won her first bout using Rousey’s signature arm bar.

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