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

Leave a comment

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.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

TOUR DE FRANCE: StandingsTV Schedule | Riders to Watch

Hirscher leads by 0.56 seconds after first run in World Champs slalom

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marcel Hirscher swept into the finish area and wagged his finger triumphantly in front of the camera.

The message was clear: The ski king is back.

The Austrian produced an emphatic response to relinquishing his giant slalom title two days earlier at the world championships by taking a 0.56-second lead after the first run of the slalom on Sunday.

Only Alexis Pinturault of France was within a second of Hirscher, who was on course to win a record-tying seventh career gold medal at the worlds.

Marco Schwarz of Austria was in third place, 1.22 seconds off the lead.

Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup champion, showed no ill-effects from the cold that has been affecting him this week. After the giant slalom on Friday, he said he would be going straight back to bed to rest up for the slalom.

He looked in good working order on Sunday.

As the third skier on the course, Hirscher took 1.70 seconds off No. 2 starter Henrik Kristoffersen, who beat Hirscher to GS gold on Friday, and more than two seconds off Clement Noel, who came to the worlds in form after wins in Wengen and Kitzbuehel.

Save for Hirscher crashing, only Pinturault looks capable to denying the Austrian a third slalom gold at the worlds — something only the great Ingemar Stenmark has achieved. Pinturault was only 0.06 seconds behind Hirscher at the third checkpoint but he went wide at the first turn on the final descent and lost half a second.

“I’m still in the fight,” Pinturault said, “and still have a chance in the second leg. That’s the essential (thing).”

Daniel Yule of Switzerland was 0.28 behind Hirscher at the last split before falling at the start to the final descent.

Hirscher also won the slalom at the 2013 and 2017 worlds. A seventh career gold at the worlds would tie the men’s record held by compatriot Toni Sailer from the late 1950s.

Austria, a storied Alpine skiing nation, needs Hirscher to deliver in the final event to avoid finishing the world championships without a gold medal for the first time since Crans Montana, Switzerland, in 1987. The women’s team has already finished with no medals and that hasn’t happened since Schladming, Austria, in 1982.

Watch an encore presentation of the first run on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. The second and deciding run can be seen live starting at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

Mikaela Shiffrin proving she’s in league of her own

Leave a comment

There are ski racers, and then there is Mikaela Shiffrin.

NBC Sports essayist Tim Layden calls Shiffrin the “rarest creature,” a prodigy who continues to get better with age.

Shiffrin’s stardom took off with her heart-stopping slalom gold medal in the 2014 Olympics. It looked like she would ascend to an even higher level four years later in PyeongChang when she claimed a gold medal in the giant slalom, but then she lost a battle with her nerves and failed to win a medal in the slalom. She did capture a silver in the combined event.

That Olympic disappointment has fueled her historic World Cup season. She became the youngest skier to pass the 50 win mark. She broke the women’s career record for slalom victories, and she became the first skier ever to win four-straight world championship titles in a single event.

A true prodigy indeed.