First, the bad news: Last month, Houston-raised/Austin-based cyclist Lawson Craddock became the first American to claim the Tour de France’s “lanterne rouge,” the race’s designation for last place, named for the red light on a train’s caboose. And he did it in what race historians believe is historic fashion: not only was he the race’s last overall finisher, he was the first to hold the title at each individual stage of the race.
A gnarly crash on the very first day of the race was to blame. On July 7, the 26-year-old, one of just five Americans competing in this year’s tour, rode over an errant water bottle, fell off his bike, and tumbled hard. For even the most casual cycling observer, the video—and bloody photos, in which you can see a significant gash over his eye that required stitches—looked like the end of Craddock’s race. But Craddock wound up riding another fifty-plus miles that day before doctors definitively diagnosed a fractured scapula.
The good news? Not only did Craddock cross the finish line, but immediately after the crash he pledged to donate $100 for each stage he finished to help rebuild Houston’s Alkek Velodrome, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Craddock had gotten his start at the outdoor concrete velodrome. Others made similar pledges, and the GoFundMe page Craddock’s father set up with an initial $1,000 target has now raised more than $277,000.
On this week’s podcast, recorded Tuesday afternoon in Austin just hours after Craddock returned home for the first time since the race, he talks about what he remembers about the accident, what kept him on the bike, his friendship with Lance Armstrong, and the overall state of cycling.