Axel Merckx probably knew Lawson Craddock was history before the season started. This week the talented climber is linked to Argos-Shimano for next season as a neo-pro.
That’s the role of a development team and as the director sportif of Bontrager-Trek, Merckx has seen plenty of talents head out the door. First it was Taylor Phinney to BMC, then Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell to Sky and Alex Dowsett now rides for Movistar
They all came through the ranks at Bontrager. Craddock took best young rider at the Tour of California and fourth in the US National Time Trial. The Texan kid radiates confidence like a young Armstrong without the drugs.
When I interviewed him for an upcoming story on Bontrager for Cycle Sport magazine, I came away impressed with his focus, poise and talent. He’s a bike racer, pure and simple.
Craddock isn’t the only Bontrager rider headed out the door. Belgian Jasper Stuyven is linked to the new Trek squad, rebranded from RadioShack.
You’d think Stuyven would be the rider that Argos-Shimano wants to sign but they’ve targeted Craddock.
Last year Argos made a major pitch to Joe Dombrowski. Joe told me the team manager Iwan Spekenbrink called him numerous times and they’d talk for 30 to 45 minutes. They promised to build a stage race squad around him and make him instant captain for the Tour of California. Dombrowski actually felt bad about turning them down after all the personal chit-chat.
Well, they wanted an American and this year it’s Craddock. From everything I’ve read, the team is well-structured and along with Garmin, they are vocal about their anti-doping stance. It’s a good place for a young rider to start a career.
Still, we can’t help but wonder if an American team would be a better fit. Perhaps the unsettled situation at BMC with DS John Lelangue’s sudden departure made that an iffy choice. Coming from a Trek sponsored development team, it would have been natural jump to the WorldTour Trek team. Garmin-Sharp seems to be bringing in some young talent but there’s no rumor on Craddock.
Maybe the Dutch team is the right place for Craddock and like Dombrowski’s choice of Sky over BMC and Garmin, he isn’t afraid to make the bolder move. You forget that these kids have been racing on the international stage since they were in their mid teens. I believe Craddock raced in Moscow when he was 16. These guys are comfortable in any country that has a challenging bike race.
Our perhaps early congrats to Lawson Craddock for taking the next big step forward. It won’t be the last.