Lawson Craddock didn’t have to do more than turn up to take today’s Top Banana prize. Still, given the kicking he took yesterday, that one thing was no small ask. Had the unlucky number 13 packed it in the moment the race rolled out of Mouilleron-Saint-Germain, we’d still have given it to him. As it was he made it to the arrivé in La Roche-sur-Yon this evening.
The crash occurred in the feedzone, halfway through the opening stage. It was caused, his team said, by a carelessly discarded bidon that sent Craddock careering into the crowd. It left him with “a small fracture along the spine of his left scapula”, a cut above his eyebrow requiring stitches and probably a very uncomfortable night’s sleep.
Emerging from the Team EF bus this morning with his shoulder wrapped in natty argyle medical tape – as well as a left eye that would not have looked out of place at Saturday’s Cure concert in London – the Texan expressed his determination to ride on for as long as he felt able. For every stage he completes he will donate $100 to support racing at the Alkek Velodrome, in his hometown of Houston. Feel free to chip in a few bucks yourself.
If Craddock makes it to Paris, it would not be the first time a rider has ridden through the pain barrier for 20-plus stages. Sam Bennett famously carried on after falling victim to an opening day bunch sprint smash at Utah Beach two years ago. In his determination not to abandon, Bennett drew on reserves he didn’t know he had, enduring more than a few dark days on the bike. As he looks to be in for some of the same, Craddock might want to ask the Irishman how he managed it.
A few on the sidelines have said it’s foolhardy for him to continue. But we cannot know how the rider is feeling, and we have to trust him to know what his body can endure. We also have to trust that the team and its doctors will not risk the rider’s long-term health, merely to avoid a DNF.
The Tour de France is suffering, even for the rider in peak health and fitness. It’s also the pinnacle of the sport, so what’s a little bit more in the scheme of things? There’s no shame in quitting, of course there isn’t, but the Lanterne Rouge is often the rider who has had the hardest time at the Tour and carried on regardless. Today’s is truly an honourable Top Banana.
Two down. Nineteen to go.
The Rouleur Top Banana goes to an unsung hero of each stage of the Tour de France – not the winner, not the yellow jersey – but a rider whose efforts deserve recognition