Lawson Craddock's (EF Education First-Drapac) "three weeks of pain" in the Tour de France ends on a high note with money for his charity and the unofficial lanterne rouge prize.
The American from Texas is set to finish last of 145 riders when the race ends in Paris on Sunday, some four hours, 30 minutes behind Geraint Thomas (Sky). It is a successful ride considering he crashed on day one and fractured the top of his shoulder blade.
"It's been three weeks of pain," Craddock said after completing stage 20.
"It's not the Tour I imagined, I wasn't sure I could make it this far. It wasn't easy.
"I am completely overjoyed to cross the finish line – today was the final test. I am excited to be in Paris tomorrow and see my family for the first time in a month and celebrate with them."
The celebration includes a charitable act. Craddock decided early on that in every stage he finished, he would donate $100 to the Houston velodrome partly destroyed by Hurricane Harvey last year. He asked his Instagram followers to match the amount to keep his local cycling scene alive.
His last hurdle is the 116-kilometre stage to Paris, which is ridden at a parade pace until the riders reach the famous Champs-Élysées.
The celebration appeared impossible over three weeks ago when Craddock fell shortly after stage one departed. When the television camera caught him, the worst appeared to be his head with blood pouring from his brow. However, after the stage, a fracture in his shoulder was revealed.
It seemed impossible that Craddock could survive the first phase through the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix and certainly not the high mountain passes of the second and third week. However, he has and carries the title of 'lanterne rouge' of the lowest placed rider.
"I feel a lot of relief right now, for sure," Craddock said.
"I fought tooth and nail for the last three weeks. It's going to be a great achievement in Paris – I wasn't sure if I could make it."
Craddock's ride switched from support to survival. The American team brought him in to support Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First). With his crash and Urán's abandon, sights were just set on arriving in Paris.
He survived when others abandoned. In the mountains, a large number of sprinters pulled out including Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Dylan Groenewegen and Fernando Gaviria.
"Almost every day presented a new challenged. The first few days were incredibly painful, it felt like almost everyday something added and something taken away, it was a roller coaster of three weeks," Craddock said.
"The Roubaix and the mountain stage each presented new challenges. It's difficult to say one point is the most difficult moment.
"I started the Tour in tears of sadness when I crashed the first day, but now it's pure joy."
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