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Finding himself in a breakaway alongside some of the strongest climbers in the world, Lawson Craddock (BikeExchange-Jayco) launched a long-range attack 78km from the finish in the hope of creating a large enough buffer to defend over the high mountains on the queen stage of the Vuelta a España.
“You just look around these breakaways and think, ‘what am I going to do against these climbers,’” he said at the finish.
“I knew my only card to play was to try to go over Monachil with a gap and then count on them playing around behind and hopefully having a gap at the bottom of the Sierra Nevada climb.”
Craddock attacked once the breakaway summited the first categorized climb of the day, and built up an advantage that reached 1:30.
He held off the breakaway group for the majority of the Monachil – a 9.1km category 1 climb at 7.6% until King of the Mountains leader Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) bridged across near the summit.
“In the end, Jay caught me over the Monachil chasing points,” Craddock said. “The group behind us was never really going to let us gain any more time, him probably being one of the strongest climbers in the world at the moment. I had about one card to play today and I did it.”
The race was blown to pieces on the final climb after @lawsoncraddock put on a show earlier in the stage with a long range solo effort 👏 now for a rest! 😴
Arensman (DSM) wins stage 15 🏁 pic.twitter.com/5lB222OXeA
— Team BikeExchange-Jayco (@GreenEDGEteam) September 4, 2022
Craddock and Vine remained out front for a while longer and were only caught just before the final climb, 25km from the finish, by a group containing eventual stage winner Thymen Arensman (Team DSM).
“A lot of the riders here are quite familiar with Sierra Nevada doing a lot of training camps,” Craddock added. “Myself, I was here in January so it’s fun to have an open road on some of the same roads I’ve trained on with the team in January.”
BikeExchange-Jayco has experienced a rollercoaster edition of the Vuelta a España, with GC leader Simon Yates forced to abandon due to COVID-19 while its sprinter Kaden Groves collected his first ever grand tour stage victory.
“Morale is still pretty high among the team,” Craddock said. “We lost Kelland O’Brien yesterday which is a huge loss especially for the leadouts with Kaden [Groves]. But at the end of the day, I think we’re still just having a hell of a time racing here at the Vuelta which is actually pretty enjoyable when you think about it.
“You feel pretty lucky to get a chance to race at this level of the sport and do it with a good group of guys, good friends, and have fun doing it. It makes a huge difference. There’s a handful of us left but we’re trying to make the most out of every day.”