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BILBAO, Spain (VN) — There’s no hiding the intentions of BikeExchange-Jayco at the Vuelta a España.
The Aussie-backed team is here to win the red jersey with Simon Yates, who returns to the Vuelta for the first time since he won in 2018. The squad also packs sprinter Kaden Groves, so that means double duty for Lawson Craddock.
The Texan returns to the Vuelta after a busy season that included an impressive run at the Giro d’Italia in May as well as a title defense of his U.S. national time trial title in June.
Craddock ramps up for the Vuelta with another multi-tasking role of helping Yates in the GC, and pacing Groves in the sprints.
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And it didn’t take long for Craddock to find a breakaway, slipping into an early big move in Wednesday’s fifth stage across the rugged Basque Country.
VeloNews caught up with Craddock before the start. Here are highlights of the interview:
VeloNews: The team is a big favorite, how are you feeling coming into your second grand tour of 2022?
Lawson Craddock: I’m feeling great. It was almost two months back in the States after the Giro. I had nationals, and I had some success there, and a little bit of downtime before getting back to work with a full focus on the Vuelta. I had a great block of training and a great Tour of Poland, and we’re coming here with high hopes.
VN: Is there a bit of feeling of revenge for this Vuelta for the team after Yates was so good in the Giro early, but injury forced him out?
LC: Yeah, a little bit. When you have a rider of Yates’ caliber, you know that when he’s on his best form you can fight for the top spot on the podium in any grand tour. That was our belief at the Giro, and that’s also our belief here. We do have a few more goals than just that. We have Kaden Groves, who’s shown his talent in the sprints, and we’re trying to do our best as a team to get him in position to win on the sprint stages.
We have multiple goals throughout the Vuelta. We are here to race and enjoy it, and if the Giro taught us anything, it’s not to take anything for granted in terms of where you are in the GC, or where you might end up. We’re having fun racing and looking to see where the cards fall.
VN: What’s it like up here in the Basque Country? The climbs are so steep and explosive, how will it play out after three days in The Netherlands?
LC: The engineers don’t know what a switchback is, because all the roads seem to go straight up and over all these mountain ranges. I absolutely love it up here in the Basque Country. The Vuelta al País Vasco is one of my all-time favorite races. The races up here tend to get the most out of me. I am really up here to be starting the Spanish part of the Vuelta. The stages in the next week suit the team really well.
We’re on the 2nd climb of the day with 86km to go and the gap back to the peloton at 2’55” pic.twitter.com/cFfWSBjfhe
— Team BikeExchange-Jayco (@GreenEDGEteam) August 24, 2022
VN: With the GC looking so tight, how important will the time bonuses be in the next few weeks?
LC: It’s always that question going into any grand tour. You see guys selling their souls for a few bonus seconds here or there. A grand tour is never really been won or lost over an accumulative time loss over three weeks, but in the Vuelta, you don’t want to give any time away. If you can sneak some back you take it. We already lost 30 seconds to Jumbo in the TTT, and they’ve proven that they’re the strongest team in the world. We are pretty confident that we have a great team here, and great leaders in Kaden and Simon.
VN: How is the race for the UCI points impacting the team tactics?
LC: We’ve had a pretty productive summer with the guys at the Tour de France and some of the Spanish one-days. You can never let your foot off the gas with the end of the season coming up. If the team stays healthy, we have full confidence in what we can do as a team and know if we can continue to get the most out of ourselves that we will be in the best possible spot in October.
VN: What is your role here at the Vuelta? Will it be more or less the same as the Giro?
LC: It’s pretty similar to the Giro, I will be taking quite a bit of wind. And with Kaden here, I will be working a bit on the sprint stages. Instead of just thinking about making it to the line safely and without losing time, now we have to think about how we can put our guy in the best position for the sprint. That will change a little bit, and we will see what happens as the race goes on. I really love the Vuelta, and it’s one of my favorite races of the year. With the way the race is so aggressive, I tend to do my best. I hope the legs are good, so far they’ve responded well, and maybe try to push it over a couple of climbs and be there in the mountains for our leaders.
VN: Why is the Vuelta one of your favorite races?
LC: The first couple of years as a professional, we always did the Vuelta, and we always had great success at the Vuelta. That’s always going to stick on your mind and you want to come back. It’s also living in Spain, you get used to the lifestyle. The racing is still intense and stressful in the race, but the overall vibe is a little more relaxed around the race. It’s a beautiful country. I love the fact that I can call Spain my second home.