HOUSTON - The Tour de France is the pinnacle of cycling.
Few cyclists ever have the opportunity to compete in the race. This year only five Americans are in the race, including one Houstonian.
The journey to France started 16 years ago at the Alkek Velodrome for now-26-year-old Lawson Craddock.
Craddock was only 10 when he attended a youth camp at The Velodrome. Now, Craddock is part of the 23-day, 2,200-mile race in France. In the first stage, he took a big fall when he hit a water bottle. Craddock emotionally told NBC Sports, "I put too much work to get here just to go home after Day One. So we'll see how I'm feeling and give it my best shot."
Craddock pledged to donate $100 to The Velodrome for every stage of the Tour that he completes. In recent years, the facility has fallen into disrepair. Flooding during Hurricane Harvey did not help. He built a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the place that gave him his start.
In two days, he nearly doubled his $21,000 goal. Craddock wrote, “I came into the race extremely motivated for a great month of racing. Unfortunately, this all went pear shaped when I crashed during the first stage fracturing my scapula and having a cut above my eye that needed stitches. I fought on for the next 50 miles to finish the stage before an X-Ray revealed my injuries. Not being one to give in, I told myself that I wouldn't stop the race unless it was absolutely necessary. As extra motivation I have decided to give $100 to the Greater Houston Cycling Foundation for each stage that I finish. I have truly been blown away by how many people have offered to donate as well. It has been overwhelming and extremely motivating to continue this race.”
On eBay, he auctions off custom “Houston Strong” cycling shoes. They are identical to the ones he wears.
"When Lawson was 10 years old, he came out and did the youth camp,” said Craddock’s dad. Tom Craddock said he plans to go watch his son in the Tour. He said, "This was so important to him. Because it's not only a place to learn cycling but he has life-long friends from the cycling community that he's grew up with."
Lawson Craddock said of the first day's spill, "It's a difficult way to start the Tour. But I'm from Texas, so I'll keep fighting." Standing at the track where his son got his start, Tom Craddock said, "This week has been full of emotions, of highs and lows. I've been brought to tears many times."
For the latest on the Tour de France, click here.
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