Craddock to lead Cannondale in California

After a strong spring season, Lawson Craddock has been tapped as the team leader for the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team at the Amgen Tour of California. 

“I think Lawson earned his place as a real leader for this race in the spring. I think he’s got the papers in order to really go for the top result. That’s going to be our first priority, to support him,” said head sport director Charly Wegelius.

Cannondale Pro Cycling Team will ride for the general classification, but will also look to cover breakaways with riders like Ben King and Toms Skujins, and the sprints with Wouter Wippert. Skujins, 24, won a stage at California last year.

“It’s going to be a tricky race to control,” noted Wegelius. “There’s two very long stages and one stage at high altitude. But we’ve got the people who can ride the breaks and a reliable leader in Lawson.”

“We had good expectations of Lawson in Pais Vasco, but our expectations were actually lower than his performance,” Wegelius added. “Now we’re in line. He’s ready, the team is ready to support him. This is what he’s been working toward with his results.”

Craddock is looking forward  to the challenge of leading a WorldTour team.

“The Amgen Tour of California is always one of my favorite races of the year,” Craddock said. “My first year racing there was back in 2012 on Axel Merckx’s Bontrager-Livestrong team. I’ve returned every year since then and have made some awesome memories including being on the final podium in 2014.”

“I can’t express how excited I am to return this year as one of the top American teams in the world. It will be an incredible experience, and we will make the best of it,” Craddock added. “Looking at the team, it’s easy to tell that we have one of the best overall group of guys heading to the race. There won’t be a moment that we aren’t prepared for. Being the leader in California is something that I really enjoy and take true to heart. I have a lot of experience at this race, and I am really looking forward to bringing that to the team to help achieve the best place possible.”

The Texan pointed to two decisive days: the climb up Gibraltar above Santa Barbara on stage three and the individual time trial on stage six.

“Those are two major GC days, but the race is very challenging as a whole this year. It will be very important to remain attentive for each stage this year as they are all days where it’s possible to lose the race,” Craddock said. “All in all, it suits us very well, and we are looking to mix it up at the front of the race.”

Andrew Talansky will also race California. It’s a home race for Talansky, who lives in Northern California, and marks a chance for him to keep building toward the Tour de France in July.

“Because it’s a home race it’s a good place to start again as the first step toward the second half of the season and fresh start. And home is a good place to do that. I think he has to have realistic expectations, too,” Wegelius said.

Talansky has been at home training in California prior to now.

“It is very nice to be back in Napa training at the moment and I’m really looking forward to kicking off Tour of California next weekend down south. ToC is the premier race in the U.S. at the moment and I am looking forward to lining up at the start with a great team. It’s always a special feeling to race on home roads,” Talansky said.

He’s also looking forward to riding for Craddock.

“Lawson has had a great spring campaign so far, I know he has been motivated for the Tour of California since he began training in the winter,” Talansky said. “He has been on the podium before, so obviously he wants to improve that result by another couple steps. There’s not much to tell him, he knows when to stay relaxed and when to switch on. Lawson is very talented and a natural bike racer. He knows how to be at the front when he needs to be and he’s a fighter. We will have a great team there to support him and I have no doubt he is up to the challenge.”

Talansky aims to keep building his way toward July.

He said: “I am looking to continue building my fitness while supporting Lawson in his bid to win. The entire team will be looking to race aggressively and do all we can to put Lawson on that top step at the end of the week. If we can do that, and I can come out of the week stronger than I came in, then I will consider the Tour of California a success.”

Cannondale Pro Cycling Team for 2016 Amgen Tour of California: Patrick Bevin, Lawson Craddock, Phil Gaimon, Ben King, Alan Marangoni, Tom Skujins, Andrew Talansky, Wouter Wippert