In It to Win It

The 2018 Tour de France concluded yesterday. The multi-stage race, first held in 1903, always promises tons of drama and this year’s event didn’t disappoint. From tear-gassing by police to fisticuffs between riders, there were enough headlines to interest even non-race fans. But in the midst of so much news, there’s one story you might have missed. It involved cyclist Lawson Craddock.

No, he wasn’t the winner of this year’s Tour. That was Geraint Thomas. The first Welshman to win the tour, Thomas has typically been a support player – holding off competitors so a teammate could build up a lead. After Saturday’s individual time trial, he’d managed to pull almost two minutes ahead of the pack and essentially cruised to victory on Sunday.

And no, Craddock wasn’t the rider at the center of this year’s doping scandal. That was Thomas’ teammate Chris Froome. Cleared by officials just prior to the start of the tour, Froome was jeered (and even assaulted) throughout the duration of his run. He was aiming for a fourth straight win, but crashed early on and lost too much time.

Craddock was the last cyclist to cross the finish line. The American’s 145th place finish came four and a half hours after Geraint Thomas. In fact, he finished dead last in all but one of the Tour’s 21 stages. Lawson was never expected to win – his job was to support his team’s leader – but finishing at all became his unexpected mission.

On day one, early in the first stage of the tour, Craddock ran over a stray water bottle, crashed, and gashed his forehead. The cut required stitches to close. Along with other scrapes and bruises, he also broke his scapula. That’s the shoulder blade, a bone that’s difficult and very painful to break. Recovery takes around six weeks and requires the shoulder to be immobilized.

But rather than bow out of the race, Craddock got back on his bike and finished stage one. Then he finished stage two, and three, and four. While other racers walked away from the competition having suffered far less serious injuries, Craddock kept going. And he kept finishing; in last place mind you, but he kept finishing.

After his crash, Craddock pledged to donate $100 to the Alkek Velodrome in Houston if he finished the stage. The velodrome is where he started racing and the venue was damaged badly during Hurricane Harvey. He invited fans to match his contribution, adding another $100 for each stage he completed. Craddock’s father set up a GoFundMe page with a target of $1,000 as way for people to show  support for his son’s new mission. As of this morning, the page had surpassed $225,000 in pledges.

I write a lot about success and achieving your goals. After all, that’s why we set goals, right? To reach them. To crush them. We aim for a target and work like crazy to win. In the world of business, as in the world of sports competition, the expectation is to stand on top of the podium. But what happens when that expectation is obliterated? What happens when the dream of finishing first is dashed? What are we to do when the goal is so far out of reach that success” becomes impossible?

I guess we could quit. That’s what most people do, and it’s perfectly understandable. Nurse your wounds, heal, rest up, regroup – watch from the sidelines and wait for the clock to reset so we can (maybe) give it a shot next year.

Or, we can do what Lawson Craddock did. Fight through the pain. Find victory in giving everything we have just to finish the race. We could redefine success and rally those around us to join in the pursuit of a different, more meaningful, goal. And in doing so, discover this is the race we were meant to win all along.