Somewhere on the climb to Gap Road, high above Golden, Colorado, Lawson Craddock cracked.
“There are different types of hard,” Craddock later said, sitting under a pop-up tent as a thunderstorm raged outside, 24 hours after DNFing from the Colorado Classic. There’s a relentless hard, the type of hard that comes from accumulated fatigue, from long stages piled up back to back and from fields stacked with talent. Call it ‘grand tour’ hard. Craddock knows the type well; he’s finished a Tour de France and a Vuelta a Espana. Then there’s the sort of hard at the Colorado Classic: Short stages, small teams, and chaos. “One hundred kilometers full gas,” Craddock said. “For me, it was brutal. It was absolutely brutal.”
For a sport obsessed with its past, professional cycling has been spending quite a lot of time thinking about its future lately. The most fundamental question, to be answered before anything else, is which type of hard we want.
Even if one ignores some of the financial innovation (holding concerts at night, for example) and focuses solely on the racing, the Colorado Classic felt like the future of professional cycling, for both better and worse. It sat somewhere between the rampant innovation of the Hammer Series and the staid traditionalism of most European stage races. It had smaller teams (6 riders) and shorter stages (most barely over 100km). Its format forced teams to throw the usual breakaway-catch-sprint playbook out the window. The racing was more aggressive and less predictable, won by a relatively unknown rider, BMC’s Manuel Senni, because he wasn’t afraid to risk it all…
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