He crashed on Stage 1 of Tour de France, but Austin’s Lawson Craddock is still pedaling

Professional cyclist Lawson Craddock talks about his first Tour de France at Mellow Johnny’s bike shop in January 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Austin cyclist Lawson Craddock, who crashed midway through the first stage of the Tour de France, finished the seventh stage of the race Friday, despite a broken scapula and nine stitches in his eyebrow.

That’s good news for cyclists back in Texas, because for every stage he completes, Craddock has vowed to make a donation to help repair the Alkek Velodrome in Houston, where he learned to race. The facility suffered damage during Hurricane Harvey last year.

Professional cyclist Lawson Craddock climbs a hill west of downtown Austin on a training ride Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Craddock, wearing race number 13 – pinned to his jersey upside down, per tradition, to break the unlucky spell – hit a full water bottle dropped by a cyclist in front of him at a feed zone on Day 1 of the 21-stage, 2,082-mile Tour de France. Without any room to maneuver, he careened off road on his bike, hit a spectator and crashed spectacularly. In typical Craddock style, he picked up his bike, hopped back on and continued, blood streaming down his face. At the finish line, a doctor examined him and found a fractured scapula, or shoulder blade. The cyclist also needed seven stitches in his eyebrow.

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“It was a huge mental blow, really. I put a lot of work in just to make it to the Tour this year,” Craddock says. “I knew immediately something wasn’t right, but halfway through the first stage you don’t want to pack up the suitcase and go home.”

That’s when the story gets really good.

RELATED: Pro cyclist Lawson Craddock trains on Texas hills

Craddock, who had decided before the tour began that he’d auction off a pair of custom Houston Strong cycling shoes to raise money to repair the Alkek Velodrome, amped up his efforts to motivate himself to push on. He decided to donate $100 for each Tour stage he completed, and invited fans to join him. So far the Go Fund Me effort has raised nearly $70,000 for the Greater Houston Cycling Foundation, which runs the velodrome

Professional cyclist Lawson Craddock peddles through downtown Austin on his way out for a training ride Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

“That blows my mind,” Craddock says. “When I get on after every stage and wake up in the morning, I check the donation page. There’s been a lot of suffering in this last week, but seeing the support I’ve received all across the world has kept me going. It just really makes me proud to be in this race and know every pedal stroke I make, every time my shoulder gives me a jolt of pain, it’s all really worth it.”

Craddock covered about 140 miles in Friday’s stage, then plopped onto a table for a vigorous massage and some chiropractic work.

“It definitely doesn’t feel great, but every day has gotten a little better,” he said by phone from the table. “The biggest issue wasn’t the fracture, but the muscles contracting around it every time I move my arm. It’s not ideal, it’s not pain free and it still hurts, but I’ve made leaps and bounds over the last week, and it’s given me a lot of hope I’ll be able to continue the race.”

No telling if he’ll make it all the way to Paris. He’s already fatigued.

“When after a week your body is working overtime to recover a fractured bone, and then add the stress of the Tour de France, it’s not ideal for the race,” he said. “But I’m looking at this as 21 individual races, and waking up in the morning with my only focus being making it to the finish that day.”

First, though, he’s got to make it through Sunday’s Stage 9, the Roubaix stage, which winds over rough and punishing cobblestone streets.

“Your body gets jolted all over the place,” Craddock said. “I haven’t sat down and thought about how to get through that, because the main focus has been finishing the stage at hand. If I can get through tomorrow, that will be a big obstacle to manage those roads.”

Craddock started track racing at Alkek Velodrome in Houston at age 10. He moved to Austin in 2011 and has been racing at the sport’s highest level since 2014. He counts among his career highlights competing at the World Championships in Richmond, Va., in 2015, and winning a stage of a multi-day race on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in 2011, where an official race car clipped him as he crossed the finish line, knocking him down. He still won the stage and saluted from the ground.

He rode in the Tour de France in 2016, becoming the second Texan (after Lance Armstrong), to complete the grueling stage race. He didn’t make it to the Tour last year, but landed a seat on the EF Education First-Drapac team this year, alongside team leader Rigoberto Urán, runner up in last year’s Tour.

“Ambitions were high. The main goal was to win the Tour de France,” Craddock says. “I was looking forward to being part of that.”

To donate to the velodrome fund-raiser, go to https://www.gofundme.com/lc039s-fight-for-paris.

Mellow Johnny’s is also selling a shirt featuring Craddock’s race number, 13, placed upside down. See it here. Profits from the shirt benefit the velodrome.

REI gives Austin trails a boost through grants

Hill Country Conservancy Executive Director George Cofer hikes on the Violet Crown Trail near Brodie Lane and 290 West in 2015. The conservancy was one of six Austin organizations to receive a grant from REI. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin trails are getting a boost, thanks to grants from REI Co-op.

The outdoor retailer committed $75,000 to six local nonprofit organizations this week as part of its annual grant program.

The money goes to:

• The Austin Ridge Riders Mountain Bike Club gets $8,000 to help build the Country Club Creek Greenbelt Trail.
• The Hill Country Conservancy gets $10,000 to implement a volunteer program to support ongoing maintenance along the Violet Crown Trail.
• The Shoal Creek Conservancy lands $22,000 to extend the Shoal Creek Trail by 7 miles, connecting it to Lady Bird Lake.
• The Trail Foundation gets $10,000 to create a new public access boat ramp to Lady Bird Lake at the Holly Point Water Access Point.

• Keep Austin Beautiful receives $10,000 to support bi-monthly water and shoreline cleanups of Lady Bird Lake.
• American Rivers Inc. gets $15,000 to efforts to protect and restore rivers and conserve clean water in Austin.

“Our goal is to awaken a lifelong love for the outdoors in everyone,” said Marc Berejka, REI community and government affairs director, and REI Foundation president, in a press release. “One of the primary ways we do this is by stewarding and maintaining the outdoor spaces in the communities where our members and employees live, work and play. This year’s investment will help build and maintain trails, protect waterways and create access to outdoor recreation.”

When grackles attack runners …

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Sometimes overly aggressive grackles throw a kink in the best-laid exercise plans.

Zach Thorne and his partner, both runners, live near 13th and Guadalupe streets, and head out frequently on 8- or 9-mile jaunts through downtown and around the University of Texas campus. Sometimes, though, dive-bombing grackles send them off course.

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Grackles, Thorne says, have swooped on him most frequently at the north end of Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, and near the intersection of Guadalupe and 12th streets.

A grackle at Cherrywood Coffeehouse on Wednesday May 16, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“I’m running, in my zen, and all of the sudden I hear this loud flapping, like someone waving a sheet of cardboard,” he says. “Then there’s this screech and a peck on the head.”

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The birds, which he suspects are protecting nests, have, on occasion, drawn blood. (Watch a bird peck a movie star’s head in this trailer from the movie “The Birds,” which Thorne has definitely seen. It creeps him out.)

“We change our running routes ever so slightly to avoid them, but they seem to find us no matter our path,” he says, adding that he’s convinced the birds remember him and seek him out for harassment. “I’ve heard they have excellent facial recognition and can perhaps communicate between themselves to alert their flock about dangerous predators.”

Thorne is hard headed, though. He runs despite the birds, sometimes removing his shirt and twirling it overhead like a helicopter to keep the birds at bay. He’s even considered wielding a badminton racket for his forays, though he hasn’t reached that level of desperation. Yet.

He’s got one bit of advice for other runners: “Be nice to the grackles, cause they remember you.”

An armadillo and a reporter meet in the desert. Here’s what happens next…

A nine-banded armadillo sniffs the air after a rare July rainstorm in West Texas this week. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

This crusty fellow wandered by after a wild rainstorm swept through the desert Monday near Sheffield, Texas.

He was rooting around for bugs. I happened to be walking across Independence Creek Preserve, a Nature Conservancy property near the confluence of Independence Creek and the Pecos River, when our paths crossed.

The nine-banded armadillo appeared completely unfazed. ‘Dillos have terrible eyesight; they rely on their sense of smell to find food. This one didn’t seem to notice – or care about – my natural odor, either.

He strolled closer and closer, and at one point dug his nose in the dirt just a foot from my camera lens. Then he reared up on his back legs, his wriggly, pink-tipped nose wagging. And look at those ears! Nubbly and tough, but at the same time delicate like rose petals.

Our eyes met – his tiny and squinty, mine wide and curious – and then we continued down our respective paths. I think we both appreciated the magic of a rare July rainstorm in West Texas.

After sniffing the air for a minute or so, the armadillo went back to rooting through the wet soil for grubs, beetles and worms. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

Ready to race? All-comers track meet will help fund Austin High track improvements

John Conley, former director of the Austin Marathon, walks on the track at Austin High School. An all-comers track meet this weekend will raise money to renovate the track.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Thinking of entering an all-comers track meet?

Anyone is invited to participate in this Saturday’s Back the Track Relays at Austin High School, 1715 Cesar Chavez Street. Proceeds will help fund the resurfacing and renovation for the school’s track and field, long a popular place for the local runners to train.

Registration closes at 7 p.m. today. The meet starts at 6 p.m. Saturday. For more information go here.

The USATF-sanctioned event will include 50-meter, 200-meter, 800-meter, 400-meter and 100-meter races, the long jump, and a 1-mile run dubbed the Austin Mile Challenge.

Entry fee is $15, plus an additional $5 for youth and $10 for adults who also enter the Austin Mile Challenge. All proceeds will go to the Back The Track account at the AISD Office of Innovation and Development. For more information go here.

The meet is capped at 175 registrants (no cap for the Austin Mile Challenge). Participants are limited to three events. No refunds or adding events the day of the meet.

Head to Hyatt Regency for free yoga and beer

The Hyatt Regency Austin offers up free yoga and beer at Monday’s Pints & Poses event. Photo courtesy Hyatt Regency Austin

It’s free yoga time again at the Hyatt Regency Austin.

This month’s Pints & Poses class starts at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Zilker Ballroom near the hotel’s parking garage. Austin yogi Ferny Barcelo will lead the smooth vinyasa flow yoga class, assisted by Zuzu Perkal. DJ MadCoins will play meditative music to accompany the class.

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Hotel guests and local residents are invited to the free class. Afterward, they’ll get a coupon for a free beer at a pop-up bar on the hotel’s Zilker Terrace covered patio. Parking is also free. Bring your own yoga mat.

For more information go here.

Don your tennis whites and head to Spin for Wimbledon-themed ping pong events

Spin Austin general manager Hilary Thompson, left, and Malin Pettersson, ping pong professional in residence, right, demonstrate a game at the new ping pong-themed bar/club on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, in Austin, TX. AMANDA VOISARD / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Spin, the new ping pong club in the old Antone’s space at 213 West Fifth Street, will serve up a week’s worth of Wimbledon-themed events next week, a nod to the British tennis tournament taking place.

RELATED: Spin offers hip new take on old-school game

Patrons are encouraged to wear tennis white when they visit the club between July 9 and 15, and the venue will be decked out in grass turf.

Hilary Thompson, general manager at Spin Austin, gathers loose ping pong balls at the new ping pong-themed bar/club on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, in Austin, TX. AMANDA VOISARD / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A special ping pong tournament is set for 8-11 p.m. Monday. Entry is $50 per team. A Wimbledon-themed players night is planned for July 13. Activities start at 10 p.m.

Daily food and drink specials will include the SPiNbledon Cup, SPiNbledon Smash and Berries and Cream dessert, all for $8.

The real Wimbledon tournament continues through July 15 in England.

 

The Trail Foundation plans fall Twilight on the Trail fundraiser

A bicyclist pedals along the Butler Trail as the morning sun rises over Lady Bird Lake in July 2015.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Heads up, users of the Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake.

The Trail Foundation, the non-profit organization that works to maintain and enhance the 10-mile trail in downtown Austin, will host a special event this fall to close out its 15th anniversary celebration.

Jim Moy runs in the fog on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail in February 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Twilight on the Trail is set for 5-8 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Four Seasons Hotel, 98 San Jacinto Boulevard. The fund-raiser, which will take place of the usual State of the Trail breakfast, will include cocktails, live music from guitar and harmonica-playing trail stalwart Woode Wood, and staging of some of the trail’s most iconic projects inside the ballroom.

Tables and a limited number of individual tickets are available at https://thetrailfoundation.org/twilight-on-the-trail/.

Free yoga – plus a discount on prAna gear

PrAna will host a free yoga class at Castle Hill Fitness this Sunday. Photo courtesy PrAna.

What’s better than a free yoga class? Free yoga, plus a discount on yoga clothing and gear.

PrAna will host the free class from 10:15 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Castle Hill Fitness, 1112 North Lamar Boulevard. Afterward, participants will head to nearby Whole Earth for mimosas and a 25 percent discount on prAna products.

The class is limited to 28 people, so advance registration is required. Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to sign a release.

The class, led by a veteran Castle Hill yoga instructor, will include therapeutic somatic movements and will focus on structural alignment and meditation. It is open to all levels.

Austin cyclist Andrew Willis wins endurance national championship

Andrew Willis approaches the 400-mile mark of the 24 Hours in the Canyon race. Photo by Scott Thomas

Chalk up another long-distance cycling accomplishment for Andrew Willis, who gets kicks out of riding a bicycle for hundreds of miles through fry-an-egg-on-a-sidewalk heat.

Willis won the World Ultra Cycling Association’s National Championship event, 24 Hours in the Canyon, earlier this month by pedaling 448 miles in a single day.

The race started at the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon State Park at noon, when it’s nice and hot. Cyclists rode up to the rim, pedaled 100 miles, then dropped back into the canyon to complete as many 5-mile loops within the park as they could before noon the next day.

Willis cycles near Palo Duro Canyon during the 24 Hours in the Canyon race. Handout photo

“I really get into the math behind it, trying to squeeze a few seconds out of every lap with less power and a lower heartrate,” Willis said from the phone this week, while spinning on a bike trainer inside his home. (Always training, that man.)

It took Willis about 16 minutes flat for each 5-mile loop. The hardest part? The heat. And then the cold. Temperatures rose to about 105 at the bottom of the canyon during the day, then dropped into the 40s at night.

“That was really hard on a lot of peoples’ bodies,” said Willis, whose company Holland Racing puts on the weekly Driveway Series of bike races each summer.

RELATED: Could you pedal a bike from California to Colorado in three and a half days? Andrew Willis did

Willis spent a lot of time pedaling on his bike trainer, along with riding and working in the yard during the heat of the day, to prepare for 24 Hours in the Canyon. He also paced himself by starting slow and building intensity after the sun set.

Willis won the national championship in the 24-hour division. Handout photo

“Everyone else went out hard and had huge gaps on me,” Willis said. “At the end of the 100 miles, I came into the canyon in third place. It was hard to not freak out and try to hunt them down then – I had to remind myself I still had 15 hours. Sure enough, they pushed it too hard in the heat and by hour 12 and 13 they were falling apart and throwing up, and I hadn’t pushed myself at all yet. That’s when I turned it on.”

Two years ago, Willis completed the Race Across the West, a 930-mile race from California to Colorado. He’s now considering competing in the Race Across America, a 3,089-mile race from the west to east coast of the United States.