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.

When grackles attack runners …

[cmg_anvato video=4431351 autoplay=”true”]

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.

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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.

 

Exercise, talk go together in free Marathon Kids program

Marathon Kids is offering a free Walk and Talk program this summer. Photo courtesy Marathon Kids

 

Anybody who’s spent time training for a marathon knows that a special bond develops between exercise buddies.

That’s the idea behind the free Walk and Talk summer program from Marathon Kids, the non-profit organization that works to improve the health and happiness of children through running and walking programs.

Parents who register online for the Walk and Talk program will get a link to 26 discussion topics ranging from health and education to knock-knock jokes and travel dreams – one for each mile of walking or running with their kids. They’ll also get a special mileage log to record their progress.

“Kids are sometimes more comfortable connecting when they’re engaged in activities with their parents, like coloring, or cooking or exercising,” Marathon Kids chief executive officer Cami Hawkins said in a press release. “There’s something about being together, side by side, that helps get the ball rolling on good conversation.”

Talking and exercise go hand in hand. Photo courtesy Marathon Kids

 

Research also shows that when kids engage in physical activity with their parents, they have a much better chance of developing lifelong healthy habits, Hawkins said.

After 26(.2) miles, the parent and child will have completed the equivalent of a full marathon – and they’ll know each other a little better in the process.

To register for the free program go to MarathonKids.org/WalkandTalk.

Grant will pay for new well at Deep Eddy Pool

Friends of Deep Eddy received a grant from Austin Parks Foundation to drill a new well for Deep Eddy Pool. Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman

 

Five area parks are getting a boost through grants awarded by the Austin Parks Foundation.

On the list of recipients? Friends of Deep Eddy, which landed $25,000 to drill a new well that will provide an additional water source for the much loved spring-fed pool.

In all, the foundation awarded $172,000 in community grants for its spring cycle.

Mabson Fields will get $50,000 for new bleachers, a shade structure and scoreboard, and Patterson Park will get $50,000 for new playground equipment, seating and natural play elements. Barrington School Park received $27,000 to improve access to the Barrington Green Schoolyard, and Murchison Pool landed $20,000 for a new playscape.

As part of its new Park Design Services, the foundation also named Pomerleau Pocket Park as recipient of its first-ever Master Plan project. The foundation will lead efforts to develop a long-range vision for the park.

Austin Parks Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with the city of Austin and the private sector to develop, maintain and enhance the area’s more than 300 parks, trails and green spaces.

For more information or to apply for future grants, go to www.austinparks.org.

Calling all runners – Austin needs your blood

Members of Team Spiridon log a training run. Photo by Rob Hill

 

Let’s face it. Most runners tend toward the obsessive when it comes to their health. That’s why a local running coach wants them to donate whole blood or platelets during a drive he’s calling Blood Runs Deep.

“It’s as simple as the fact that I believe running can be a huge force for good,” says Rob Hill, community outreach manager at We Are Blood and head of the Team Spiridon running group. “Runners, given their focus on health, understand how critical blood is – not just for performance, but for the community.”

One in seven people will need a blood transfusion at some point in their lives, Hill says, and summer is typically a slow time for donations. All blood types are needed.

Linda Wyler of Austin gives blood at the Round Rock donation center in this file photo by MARCIAL GUAJARDO/ROUND ROCK LEADER

Runners are asked to drop by one of three Central Texas locations of We Are Blood, which supplies blood to hospitals and medical facilities in 10 Central Texas counties, between June 21-30 to donate. Two running groups, Gilbert’s Gazelles and Rogue Running, have already vowed to participate.

Concerned that donating blood will put you off your running game? Don’t worry. You could experience an 8 to 10 percent decrease in performance the day after donating, and a slight decrease for a day or two after that, but it won’t last. Just time your donation for after a run and before your rest day, Hill suggests.

Donors must be at least 17 years old and weigh 115 pounds. Some travel restrictions apply, too.

Book an appointment at weareblood.org or call 512-206-1266. You can donate at any of We Are Blood’s three locations – Austin North, 4300 North Lamar Boulevard; Round Rock, 2132 North Mays, Suite 900; or Austin South, 3100 West Slaughter Lane.

Paddlers to traverse 21 miles of Lake Austin for Dam That Cancer

Stand-up paddleboarders, in front left to right, Liz Kelley, Scott Herz and Rob Koenig float past the Pennybacker Bridge during the 5th annual Tyler’s Dam That Cancer event in 2014. The event raises money for The Flatwater Foundation, a nonprofit that provides access to mental health services for those affected by cancer. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Cast an eye toward Lake Austin Monday and you might spot a flotilla of people aboard standup paddleboards.

Nearly 200 people will paddle 21 miles from Mansfield Dam to Tom Miller Dam during Tyler’s Dam that Cancer. The event raises money for the Flatwater Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides access to mental health services for those affected by cancer.

RELATED: Paddlers glide 21 miles for a cause

The public is invited to celebrate their finish with a party at the Lower Colorado River Authority offices, 3701 Lake Austin Boulevard. To attend, make a donation, either in advance at http://tylersdtc.com/ or at the door. The party will feature music from DJ Abe the Assassin, food from Texican Cafe, and beverages from Landshark, William Chris Vineyards, Live Soda and Chameleon Cold Brew.

Paddlers are expected to arrive at about 5:30 p.m. The party runs from 6-8 p.m.

Organizers hope to raise $700,000 at this year’s event. All proceeds will help support families in need.