CHARTRES, France (AP) — Lawson Craddock is giving new meaning to the term "Texas Tough."
After breaking his shoulder and bloodying his face in an unfortunate crash during the first stage of the Tour de France, the American rider has soldiered on through six more grueling days of the world's biggest bike race.
"My parents raised me as a fighter," Craddock said. "I grew up in Texas and that's just what I have grown up to be. I keep pushing my body as far as I can. At this point I am doing it for the others, doing it for the kids in Houston so they can have a good, safe environment to ride a bike in."
Craddock has taken advantage of the attention his crash received to start a fundraising effort for the Alkek velodrome in Houston , which is where he started cycling.
He is donating $100 to the venue — which was damaged in Hurricane Harvey — for every Tour stage he finishes. He's asking others to contribute, too.
As of Friday, the relief effort had raised $64,000.
"It gives me goose bumps just to think if I can make it to Paris what will be possible," Craddock said of the race's conclusion on July 29.
He grew up 10 minutes away from the velodrome. "There are not that many in the U.S," he said. "Kids ... don't have to worry about traffic, cars. They are watched the entire time."
Craddock's crash occurred when he hit a dropped water bottle in the feeding zone and collided with a spectator. Blood from a cut to his left eyebrow covered his face .
He was diagnosed with a fracture of 1-2 centimeters in his scapula. "It's stable. It's not dangerous in any way," said EF Education First-Drapac team physician Kevin Sprouse. "It's safe for him to be racing. The biggest concern is not necessarily the fracture. ... It's how he can handle the bike."
Craddock is receiving treatment day and night to ensure he can apply enough pressure on the handlebars to control his bike. Sessions with the team's chiropractor have made him "close to tears."
He has to ask teammates to pass him energy bars since he can't maneuver his body to grab them from the pockets on the back of his jersey.
But after missing last year's Tour, Craddock has no plans to give up — even with the bone-jarring cobblestoned route of Stage 9 to Roubaix approaching. He was last of 170 riders (more than 1 hour behind race leader Greg Van Avermaet) following Friday's stage of 231 kilometers (143.5-miles) — the longest of this year's Tour.
"I had such a rough year last year I wanted to be at this race so bad," he said. "My focus this entire season, while trying to get the most out of the other races, was also to be at the Tour de France. To crash on Stage 1 and have this happen to me is a big blow but you know if I can still ride, why not try?"
Craddock's perseverance has attracted plenty of attention, especially from Lance Armstrong, a fellow Texan and sometimes training partner.
"It is great he has given me so much encouragement. Hearing from him, hearing from everyone, is just incredible," Craddock said. "It's hard to keep up with all the messages, but I am doing my best and reading them all and I love the support I am getting."
His ordeal has made Craddock wonder about the significance of the No. 13 he was assigned to put on his jersey. He attaches the number upside down.
"When I got No. 13 I tried to tell myself it was lucky, but when I hit that bottle in the feed zone it was one of the first things that came into my mind," he said. "But at this point, something really great has come out of it."
Craddock's fundraising page: https://www.gofundme.com/lc039s-fight-for-paris
Associated Press writer Joseph Wilson contributed.
More Tour de France coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/TourdeFrance
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf