Words & Photo || Gary J Boulanger
Former United Airlines pilot Lindsay Crawford has scaled back his annual training mileage a bit these days; the 72-year-old Californian only puts 10,000 miles in the saddle compared to his 18,000-plus annual output during the `70s and `80s, when he was a full-time pilot racing a national calendar of events on the road and occasionally on the track. Crawford raced on the same team as Bob LeMond in the late `70s, when young Greg was still a junior, and both men were new to the sport.
Crawford was 29 when he took out his first racing license, and two years later helped a teammate finish fifth during the inaugural Tour of California, organized by Velo Sport Berkeley shop owner Peter Rich, the same man who groomed future stars George Mount and Mike Neel. Crawford raced on Rich's team; the 10-stage, 8-day race was 685 miles long.
1. Crawford, then 39, was asked to captain what would have been the first all-American team to race the Tour de France in 1981. Former Olympian and pro Mike Neel was the general manager; Crawford took two months off from work at United to prepare and set aside time to race the Tour, only to find out five weeks before the prologue in Nice that the team was no longer participating. The first American to race the Tour was fellow Californian Jonathan Boyer, who helped his team captain Bernard Hinault to his third Tour victory while finishing 32nd overall.
2. Crawford's daily training routes include the same ridden by the Tour of California pro peloton from his home on Skyline Boulevard in Woodside. A spin to the Pacific Coast almost always includes the ascent up Tunitas Creek, elevation 2,200 feet.
3. A Campagnolo devotee since his SunTour-sponsored days in the early 1980s, Crawford splits his saddle time between two custom steel Della Santas, a 1976 De Rosa track bike for fixed-gear use on the road, and a custom Cyfac he only races in Europe. An ace mechanic who maintains his own equipment, Crawford relies on sew-ups, regardless of terrain, which usually includes dirt as well as asphalt.
4. Denied the chance to finish the Tour in Paris in 1981, which would have earned him $5,000, Crawford won his age category during the 2003 L'Etape du Tour, which earned him a spot on the podium, a Credit-Lyonnais yellow jersey, plus the fabled plus lion.
5. While most 72-year-olds ease into their sunset years, Crawford continues to train daily on the bike and in the gym, and his slim physique resembles George Hincapie (as do his muscular legs, complete with topographical veins). His objective each summer is to finish strongly in a handful of European sportives, which includes the Quebrantahuesos in Spain, an event he's finished five times. This is mere training for the Big Dance in France, L'Etape du Tour, an event Crawford has taken on 14 times since the early 2000s.