Alex Edmondson had no plans to win the 2018 Road National Championships.
“Alex told us he was not going for the victory,” says his sister, two-time track world champion Annette Edmondson. “He told the family not to bother coming over to Ballarat as he was riding a team role.”
But after covering an attack in the closing stage of the Mount Buninyong epic, Edmondson found himself at the front of the race alongside close friend Chris Harper. As the kilometres ticked down, a valiant chase group struggled to close the gap.
Harper was ultimately caught in the final straight, but Edmondson – a three-time pursuit world champion and Commonwealth Games gold medallist – put his track skills to good use and claimed an unexpected victory.
“Sometimes you get so into the team role that you don’t see these things coming,” explains Edmondson during the Tour Down Under. “So when they do it makes it truly special. I still pinch myself every time I get to pull on the green and gold.”
Edmondson was put in an unenviable position during the closing stages of the national championships. With highly-fancied team-mates Luke Durbridge and Caleb Ewan chasing, the South Australian was torn between sitting on Harper’s wheel or riding hard to ensure he stayed away.
“There were a few hard words spoken between the two of us during the break,” recalls Edmondson of Harper’s frustration. “But afterwards I got a text from him: ‘I am sorry for all the bad things I said to you, you are still a good bloke and a good friend!’”
Edmondson’s victory adds his name to an illustrious honour roll and continues a remarkable rise to the top of the sport.
Born in Malaysia, Edmondson spent time in The Netherlands and Oman before his family settled in Adelaide. He took to track cycling and, at 18, became the second youngest ever cyclist to make the Australian Olympic team.
That experience would prove profound, in an unexpected way.
“Going to London 2012 has been one of the best experiences to date, but if you asked me at the time I would have said it was the worst,” says Edmondson. “I went to the Olympics as the fifth man, and I did not get to race.
“When they raced the final I was on the inside of the track with tears running down my face. I am not sure whether it was because I was so ecstatic for the guys or so upset at not getting to ride.”
The experience almost led Edmondson to quit the sport and reaffirmed how fortunate he was to have his sister Annette alongside him. “I remember sitting in her room in the Olympic village,” Edmondson says. “I was in tears, she was in tears.
“I suggested that I just quit and accept that I tried but did not quite make it. Annette told me to use it as a point to prove. Sure enough, a month later I was back and hungrier than ever. Every time I got on the bike I had a point to prove. I always said to myself: I am going to Rio and I’m going to make sure I deserve my spot.”
Edmondson qualified for the 2016 Olympics and was part of the men’s pursuit team that broke the world record in the final, only to be beaten by Great Britain.
“You put so much effort, heart, time and hours on the bike” he reflects. Then you find out it is only for three minutes and 50 seconds. Sure you have a silver medal, but you don’t go to the Olympics to come second.
“You are standing there with a silver medal around your neck hearing the national anthem, but it is so hard to be happy. It’s not until a few months later when you can appreciate that what you did was so special.”
Illness initially hampered Edmondson’s transition to full-time road riding with Mitchelton-Scott. He rode his first Grand Tour at the Giro d’Italia and then had a light schedule for the remainder of 2017.
Despite his recent success, Edmondson is not getting ahead of himself. “I know everything went my way at Road Nats, but I also know that my role at the moment with the team is to support and gain as much experience as possible,” he says.
“As long as I have a consistent year, get team-mates up for a few wins and show the green and gold off to fans around the world, that will be special.”
Humble and friendly, Edmondson’s attitude to 2018 is reflective of his broader ambitions. He might be one of Australian cycling’s hottest young talents, but Edmondson has broader goals.
“When I retire,” he muses, “I want to be remembered as someone who was a good cyclist but was also an even better guy off the road.
“I remember how much it meant when I was young, looking up to the pros, even if it was just a small conversation or some advice, that meant so much. I want to be remembered for supporting the next generation and just being an all-around good bloke.”