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When commentators mistook a flying Alex Edmondson (Orica-Scott) for teammate Michael Albasini in the closing metres of stage two of last week’s Tour de Romandie, it was a reasonable mistake to make. After all, Albasini had won the first stage, and very few expected track star Edmondson to contest the finale of such a hard stage in such horrible conditions.
At 23 years old, Edmondson is still very young in terms of the WorldTour peloton. Most professionals his age are working for others, not sprinting for the win at big races such as Romandie.
But Edmondson was right in amongst it, and finished fourth on the stage. Even Edmondson himself was surprised by his achievement.
“Being my first proper year on the road and even with last year having a bit of a taste of what it’s like … I’m coming into these races not really knowing what to expect,” Edmondson told CyclingTips. “The team gave me the freedom to be able to go for the sprint at the end.”
It wasn’t Edmondson’s first impressive result of the race.
After a strong first Classics campaign, which included an impressive 25th at the Tour of Flanders — a race he won in the U23 ranks — Edmondson managed to carry his good form through the spring to land his first WorldTour podium in the Tour de Romandie prologue.
In soaking rain and freezing conditions, Edmondson finished only seconds behind stage winner Fabio Felline and British time trial champion Alex Dowsett. The short, technical course suited a rider like Edmonson who has a strong track background.
Stoked to get my first pro podium today with a 3rd in the prologue of @tourderomandie! Gotta love 4.8kms in the pissing down rain! Huge thanks to everyone who has played a part, especially the whole @oricascott crew! ??????????????????????#thegoodlife #onwardsandupwards #TDR2017 #tdwsport ???? – @tdwsport
Perhaps even more impressive, however, were Edmondson’s performances in the bunch sprints on stages 2 and 3. He placed fourth in both but came very close to pulling off the win in stage 3 with a long-range effort. Edmondson launched his sprint with about 300 metres to go and opened up a gap but was caught just metres from the line (see video below).
“I think that was a really interesting sprint. I was in a pretty good place and then with about a kilometre to go I got swamped — probably a bit of inexperience,” Edmondson said. “I didn’t manage to get a gap but when I saw a gap open it was either ‘I can stay here and run a top 15 or I just commit full gas now and possibly catch them napping, and maybe I’ll win’. So I just committed.”
With the peloton surging ahead of the final sprint, getting clear was no mean feat. It’s something Edmondson credits to his years as a track rider.
“I think definitely it comes from the track,” he said. “That’s one thing that I’m lucky enough to have: the top end there.”
Edmondson’s strong spring campaign (and particularly at the Tour de Romandie) has ultimately resulted in a late call-up to the Giro d’Italia, which starts on the island of Sardinia this Friday. Even after his promising start to the year, Edmondson was shocked when he got a phone call from Orica-Scott director Matt White on Saturday, while still at Romandie.
“I definitely didn’t see this coming. Most riders always want to ride a Grand Tour but to be actually going to a Grand Tour and starting that in a couple of days time is just absolutely unbelievable,” Edmondson said. “I’ve always wanted to ride one but I definitely didn’t think it would be this soon.”
Orica-Scott goes into the Giro with both general classification and sprint ambitions through Adam Yates and Caleb Ewan respectively. While many would expect Edmondson to form a key part of Ewan’s lead-out, Edmondson is just happy to help out where possible.
“I know there will be a big emphasis on helping Caleb in the finishes with Luka Mezgec and so that’s probably the main goal to make sure we get Caleb to the finish in the best shape,” he said. “But I’ll do whatever I get asked. If it’s bottles they need, I’ll be doing that. Or if it’s keeping Yatesy [Adam Yates] out of the wind, then that’ll be what I’m doing.”
— Alexander Edmondson (@alexedmo) May 1, 2017
Edmondson talks about Orica-Scott not just as a team but more as a “family” and knows the Giro will be a massive learning curve. He is hoping to learn as much from it as he possibly can.
“I’m going to try and soak up as much experience as I can,” the South Australian said. “The boys will probably get a bit annoyed with me asking so many questions but at the end of the day, the more I ask the better off I’ll be down the track.”
Given his exciting start to the year, does Edmondson dare dream of a stage win?
“Of course, if you could go for an opportunity to win, you’re never going to turn it down,” he said. “But at the moment I’m not going to get ahead of myself — I just want to do everything I’m asked and if I manage to get through and do everything the team has asked of me, then that’s a win for me.”
While the Giro might be Edmondson’s immediate focus, there is still a lot to look forward to in the future. He has performed strongly in time trials, in sprints, and in the Classics — so what rider does he see himself as? What would he like to specialise in?
“To be honest I’m not really sure,” he admits. “I think that’s one thing which is pretty exciting because I haven’t spent that much time on the road so I don’t know what is possible. At the moment it is just about taking each day as it comes.”
Edmondson has always said he wants to win a one-day classic and given his win in the 2015 U23 Tour of Flanders, the senior version of that race might be an obvious target. But Edmondson knows cycling is never as simple as that.
“People always say you won the U23s so you can win the elite one. Yeah it might have similarities but it’s a whole ‘nother beast,” he said. “But hopefully when I retire it’s one where I can say I’ve won.”
As well as the Tour of Flanders, there are other races in spring that capture Edmondson’s imagination.
“My goals that I have always said I wanted are the one-day classics,” he said. “I really want to win the likes of Flanders or Roubaix down the track. But any race you can go to you can win and whenever you get the opportunity to put your hands in the air there is no better feeling. So fingers crossed there are a few more of those to come.”
Edmondson is quick to credit his team for much of his success so far, and is particularly appreciative to Orica-Scott for being so understanding of his track commitments in 2016. As a graduate from the Australian WorldTour Academy, his transition to the WorldTour has been one aided by both parties and it seems as though he really could not be happier.
At 23 Edmondson is just starting to be noticed as a road rider but he has already achieved plenty on the track, winning silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics team pursuit and three world titles (two in the team pursuit, one in the individual pursuit). At the age of 18, in 2012, Edmondson became the second youngest cyclist ever to be selected for an Australian Olympic team.
While Edmondson has split his time between road and track in the past, he is now fully committed to the road.
“I feel like I’ve almost started cycling again. Ever since I started I’ve been doing road and track and having just the one focus … I’m really enjoying the experience,” he said. “Being able to spend more time racing with the team is really enjoyable and to be able to get my first proper full road season in, that’s the goal this year.”
While there’s many things Edmondson wants to achieve on the road, a return to the track is still a possibility.
“I’ve always said I’ve always wanted to win an Olympic gold medal and I think we came bloody close to it in Rio,” he said. “But at the moment I’m just really enjoying being on the road … but I won’t ever say never about the track.”
For now though, Edmondson has his sights set on his first GrandTour and helping the team to the best of his abilities.
About the author
Matt de Vroet joined CyclingTips as an editorial intern in April 2017. He is a third-year journalism student at Monash University in Melbourne and currently races for Van D’am Racing in Australia’s National Road Series.