Alex Edmondson: “I remember winning my first novice race on a borrowed bike, riding with sand shoes”
Twenty-four-year-old Alex Edmondson made his name on the boards before making history at London 2012 when he and his sister, Annette Edmondson, became the first brother and sister to represent Australia in cycling at the same Olympics.
The multiple world and national champion track cyclist won the U23 Tour of Flanders in 2015 before taking the 2018 national road title in style this January.
Speaking at the Mitchelton-Scott training camp near Almeria in southern Spain, Edmondson talked about growing up abroad, winning in plimsolls on a borrowed bike in his first ever race, and riding alongside “sixty-year-old” Mat Hayman.
Rouleur: At what point did you know you’d won the Nationals?
Alex Edmondson: It wasn’t until about 50 metres from the line when I looked over my shoulders for the last time and saw that the pack was still behind. If it came down to a bunch kick we’d agreed to work for Caleb Ewan. But I saw the [winning] move, marked it, and luckily held on by one second.
It was very touch and go. I had the team telling me to do one thing – and obviously I wanted to win and do my best – but I was also in the break with one of my best mates [Chris Harper] who lives just a kilometre away from me in Adelaide, so I knew how much he wanted it. In training me and Chris always imagined what it would be like to be riding into Buninyong in that same situation. Then all of a sudden it happened. It didn’t hit home until about a week later.
By which time your sister Annette had got in on the act…
Yeah, I think it was about 48 hours later: she won the first stage of the Tour Down Under [for Wiggle High5]. It’s been really special for our family. She said how much she was motivated by me doing what I did. We’ve always been competitive and wanting to outdo each other, but we’re there to support each other and get the best results for each other as well.
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Was it your sister who got you into cycling?
I got into downhill mountain biking because of our brother who’s four years older than me and two years older than my sister. Nettie got into track cycling through the talent identification programme at the South Australian Sports Institute. I listened to her and had my first turn on the track, then the following year, when I was 11, I got on the same programme.
I remember winning my first novice race on a borrowed bike, riding with sand shoes on the pedals. I also won AUS$100. In downhill you only won medals, but here I had $100, so I went, ‘Nah, this is it. I’m a road cyclist now.’
How much of an inspiration to you is your sister?
She’s always tried to give back and support the less fortunate. It was such an eye-opener when we went to the Rio Olympics because when she was 12 years old, all she wanted for her birthday and Christmas was for mum and dad to let her sponsor a [Brazilian] child. She was already thinking outside the square. At the Olympics we ended up flying to Salvador and went and visited the village of the girl she’s been sponsoring for 10 years. I was absolutely gobsmacked with the impact she was able to have for the girl and her school. Off the bike my sister does an awful lot with charities, which I find inspirational.
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Is it true Annette speaks Indonesian?
Yeah. Mum and dad both travelled around for work and we lived in Malaysia, Holland and Oman. When we were at school in Malaysia we learned Indonesian or Japanese because they were the closest countries. I did a couple of semesters so can speak a little, but my sister is fully fluent. She’s also worked in an orphanage in Indonesia and reached a point when she was thinking in Indonesian.
Has the family connection helped you during your career?
The hype and pressure of the Olympics can come down on you like a tonne of bricks, so it’s special to have a sister there who was at the same kind of level. Most people have to Skype their family, but if there’s something going wrong, I could just walk down the corridor and my sister was there. Our parents always said, ‘Find something you love, then chase it and don’t give up’. That’s what we’ve been doing.
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What are your personal targets for the season?
I’ve always wanted to target the Classics and I was able to tick off the U23 Tour of Flanders, which was such an amazing feeling. The main thing for me this year is to get as much experience from the team as I can. This is my third year with Mitchelton-Scott but it seems like I haven’t spent a hell of a lot of time on the road because of my track commitments.
I want to be able to be a sponge and soak up as many tips from the guys as I can, and if the opportunity arises, then hopefully I’ll seize it with both hands. We’ve got a really strong team this year with a lot of expectation. We can go to a lot of races knowing that we can win. We’ve started off with a great start to the year so hopefully we keep the ball rolling.
Who do you look up to in the team?
It’s really exciting to have someone like Matteo Trentin with his experience and capabilities. But obviously you can’t take anything away from Matty Hayman, who seems like he’s been here forever -which he has. He always says every year is his last, but he’ll be around here till he’s 60 – which is probably only next year! His Roubaix win was so special for the whole team. We’re not just team-mates here – we’re mates. That’s why it’s so special to be a part of Mitchelton-Scott. It feels like a family. We’re here for work, but to have fun as well.
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