Like track pursuit world champion teammates Jack Bobridge in 2016 and Miles Scotson in 2017, Alex Edmondson (Mitchelton-Scott) is now an Australian national road race champion. The 24-year-old has strong pedigree on the track, with three world titles and an Olympic silver medal, but is also a U23 Tour of Flanders champion.
The Buninyong circuit used to decide the Australian national championships since 2007 is, in theory, one better suited to climbers than track riders. But, as the last three editions of the race suggest, it is a more open course than it might seem on paper.
"Absolutely speechless,” Edmondson said after the race, still coming to terms with his achievement. “It has been an absolute dream of mine. I guess every cyclist growing up, you want to wear the green and gold. It was a magical day I am not going to forget for a hell of a time. I honestly I am not sure what else to say."
In his first season with Mitchelton-Scott in 2016, the Rio Olympic Games was Edmondson's focus and was reflected in just the 36 road days he raced. In 2017, the road was Edmondson's sole focus with 25th on his elite Tour of Flanders debut a further sign of his potential on the road.
However, throughout the majority of the season, Edmondson found himself in domestique roles or working in Caleb Ewan's sprint train. With Mitchelton-Scott holding several cards in its hand to play for the 184.3km road race, Edmondson let the team know he was on a good day. And ready for the challenge of a leadership role.
"About halfway through I felt pretty good and I was talking to Maty Hayman who was the captain for the day and I said 'I feel good, what do I need to do?' and he said if you can, just follow," he said.
With 30km left in the race, Chris Harper put in an attack at the top of the Mt Buninyong KOM. Edmondson made the junction in what would prove to be the race winning move.
"I saw my mate Chris Harper go and I know he is in ripper shape so as I soon as I saw him go I was like 'this is the wheel I need to get on'. It was, pretty much, touch and go," he said of their chances of making it to the line.
Although Edmondson packs the better sprint than Harper, he would still need to think his way to the win and claim Mitchelton-Scott's first road title since Simon Gerrans in 2014.
"The team wanted me to either, leave him and go solo or they were going to work for Caleb," he said of his teammate who was in the chase group behind. "I was second-guessing myself, but I knew if it came down to a sprint, and I could stay away, that I would be able to get him, as I know that he is not the best of all sprinters. But I had to get there.
"I tried to get away from him but I couldn't. He is in ripping shape and I know that he climbs like an absolute demon so I tried once and knew this wasn't good. I thought he was going to counter me and that was going to be it."
As well as needing to outsmart and outkick Harper, Edmondson also had to hold off the charging group behind that included the likes of Richie Porte, Jay McCarthy and Nathan Haas. A challenge he proved worthy of.
"I am just thrilled to throw my hands I the air. We have been here with GreenEdge a few years now to get this win so to get it this year with Mitchelton-Scott, I am absolutely thrilled to be able to do it," he said. "I was about to fall off my bike because I was throwing my hands that hard. I don't get that many opportunities to do it."
Grappling with the words to articulate his emotion of winning gold, Edmondson was clear and concise when speaking of his support structures and gratitude to the Mitchelton-Scott squad for their conviction in his ability and development.
"It has been a bit of a rollercoaster trying to move the progression from the track to the road," he said. "At the moment, every time I get the opportunity to ride with the team, it's about putting the right foot forward and helping my teammates to the best of my ability. I seem to go to a lot more races that I just work for so I think that is why it is making it even harder to sink in that I was able to go for myself.
"I have to thank my team. They have been so supportive through the track ambitions with Rio two years ago and they have supported me all the way through. To come here and to still have the opportunity and be able to finish it off. I am absolutely thrilled."
Edmondson's first opportunity to pull on the green and gold jersey and repay the team for their faith is likely to come at next week's Tour Down Under in his home city of Adelaide, just like Bobridge and Scotson in the aftermath of their nationals win.
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