Three-time track world champion Alex Edmondson (SA/Mitchleton-Scott) upstaged his high-profile rivals at the 2018 FedUni Road National Championships on Sunday, joining the likes of Sir Hubert Opperman, Robbie McEwen and Simon Gerrans on an illustrious honour roll.
After attacking alongside Chris Harper (SA/Bennelong SwissWellness Cycling Team p/b Cervelo) from a splintered peloton with less than four laps of the iconic Mount Buninyong circuit remaining, Edmondson survived a desperate chase to cross the line one second ahead of Jay McCarthy (QLD/Bora-Hansgrohe).
Harper was too fast for the surging Caleb Ewan (NSW/Mitchleton-Scott) and Nathan Haas (ACT/Katusha–Alpecin), with his bronze medal just rewards for an impressive effort in the closing stages of a thrilling 185.6-kilometre road race.
“I am absolutely speechless,” said an emotional Edmondson following his victory. “This means a hell of a lot to me. I would like to thank the team for all their help, my family, my coach – this is just a fairy tale.
“I came here just trying to do what I could for the guys, and to come away with the green and gold is a dream come true. Every cyclist grows up wanting to wear the green and gold, and this is not going to sink in for a while.”
Edmondson, whose track career includes a Commonwealth Games gold medal, an Olympic silver medal and three world titles, admitted there could be some hard feelings from his breakaway partner.
With Edmondson’s more high-profile team-mates Ewan and Cameron Meyer (WA) in the chase group, the South Australian was torn between sitting up for his colleagues and helping the break stay away.
“Chris Harper is one of my best mates, he lives less than 500 metres down the road from where I live in Aldgate,” said Edmondson. “Every day we ride together and every day he is the one pushing me along and vice versa.
“It was made a lot harder because we are such good friends off the bike. It is one of those hard ones because you want to do your best for your mate, but you also have to look after your team-mates.
“There were a lot of words going back and forth – I am not sure what will happen with the friendship,” he laughed. “I am so thrilled for what he has been able to do. He has only been riding for a short amount of time, but he is going to go a long way.
“It’s so hard to get over for the win, but it’s even harder when you have got your best mate there riding next to you. It is my day today, and I know there are going to be plenty more opportunities for Chris Harper.”
Earlier in the race, an eight rider breakaway of Dylan Newbery (QLD/Mobius BridgeLane), Tristan Ward (NSW/Bennelong SwissWellness Cycling Team p/b Cervelo), Troy Herfoss (NSW), Robert Power (WA/Mitchelton-Scott), William Clarke (TAS/EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale), Thomas Kaesler (SA/Drapac EF p/b Cannondale Holistic Development Team), Sean Lake (VIC/Bennelong SwissWellness) and Peter Milostic (NSW) gained nearly six minutes on the peloton.
But a dominant effort from BMC Racing Team, led by former national champions Simon Gerrans and Miles Scotson, narrowed the gap. 2017 Australian Masters National Champion Herfoss attacked solo, with the dual-sport athlete riding solo for almost 25 kilometres as a new bunch of chasers formed.
Edmondson and Harper then went up the road, overhauling Herfoss and staying out of reach of the star-studded chase group until the final straight. Edmondson put his track skills to work, managing to remain just ahead of McCarthy before flinging his arms into the air.
“I was a little bit short there on the line. But I am definitely happy with how the shape is going – all the boys rode really well out there,” said McCarthy.
“It is a great change to the course with a new little part through the university, and it was an exciting race.”
A third for Harper capped a strong week of racing from Bennelong SwissWellness Cycling Team p/b Cervelo, the reigning National Road Series champions.
“It’s all good now. There were a few colourful words, but I am just really happy for Alex. He is one of my best mates and we train almost every day together when he is back in Australia,” joked Harper of his ongoing friendship with Edmondson.
“I know I will be sitting up watching him racing those big one-day races in Europe, and it will be all the easier to see him now he’ll have the green and gold bands around him.”