Australian cyclist Annette Edmondson brought her cycling career to a close at the UCI Track Champions League, saying goodbye after 10 years of international racing that left her walking away with an Olympic bronze medal, two Commonwealth Games gold medals, multiple Track World Championship victories and 16 elite national titles.
The 29-year-old, who rode on the track and road, faced a challenging couple of years with limited international racing and a Tokyo Olympics that didn’t run to plan, however after extending her career for one more event she finished with a trip to the podium. Edmondson took third place behind another retiring rider, Kirsten Wild, and the victorious Katie Archibald at the final round of Champions League in London.
“I have another few years in me physically, but my mind is done,” said Edmondson in a post on her website. “Whilst I did not achieve my ultimate goal of Olympic gold on the track, I have achieved almost everything else that I set out to do.”
“On the road, I am slightly unsatisfied. I do believe I had more to offer, however I chose track, and I couldn’t manage to do both disciplines at the highest level as some athletes are able (here’s looking at you Lisa Brennauer!) I would have loved to have seen how I would have gone with full road commitment for a few years, but now I am ready, (and more excited) for a different phase,” said Edmondson who swept up seven international wins on the road over her career and is the reigning Australian criterium champion.
“The risk of crashing has also played a part in my decision, after having suffered from a serious concussion in 2018. I am experiencing some issues today from this incident which has put my goals into perspective.”
Edmondson, who first donned the green and gold jersey as a junior 15 years ago, thanked the many people who had helped her along the way, in particular endurance track coach Tim Decker, adding that her time in the sport had given her so much.
“I may not have been the ‘perfect’ athlete but I was me,” Edmondson said. “I wouldn’t have survived the intensity of the elite sporting world without being a little rough around the edges. I implore you all to do the same. Never lose yourself, even in the pursuit of your goals. Speak out if you need help, and use your team around you. Make a plan, and if you hit a road-block, make another. The world really is your oyster.”
Edmondson said she is leaving a sport that has changed considerably since she first began riding on the track and then the road, where she raced with Orica-GreenEdge for two seasons from 2013 before moving on to Wiggle Honda and Wiggle High 5 through to the end of 2018.
“I am proud to leave this sport in a better place than when I started,” Edmondson said on her site, “I rode for $0 for my first two years as a road professional in 2013 with one of the best teams in the world. I won two world-tour-equivalent races (including the overall tour GC) and was re-signed the following year for $0 with a $5000 AUD bonus. This team is now paying equal minimum wage to all of their riders, meaning a minimum of 65,000 Euros per year.”
“Track cycling is also in a better place, with UCI Cat 1’s and 2’s all over the globe providing riders with so many more opportunities to race. Despite the negativity about Australian cycling, I believe we are in a better place than when I started.”
The Australian Olympic cycling team support structure was overhauled after the Rio Olympic games when the results tally of a silver and bronze medal on the track fell below expectations, with Simon Jones appointed as performance director to try and turn results from the medal focussed high performance unit around. Jones, who came in with ambitious targets, has left and the Tokyo Olympics team – which spent the time leading into the Games without international competition as the COVID-19 pandemic kept riders in their home nation – walked away with one bronze medal from the road and one from the track.
Edmondson – who represented Australia in the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympics – may have acknowledged the negativity about Australian cycling but also pointed to the positives.
“When I first joined the Women’s Track endurance (WTE) program, the average age of our group (and the entire 2012 Australian Olympic Team) was 22,” Edmondson said. “It was unusual for female endurance riders to survive in the program past the age of 23, due to ‘burn-out’ or the ‘toxic environment’. The average age of our WTE program at Tokyo, 2021 was 26. I believe we are in a much better, healthier environment, with athletes equipped with better tools to prolong their careers.”
“Whilst Australia hasn’t had much opportunity lately to actually race, I believe the depth is there and the talent is ready.. we just need to develop and unleash it!”