Remarkably, that’s exactly what happened at the finish. The disciplined, yet relatively new ORICA-AIS squad stuck by Edmondson’s side all the way to line to help bring home an exceptional win for the team, giving the team back-to-back overall victories in China.
“This is pretty crazy,” said Edmondson. “It’s the first time I’ve won a yellow jersey in this kind of tour. It’s really special, but more amazing is how much my team backed me. I’m not the strongest sprinter here, but we have a strong team, and I was fastest because of them. They were brilliant all week.”
Edmondson started stage three 6” behind Hosking. Rather than thinking about the finish at the start, the team went in with the mindset of taking each sprint as they came. The stage included two intermediate sprints ahead of the final sprint, and each offered bonus seconds.
“Today was straightforward,” added Sport Director Dave McPartland. “The girls are pretty fit, so we needed to go all out for each sprint and then assess after each one.”
Hosking won both the intermediate sprints, which opened her lead over Edmondson to 9”. Despite the growing gap, the team remained focused on winning the stage.
“When Chloe outsprinted us in both intermediate sprints, we knew we had to change our plan for the finish,” said McPartland. “We definitely went way too early in the second sprint so we had to concentrate on getting it right for the finish. We started the sprint train later to have more girls left at the finish, and we nailed it.”
Edmondson, who has never had a dedicated sprint train at her disposal, learned from previous mistakes to trust her lead out. In the end, Edmondson’s ability to take on board feedback and make adjustments based on what she was learning along the way paid off for the squad.
“What is super pleasing is the way they gelled together, and the way Nettie has learned to trust the other girls on the team,” noted McPartland. “She had to learn not to panic when other teams surged up on the side. Yesterday, she switched trains when other teams came up on us. We explained to her that she can’t do that, and that she could have lost us the tour that way. She understood, and today, she stuck to her own train.”
“This is the first real opportunity I’ve had to work with a sprint train,” added Edmondson. “I’ve had a couple chances in the last couple years with one or two riders, but never a full team. The main thing I’ve learned is to trust and believe in my team – and to be patient!”
Edmondson credits her teammates with guiding her throughout the three day tour and recognises her experiences in China are part of her season long lessons.
“I have a tendency to get nervous,” continued Edmondson. “I made a couple of mistakes this week, but after each sprint, I had the experienced riders tell me what I need to do differently. I’m learning that making mistakes is okay as long as you learn from them. My main goal this week, well this whole year, is to learn from the riders around me who have been here before and have the experience. I need to take it all in and try to improve. That definitely happened today.”
After several near misses, the odds were against ORICA-AIS in the final sprint. There was one final chance to get it right, and they seized it.
“It was a long shot for us to win and Chloe to finish outside the top three,” said McPartland. “But the girls stayed calm and relaxed and stayed near each other in the bunch. We concentrated on our own race and were rewarded for not getting sidetracked.”
“I knew [Giorgia] Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) was also going to be looking for a win,” added Edmondson. “Her win could upset the overall. I tried to do some calculations, but at the end of the day, all that mattered was that I tried to win. That was all that we could do. We could only focus on ourselves. It didn’t matter about Chloe or Bronzini. It only mattered that I took the win. We’d work out the overall standings from there.”
It was the only that mattered – and she did it. Edmondson took the stage win and the 10” bonus seconds that went along with it. Neither Bronzini nor Hosking factored into the top three on the stage. It was the only scenario that would have given Edmondson the overall victory.
“In the end, I think I had a bit of luck on my side,” said Edmondson with a smile. “It was a fairytale ending.”