Josh Edmondson insists ambition to race at 2014 Tour de France is no pipe dream
Team Sky rider tells Matt Westby home roads are beckoning
Last Updated: 18/11/13 4:55pm
When the 101st edition of the world's most famous cycle race rolls out of Leeds on July 5, it will pass within two miles of where the 21-year-old grew up and when it reaches the idyllic Wharfedale valley a short time later, it will navigate the roads he has ridden on an almost daily basis as boy and now man. His association with stage one's route takes the old "my own backyard" adage to a near-literal level.
The only problem is, he might not be there. Places in Tour de France squads are not generally handed to second-year professionals and the greater likelihood is that the Team Sky rider will be spending that particular Saturday in the eastern Alps preparing for the Tour of Austria, or at a training camp in Mallorca. That even Sir Bradley Wiggins is set to be reduced to a support role is a measure of the level of competition.
Edmondson, though, is not about to give up on living a dream within a dream. Opportunities to fulfil a lifelong ambition of riding the Tour will come again; on home roads not so.
"The Tour de France starting in Leeds is obviously going to be the biggest race of the year for any British rider, and that would be my main aim, to start that race," he says without hint of false hope.
"I realise it is going to be very difficult to get in that team, but I would like to think it is a realistic ambition.
"I have to prove myself right from the word go, at the start of training in December. I have to show that the Tour is my ambition and I am worthy of it and that I am willing to apply myself to that level.
"It would be incredible to ride the Tour in Leeds, in front of all my friends and family. The route for stage one goes right through my childhood effectively. I can't let the opportunity to ride it just pass me by without a fight."
In a squad as strong as Team Sky, the task facing Edmondson appears almost insurmountable. But he cites precedent.
This year his best friend in the team, Peter Kennaugh, emerged from seemingly nowhere to snatch a place in the nine-man line-up for the Tour de France and went on to excel himself with a performance that was influential in Chris Froome's overall victory.
Key to Kennaugh's surprise in inclusion was an outstanding display at the Criterium du Dauphine a month earlier, where his climbing skills and selfless teamwork backed team principal Sir Dave Brailsford into a corner and made him impossible to overlook.
Edmondson is three years younger and three years less experienced than Kennaugh, but doesn't see that as a barrier to emulating the Manxman.
"Pete showed last year that someone who wasn't previously in contention can get in the team," he says. "If you had asked him two months before the Tour if he would be there, he would have said there is absolutely no chance whatsoever.
"But then he stepped up his game at the Dauphine and they couldn't not take him to the Tour. That is the template I am hoping to follow."
Edmondson also has past results on his side. Even though he has only been with Team Sky for one season and is yet to make an individual breakthrough, he was part of the squads that helped Chris Froome win the Tour de Romandie and Wiggins win the Tour of Britain.
They were the two highlights of a year in which he has made a seamless transition from amateur to professional and, in his own words, developed markedly as a rider.
"I think I have come a long way this year in every respect," he explains. "At first, it was a little bit overwhelming going from being all alone as an amateur in Italy to training with Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in Mallorca in the space of a week.
"But over the course of the season I have learnt a lot, at every single race, through spending time with the other guys and riding alongside them.
"Helping Brad win the Tour of Britain was definitely one of the highlights. It was so nice to see him back winning again, especially in front of his home fans.
"And then, of course, I was with Chris when he won the Tour de Romandie - seeing him prepare for the Tour de France and seeing how focused he was. That was special."
Having watched Froome and Wiggins first hand and already made significant strides as a professional, the question now is how far Edmondson can go himself?
At just shy of 6ft tall and with a slim frame, he is built for climbing and, with that, has potential to grow into a team leader and general classification contender.
Edmondson is keen not to get ahead of himself, but a successful first season with Team Sky has opened his eyes to what may be possible.
"This year has made me see that I can be more ambitious," he adds. "As an amateur you cannot start saying 'I would love to win this race and this race' because you don't know if you are ever going to ride them.
"But this year I have done so many races that I would love to one day win, and that in turn has made me more ambitious.
"Long-term, I would love to be a general classification rider - not just being part of a team, but leading it. That is my main goal and I think this year has proved, hopefully to the team and definitely to myself, that I can reach that level."