Annette Edmondson Off To Rio Despite Road Abuse And Sickening Injuries

'The driver? I’m pretty glad I gave them something in return.'

22/05/2016 4:21 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
She holds high hopes for Rio. Holds a bike too!

Annette "Nettie" Edmondson is awesome. If your attention span is short, that's all you need to know.

If you'd like to know a bit more, here's the lowdown. Annette is both a road and track cyclist. Her road team has the excellent name Wiggle High5. But right now, with the Rio Olympics looming closer every day, it's all about the track.

Annette won a bronze medal in the omnium event at the London Olympics. See a bit lower down for what an "omnium" is.

Right now, she's pretty much back to full fitness after an awful road crash earlier this year. Annette has had some scary times out there on the road. In addition to bingles with cars, there are yobbos who yell obscene things out the window and even try to run her off the road.

It's tough out there for professional cyclists. The Huffington Post Australia contacted Phoebe Dunn, CEO of the Amy Gillett Foundation which aims to promote safety and reduce the number of serious incidents involving cyclists.

"Cyclists are very vulnerable road users and they need space and attention," Dunn said.

"We have two major campaigns, a 'metre matters' campaign, asking motorists passing a cyclist to leave a metre, and a campaign about 'sharing the road' and recognising that cyclists are legitimate road users too."

As many as 11,000 serious cyclist injuries hospitalisation are recorded each year in Australia. Dunn said she's heard many stories of people throwing bottles at cyclists and causing them to crash. It's a real minefield out there.

Does all of this worry Annette Edmondson? It does. Does it put her off cycling? Not in a million years.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Ow. Ow. Ow.

Ant: Hi Nettie, we start by asking everybody this because we just do. Who would win a fight between a kangaroo and an emu?

Nettie: Ooh, I'd say the kangaroo. Emus are fast but a kangaroo could bounce after it and kick it. The emu would peck its way into starting a fight but one bounce and kick from the kanga would sort it out. Its head would bounce back and they'd get whiplash and probably be knocked out.

Ant: Wow, such brutal imagery. But then, you're not a stranger to physical altercations, are you? We understand you got into a bit of a fight with a car just a few months ago. What can you tell us about that?

Nettie: It was up in the Adelaide Hills where I live, just three days before we had to leave for London for the 2016 Track Cycling World Championships. I was travelling at around 50km/h when a car appeared in front of me on a blind corner. I hit it on the side.

Annette Edmondson
If a car could say 'ouch', it just did.

Ant: And you left quite a dent too.

Nettie: Well, if you saw the bruises I had to deal with, I'm pretty glad I gave them something in return! It's a good thing I'd put on extra padding from all the gym I'd been doing.

Ant: Road cycling's dangerous as hell isn't it.

Nettie: Swimming up and down the pool, you're away from risk. But for us, every day is a risk. I get abuse too. We've been training in Adelaide the last four weeks and at least twice a week on my road rides together we get honked at, yelled at or someone comes past within centimetres to scare us and yell out "single file".

Ant: But according to the road rules, you're allowed to ride two abreast, right?

Nettie: That's right, so it's not like we're doing the wrong thing, which is annoying.

Ant: I interviewed Cadel Evans once and he told me a similar story -- that he cops abuse when he's riding out on the Great Ocean Road or wherever. What's wrong with people?

Nettie: I often wonder if they would give us a little more space if they knew that we're Olympians and world champions. If something happens and we all crash, who's going to represent Australia? Not that we deserve more space than any other cyclist.

Ant: Yep, all cyclists deserve respect. I'd still like to buy you a t-shirt that says "I am a world champion and Olympic medallist". What do you actually do when someone yells abuse?

Nettie: We just wave back calmly.

Ant: Great answer. So your major bingle came just three days before the world championships. And you actually competed at the world championships a few days later. Checking the results, you had two fifth-place finishes which wasn't bad.

Nettie: Thanks.

Annette Edmondson
And you thought you had a hard day.

Ant: I remember reading once that after Anna Meares broke her back in Los Angeles in 2008, she flew all the way home in economy class. Did you have to put up with that sort of treatment?

Nettie: Some other sports seem to be able to get business class, but not us. Because of my bruising I had to elevate my leg so it didn't swell even more. Luckily they did make an effort and I was able to put up my legs on a spare seat beside me.

Ant: Well that's something. So you're a road and a track cyclist. Is it tricky switching from the bitumen to the velodrome?

Nettie: It's a little bit unusual. Some can swap backwards and forwards easily but I actually do find it quite difficult. I enjoy it though, and I've decided just to focus on the track this season. The Tour Down Under was my last road race for women.

Ant: What's harder, track or road?

Nettie: Road races for women and three-and-a-half hours which is not just physically tiring but mentally so. You're out there a long time and you've got to stay switched on. The longest race on the track is the points race which takes 25 minutes.

The fact the AOC invited her to the uniform launch is a pretty good sign she'll be selected for Rio.

Ant: Some of the professional male road racers I've spoken to before are a bit snobbish about the track and thumb their nose at the Olympics. Is it like that in the women's ranks too?

Nettie: Not so much for women. A lot more women do track because it's a stronger career choice for us. There is financial equality in Australian track cycling whereas on the road there's not much money for women.

Ant: That's good news. Do you have any personal sponsors in addition to AIS support or is that sort of money hard to come by?

Nettie: I have a car provided for me by Dave Potter Honda which does make a big difference from day to day. But I have no financial sponsors even though I've been trying quite hard to find one.

We interrupt this interview to alert companies across Australia to this inspirational, beautifully spoken, gutsy young Olympic medallist and world champion who would be a fantastic ambassador for your brand. Thank you.

Ant: OK, let's talk about your Rio events. You're in the team pursuit and omnium, right?

Nettie: Hopefully, although official team selection is not until July 5.

Ant: OK but we'll assume you're in those two. And for those people who don't know, the team pursuit is the race where you're chasing the other team around the track on opposing sides. How am I doing so far?

Nettie: Good.

Ant: As for the omnium, I'm nowhere. I know it's a six-race event, but can you explain the six different races to me? Just a few words of description for each race would be great.

Nettie: Sure.

1. The Scratch race: 18 girls all together, first across the line wins.

2. Individual pursuit: me versus the clock for 3km

3. Elimination race: the most crazy and hectic of the events. Start with 18 girls, every 2 laps a rider is eliminated they're last across line until there are two left and then it's a sprint. This is the party event. It's like a reality TV show for the crowd with the eliminations. There are always lots of crashes too.

4. Standing 500m time trial: two 2 laps, you against the clock.

5. Flying 250m time trial: one lap, with three laps to wind up to top speed before the lap that counts.

6. The points race: a 25km race over 100 laps with a sprint every 10 laps for points.

Clive Jones / Alamy
Bottom line: it's pure chaos.

Ant: OK I'll get a headache trying to remember all that but thanks. You're clearly very versatile. I understand you almost gave up the sport once, though, This was back in 2010. What was going on?

Nettie: I just wasn't really enjoying it anymore. I thought I was going to be a track sprinter and had excelled in junior ranks, but when I went to junior worlds all of a sudden it was much harder and I wasn't as naturally talented as I thought. So I lost motivation and enthusiasm and wasn't enjoying the repetitive indoors training. Then I saw the track endurance girls ride in and they'd all do everything together, and I was so jealous of being able to train together all the time because track sprinting is so individual. Everything had gotten a bit stale for me so I decided to have an indefinite break.

Ant: And did you have some sort of epiphany or something to get you back into the saddle?

Nettie: I picked up a couple of part time jobs here and there. About four months in I was working as a waitress in a coffee shop and teaching young kids how to ride bikes, and one day I was walking back to do my exercise and yeah, it was like an epiphany. I thought 'I'm not finished, I have to go back'. The omnium had just been announced as an Olympic event some and that gave me a new target, a new focus.

Ant: Well we're glad you stuck with it. Tell me about your time in Indonesia. I understand you did some volunteer work over there.

Nettie: During my eventful soul searching section of life in 2010 I decided to go for a holiday. I'd studied Indonesian at school and I went with friends and volunteered in a street kids shelter in Jakarta. It was definitely a really beautiful moment in my life. We spent a lot of time playing games and trying to bring positivity into their lives.

Ant: And you've brought loads of positivity into ours Nettie. Thanks for speaking to The Huffington Post Australia and good luck in Rio.

Nettie: Thanks Ant.

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