Sky is far from the limit for Yorkshire’s rising road star

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The hills overlooking Ilkley are covered in snow and there is a biting wind in the air that pays heed to no man.

Despite the beauty of this wintry scene, it is weather fit only for sitting indoors in front of a log fire.

It is certainly not the kind of weather for a sport that does not involve skis or a bobsleigh.

Yet here is young Yorkshire cyclist Josh Edmondson, pushing down hard on the pedals and climbing high above the town to the tops of the snow-covered crest as if it were a balmy Spring day.

He is only a few days removed from a considerably warmer training camp with his new Sky team-mates in Mallorca, but he is out on this freezing morning because he loves cycling and the British squad is a team where hard work is the bare minimum.

“If only I could I’d train here all the time,” says the 20-year-old. “I love training in Yorkshire.

“But the climbs aren’t as long as they are in Europe, so I need to go away for that ... and for the weather.”

Edmondson is not ploughing a lone path on the A660 on this snowy morning.

He is joined by his elder brother Nathan, himself a racing cyclist, and another companion who is braving the elements, and trying to keep up.

Josh, though, is the one to watch.

Bedecked in enough layers of Sky clothing to delight the marketing managers, he is wrapped as tightly as possible to stave off the cold. The image offers a symbol of the environment he has raced himself into.

Team Sky has gone from a novice operation just a few years ago to the home of the first British Tour de France winner, and one of the cleanest and most enviable squads in the peloton.

Leeds-born Edmondson shot to prominence with a string of attacks in last year’s Tour of Britain. His reward was a neo-pro contract with Dave Brailsford’s team, which effectively bridges the gap between junior and professional cyclists.

Having gone it alone largely over the last two years in Italy – the final one spent living and training with Nathan despite them being on rival teams – he is now cloaked in the warm embrace of Sky.

“Having been over at a few training camps, it’s starting to hit me how great it is to be with Sky,” says Edmondson, who had to overcome an initial bout of being star-struck when he first trained with Bradley Wiggins.

“It’s the premier squad, the biggest team and the most professional team in the world.

“I’ve met Brad a few times at the camps, he trains with us most days. He’s a great guy and a good one to have at the head of the team.

“He keeps everyone together and he knows how to bond with everyone. He’s so casual with everything that it’s hard to be that star-struck with him. He’s just very much a normal guy, he’s very laid back and he’s not intense at all.”

Ambitions of following in Wiggins’s tyre tracks may be a little far-fetched as of now, but Edmondson – who is a renowned climber – has the determination to work hard to at least see if he can reach that high.

To that end, he intends to glean as much as he can from the wealth of experience that surrounds him. “I’m just going to learn as much as I can,” says Edmondson, who has been cycling since he was six.

“We’ve set some little goals for the year ahead, but nothing too ambitious, it’s already a big enough step being in that team.

“It’s ridiculous the calibre of cyclists there are at Sky. There’s so many riders with a wealth of experience, like Bernie Eisel, and even Edvald Boasson Hagen, who is only young but who seems to have been around for years.”

If Edmondson needs any encouragement at how quick it can happen if he applies himself correctly, he need only look at Sky team-mate Pete Kennaugh, who signed professional terms with Sky in 2010 and made his grand tour debut less than 18 months later at the Giro d’Italia.

That is the time frame confronting Edmondson if he wants to ride the Tour de France through his home county next summer.

“It’s incredible that the roads we’ve been cycling on for years will be used for the Tour de France,” said Edmondson, 
who, like fellow Yorkshire Sky rider Ben Swift, would cherish being involved in a ‘home’ Tour in 2014.

“There’s a pathway to get there. I’d love to ride it but I’ll be 21 at the time, turning 22, so I’ll still be young. But if I’m going well, there’s no reason why not.

“I think I can follow what Pete Kennaugh did, especially when you train with these guys all the time. They are just like me, they had the same ambitions at the same age and are just building their way up.

“I have to be willing to learn to get as far as I can. The guys at Sky know exactly what they are doing, they are very good at everything, it’s not like I disagree with anything. Everything they’ve put forward, how to train, how to live on the camps etc, is all well thought out.”

A race in Mallorca in early February will be Edmondson’s first taste of action, with the Tour of Catalunya in March his first big examination.

If the pace he showed through gritted teeth up the frozen hills of Ilkley is anything to go by, they are tests he will pass.