Interview: Stuart Edmonds – on top form!

Stuart Edmonds has been in blistering form this season and after his performance at Landrake in the MX Nationals we thought it was time we caught up with the Irishman to discover how he has went to the next level in 2021 – and we get his thoughts on being selected for team Ireland yet again and another MXoN appearance!

You were just saying there (before recording) that it’s ten times now you have been picked for the MXoN, so you have plenty of experience but the form you are in this year, you must be really excited to get to Italy! 

Yeah, definitely. I have been picked consecutively from 2008. I have missed a few years due to injury, I’ve had to pull out just because I felt I wouldn’t be fit or because I was still injured at the time so this will be coming into my tenth year actually attending it, so it’s definitely an achievement. It’s something that if you ever said to me in 07/08 that I would be doing it ten times, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.  

Definitely excited. I have put a lot of work into this year, I have basically poured everything I have into it and everything that the sponsors have helped me out with. I have poured my heart and soul into it, my family have helped out massively, all my sponsors have helped out massively. The hours alone and the riding and training I have put in, it’s starting to show. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and never had the opportunity to do and I’ve managed to get the opportunity this year and I just took it with both hands and just done my best. I think the missing piece of my puzzle was just getting out on the bike in the winter time and riding a lot more that I had been doing and it’s a really good base for me.  

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Definitely looking forward to Mantova, it’s definitely a track that looks like it will suit me, I’ll enjoy it. I enjoy the GP tracks, I definitely step it up a level when it comes to De Nations, I seem to find two or three seconds in speed somehow, so looking forward to it for sure. 

Yeah, I was just about to say that, you have had some great rides before. Italy in Maggiora then I think France, you were on the factory TM, and flying and I remember in Lommel you were walking past me through the pits go to the gate and the focus in your eyes – you could see how motivated your were! You ride with your heart on your sleeve for that race and as you say you are usually able to find that extra bit of pace to run with GP level riders.

It’s an event that I go to and I leave everything, I put it all out there, I don’t hold back, if I have that extra bit more energy I just put it into everything. I’m always focused, I have a plan in my head and I just want to put it all out there and that’s what I do. You go to this race being top notch, you earn your place and you go to represent your country. So you want give it absolutely everything you’ve got and that’s one thing I always do, I always lay it on the line for the country and I have shown in many times in the races, the A finals and the B finals as well, we’ve been to a few of them! I definitely don’t leave anything on the table that’s for sure.

That track, there are plenty of big jumps and wave sections, it’s an obstacle filled course and that really seems to suit you with your style and technique…

With the tracks, the more technical they get, jumpy, rough, I seem to kind of excel a little bit on that sort of stuff so definitely looking forward to that. I flow well on big jumps, any GP track really, I seem to go well on. Any track that gets rough or rutted, i seem to go well on. I am better prepared this year than ever and I have already made a new plan for the next few weeks just so I can increase my fitness a bit more and try and get that little bit extra out of my body so that I am going to be top notch for that weekend specifically. It’s going to be one to look out for and I know for a fact I am going to be giving it my all!

On Landrake last weekend, you were riding fantastic! Third in the first moto and at times you were matching Searle and Kullas pace at the front then the second one you got the start then went down in second on the first lap, but you came through the pack and proved you could do it both ways. You were standing up through those ruts like Stefan Everts, you looked fantastic on the bike, you must have felt brilliant from your own perspective? It didn’t look like you were out of your comfort zone running that pace!

Starts are something I have been working on all year, we have been trying different things. I have managed to get a start gate off Risk Risking and we have a grid here, so I have been bringing that everywhere and doing starts as much as possible, increasing every little bit of minimal advantage that I can get. Before Blaxhall I changed something minor that I didn’t really think about and at Blaxhall the starts went a lot better than they had previously. I was being caught up in the first lap carnage and that would mess me up so once I changed that at Blaxhall, if I could repeat that technique and bring it into Landrake it would be good- and after that first start ( at Landrake) I knew I was on for a good race!

It’s a track that I really enjoy and once I kind of settled myself in after the first couple of laps, I seen myself catching Kullas and Tommy just when Bobby was behind me. Then, rather than just keeping my momentum and chipping away, I kind of got a bit excited and pushed on that little bit extra and ended up making stupid mistakes, then Bobby got back on top of me and I had to pull out the next few lap to really get a gap on Bobby and manage to hold third.

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That second race I capitalized on the first start, and got a great start again. I came around the first couple corners and I’ll be honest with you, I was like, ‘ why is Harri going so slow in the corners?!’ I couldn’t figure out what was going on! I came passed the pit area, jumped down the ski jump and went on the outside, I cut across the track as I went up the hill thinking I’ll be able to dive back up the inside of him and try and take the lead. But, I just got caught out on one of the bumps, the bars twisted and I went straight over the handlebars when I hit the edge of the rut and went down.

Then, two or three laps later, when I had done all the hard work to get back up to 14th or whatever it was, I went down again in the middle of the MX2 group, so I was back to square one – last again! So I had to put a big shift on and I managed to get on the back of Dylan Walsh, Dan, Jason and Martin. I was actually putting a pass on Martin on the last lap and I just couldn’t get around him, messed up two corners to go, hopped over the rut and ended up going off the track but I was there. I reckon if I had another five minutes I could have had Martin and maybe even Dan and Jason as well because I closed in them fairly quick in the last few laps and still feeling fresh and strong on the bike.

I was a little bit annoyed because I made those two mistakes and I know for a fact if I had kept going I would have been pushing for the lead. I had all the confidence to be able to push for the win and get myself on the podium even if I didn’t get that win – I was gunning for the podium that weekend. It just wasn’t my weekend to stand on that podium – I will just have to try again this weekend!

Is there a different intensity when you get away at the front? That hasn’t been happening to you a lot so are you trying to calm yourself down, or think just go and try and run with them – what way do you think about it when you get the start?

You’ve hit the nail on the head there. Because I have been mid-pack or in and around there and getting bad starts, I am always eager to push the first two or three laps to push and make as many passes as I can so the front group don’t break away because I know I am a lot stronger at the end of the moto that I am at the start of the moto. Throughout the year I have been pushing hard in the opening laps making up ground but no-one has really kind of noticed I’m making up ground because I am always coming from the pack up tot he top. Yes, I have been having good results, but my riding has been superb, I have been riding really, really well in the motos but I have always been coming from the back.

So when I got the good starts, I had to kind of reign myself in a little bit and go hold on, what’s going on! I’m used to this argy-bargy putting massive laps in on the first couple of laps and all of a sudden I am sitting behind Tommy and Harri and thinking, lads come on, you need to pick it up a gear! Two or three laps in I am calming myself down and they start picking it up a notch and they pulled away a bit then I ended up reeling them back in towards the end of the race. I’m not sure how the second race would have ended up if I hadn’t of crashed but you can think whatever you want – a crash is a crash. In the opening laps I probably need to relax a little bit more, calm down and think about what I’m doing instead of pushing for the lead straight away. That’s something I am going to be taking into this weekend at Cusses.

Your level this year, I know last year with Covid you barely got any bike time, before those few races started in the MX Nationals. Then this year you went to Spain in the winter, would you put it down to just having almost an professional riders training program over the winter? You mentioned your starts have allowed more people to see it but your speed has been good from the start of the year.

I think I put it down to my pre-season training and a lot of things I have done with my training. To put it into perspective, I wouldn’t start riding to January but that wouldn’t be during the week then when we got February I would be able to ride Wednesday and Saturday and Sunday, so coming into a normal season I would probably have 20 hours on my bike coming into the first round.

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This year coming into March I had well over 60 hours on the bike, that’s just from Spain alone. so it shows you the difference in preparation on the bike and not only the bike but my preparation behind the scenes. Cycling, doing my circuit work, my dieting I was able to do to keep my weight down, it was all a combination but I think the main issue and my change in speed was what I did on the bike and how I done it. I pretty much threw it all on the table, I don’t care, I am going to put everything I can into getting over there and staying over there. A few people seen my effort I was putting in and they know me and they know i am not really rich and they seen me putting all my effort in and wanted to give me a bit of help here and there and it all added up and i was able to stay out there a little bit longer because obviously Ireland was shut down with Covid, so coming back would have ruined any preparation I would have done in January.

My plan and routine has made a massive difference and it is something I have always said I need more bike time and need a better winter but it was just i didn’t really have the option. I started saving for this three or four years ago when I started working with a friend of mine, Dunleavy engineering, and putting some money away each time and eventually I got this opportunity and just said I’m going to take it. The gamble seems to have worked!

Image: Adam Duckworth

From your videos in Spain the tracks and racing looked really good, was that the case to ride and compete there?

Yeah definitely. I only did the first round of the Spanish championship. The track was small but the preparation of the track and the organization of the whole event was really, really good. I showed as much as I could on the vlog but the track was amazing even though it was a small track, it got really, really rough. A lot of competitors were there, they were fast they were some ex-GP riders that were still fast and also some current GP riders there as well. The event was amazing just to be able to do it and look in at it, it gave me a different perspective. Basically it was a mini-GP it was ran the exact same way, you arrived on Friday, you done your warm-up and qualifying on the Saturday and racing on the Sunday so it was great to do and nice to get a race in before my season in the UK.

On your team Apico Husqvarna, you have consistency tere with the last couple of seaosns, you know the bike the people, does that help as well coming tino this year that there is nothing to change?

Yeah, obviously they are a brilliant team. They took me in as well and I am able to stay here and have a little room here if I am here for long periods, they have been great to me. They are an amazing team, everyone is great especially having the organisation of it and to have the race bike prepped. I have also involved Dave Russell to help on weekends, he has been amazing help, we have gelled really well. he’s an amazing mechanic and an all-round good lad. He’s also a a rider so he can pick out little things and we work well together. It’s not just the team on it’s own, it’s everyone that helped, Mooney’s have been amazing with their help, Gavin from CCM, everyone for their help at home and some current new sponsors that are helping me over here as well. They all see potential and they all see the work that I do and the time that I put into the racing, so it’s a group effort.

How long do you see yourself continuing to race at this level? This season must give you extra motivation that you can keep going for longer than you thought?

Definitely. About three or four years ago I started work as I hadn’t really got a deal then Gav managed to get a Husky deal and then we started work and I was looking into doing more training and coaching with the kids and stuff. Then from 2018 onwards that’s when I got the Apico deal and the deals got better, the racing got better. This year I got the opportunity to do what I did and obviously my results are a lot better as well. It’s definitely making an imprint on maybe some people that, yes, I’m a little bit older but I am still progressing and I’m not at my peak yet, still increasing my speed and still getting better.

I think opportunity is the most important part of what I’m doing now. I’ve created an opportunity for myself, I’ve took it and it’s now maybe opening some other people’s eyes that maybe he has got the speed and he can produce results if he got the opportunity. I’ve no intention of retiring that’s for sure! As long as I am passionately enjoying it and getting better each year, why should I stop? I’ve no real age in my head to stop, I’m getting better, I want to keep the momentum going and see how far I can go.

Good to hear! Anything else you would like to add?

Just a big thanks to all my sponsors, they are the most important part as well as my family back home. Just thanks to everyone that’s helping me even to the Club162 supporters, they have put a little bit in too. Nobody really knows how much the smallest contribution can help, so the biggest thank you to all of them.

Interview: Jonathan McCready

Lead image: Scott Dunne