Jackson Medway is sitting with his national team teammates in the backstreets of Port Elliot, gulping down a recovery drink. A Tour Down Under chaperone arrives and explains that Medway is required at the official podium ceremony. He’s just been adjudged the day’s most competitive rider after spending most of the day in the breakaway on stage 4.
As Medway changes into more comfortable shoes, more chaperones arrive, eagerly ensuring he’s on his way. The Queenslander starts walking nonchalantly toward the podium, now flanked by four TDU staff.
“How old are you, Jackson?” asks one of the four women. “Nineteen,” he responds, friendly but succinct. There’s a chorus of “awwh”s from the four women tasked with his safe passage. “You’re very tall. Do you play basketball?” asks one. “He’s a cyclist,” another replies on Medway’s behalf, laughing as she does.
When Medway arrives at the back of the podium, ready to step on stage and receive his prize, he has to duck to fit through the opening in the tent.
Medway is the youngest rider in this year’s Tour Down Under, just 19 years and 93 days when the race began. All week he’s conducted himself with the confidence and maturity of someone much older. Looking at him, you certainly wouldn’t know it’s his first WorldTour race.
In fact, just over a year ago, Medway was racing C-grade criteriums at Balmoral Cycling Club in his hometown of Brisbane. A year ago this week he was winning a B-grade criterium. The 12 months since have been a whirlwind.
Medway comes from a triathlon background but when some mates recommended he focus on cycling after finishing school, that’s exactly what he did. He threw himself into local races and in late 2022 and early 2023, moved quickly from C grade up to B grade and then into A grade.
In mid 2023 he entered the Tour of Gippsland National Road Series (NRS) race as an individual, and immediately impressed. He was second in the opening stage – after posting up for victory a couple laps too early – and went even better in stage 2. In a time trial raced on road bikes, Medway won by almost a minute ahead of some of the NRS’s biggest names, taking the overall lead. With the might of BridgeLane and ARA-Skip Capital against him in the remaining stages, he wasn’t able to win the race overall, but he’d already made his mark.
“That was actually the first time I saw him,” says Matt Wilson, manager at ARA-Skip Capital and Medway’s sports director on the national team at Tour Down Under. “I’d heard about Jackson – being in Queensland you hear about these things. That was actually the first time I got to see him race and yeah, it was definitely impressive. He’s a really good kid and [has an] exciting future.”
Medway signed a deal with the St. George Continental team for the remainder of the 2023 season, racing the Tour of Taihu Lake, Tour de Langkawi, and the Tour of Hainan in Asia. His performance in Gippsland would also earn him a ride with BridgeLane for 2024.
And his 2024 season started in perfect fashion. In the first week of January he won Australia’s U23 time trial title in a stacked field, then was one of the most impressive riders in both the criterium (placing fourth) and road race (seventh) that followed. And then came Tour Down Under. BridgeLane had earned four of the seven spots in the national team by winning the 2023 NRS, and Medway was chosen as one of the four.
Speaking to Medway before stage 1, it was clear the significance of his selection wasn’t lost on him.
“It’s pretty surreal,” he said of being at the Tour Down Under so early in his career. “It’s crazy. There’s big teams all around and we’re kind of the underdogs, but yeah, pretty excited.”
As you’d expect, Medway came into the race with very little pressure on his shoulders. As Wilson explains, this week is all about getting him up to speed.
“This is his first real exposure to a high-level bike race so he’s getting a lot out of it just by being here and on the start line,” Wilson said. “It’s great that we’ve got a good team around him; a lot of experienced guys like Damien Howson here to help guide him.”
Medway’s biggest goal for the week? “A good day in the break, really,” he said at the start of stage 1, in a nice piece for foreshadowing. “I reckon that would be pretty good.”
Medway’s Tour Down Under didn’t get off to the best start. With 11 km remaining in the opening stage, he clattered to the ground near the back of the peloton. Moto footage showed Medway in obvious pain as he stumbled around, but he eventually got back on his bike and limped to the finish, nearly eight minutes behind stage winner Sam Welsford (Bora-Hansgrohe).
In the days since, Medway has ridden with bandages on his left elbow. Under his bibs and jersey, road rash is still healing on his back and left hip. When he spoke to Escape at the start of stage 4, he explained that he was getting better day by day, but still feeling the effects of his crash.
“I still feel a bit knocked around,” he said. “The lower back was a bit stiff yesterday. I had a bit of trouble with it on that long day. But hopefully today we’ll be a little bit better.”
Coming into today’s stage, Medway’s goal was to get into a breakaway if a large group got away. That didn’t happen, but Medway got himself up the road anyway.
“He saw an opportunity to go,” Wilson said post-stage. “It wasn’t exactly the plan but he got out there and wanted to show himself. It was fantastic.”
Medway spent more than 120 km out front, most of it with just Brazil’s Vinicius Rangel (Movistar) for company. The pair worked well together and Medway looked right at home in a WorldTour breakaway. When the peloton was just about to reel them back in with 11 km to go, Medway put in one final surge, ensuring he’d be the last to get caught and win most competitive rider.
“I saw the peloton roaring in and just thought I’ll take one last attack at him and get the red numbers on for tomorrow,” Medway said. “So yeah, it was pretty fun out there.”
As Sam Welsford (Bora-Hansgrohe) took his third sprint victory in four days, Medway finished safely in the main field.
While Medway’s rapid rise through the ranks has been impressive, in some ways he’s still playing catch up.
“At this stage, he’s actually quite new to the sport, coming from triathlon,” Wilson said this morning. “So at this stage, he’s just got to learn as fast as possible. You don’t have a lot of years to figure things out anymore in cycling. So if you’re coming at it a little bit behind at his age already, you’re already a little bit behind the eight ball.
“So he’s just got to learn fast, get as much exposure to high-level racing as possible, look at the people around him and yeah, I think it’s all there laid out for him.”
Medway feels like he is indeed learning. Starting to understand the dynamics of the pro peloton is a big part of it.
“It’s a lot different to Australian [domestic] racing, where you can just sit at the front,” he says, when asked what he’s learned so far this week. “You’ve sort of got to fight for it the whole way. And in that last 20 km when the race really switches on, it’s crazy really.
“These track guys, [his teammates] Liam [Walsh] and Declan [Trezise], they’re just unreal. They can bounce around, contest with those guys, but I struggle with that a little bit. So hopefully, after a bit more of this, I can start to help them out a bit. But for now, it’s just about staying safe.”
Medway’s ride in the U23 nationals time trial earlier this month spoke of a rider very gifted against the clock, despite his inexperience. It’s no surprise that he sees himself as a time-trialist first and foremost, but that’s not the whole story. “I do like long days on the front,” he said. “For climbing days I think I’d be quite an asset for some of the climbers in our team.”
His sports director paints a similar picture.
“He’s a big driver, big time trialist, a guy that can ride position for guys in the future,” Wilson said. “And potentially Classics – if that’s the way he decides to go. That sort of an engine. He actually reminds me a lot of Luke Durbridge, in a lot of ways.”
After Tour Down Under, Medway will head to Victoria for the Surf Coast Classic and Cadel’s Race. There he’ll swap his national team jersey for that of his trade team, BridgeLane. Beyond that, Medway is expecting a season that includes a bunch of racing in Europe. It’s there that he hopes to take the next step in his career.
“I’m just looking for one good Europe result, really,” he said. “At least one – I just need something to lean on almost. It could be a TT result because I’ve just won the under 23 Nats. So I’ll also be looking at Worlds, and Tour de l’Avenir.”
After visiting the podium, Medway joins the waiting media to answer a few questions about his ride. He’s asked whether he can see himself in the WorldTour peloton in Europe in the near future.
“Yeah, I think so,” he says with a smile, quietly confident despite his relative inexperience. Based on his trajectory over the past 12 months – and his ride today – it’s hard to argue with him.
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