Five months have passed since Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France in mysterious circumstances, climbing off the bike seemingly without cause during stage 12, the day before the race’s major time trial.
Amanda Spratt is a 25-year-old professional cyclist racing with Orica-AIS. She was 2012 Australian Road Race Champion and is known universally for her smile, whether it is uphill or down dale.
Q: Hi Amanda, tell us a bit about yourself. You’re from the Blue Mountains of NSW. Who were your early inspirations?
A: I am Blue Mountains born and bred and cycling has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I tried lots of sports when I was younger – swimming, gymnastics, netball, athletics.
Actually we still have a pretty hilarious video of me trying to throw a discus at Little Athletics … definitely no talent there.
I guess it’s a fairly typical cycling story – my Dad and Pop both rode (and my Dad still does, rather successfully), so it was only a matter of time before I got into it.
I started out with BMX racing along with my brother when I was nine and then started road and track cycling when I was 12.
I loved the BMX racing but once I started with the road and track it was too hard to combine all three, so I gave up the weekend McDonalds/BMX trips and focused on the other.
I have always tried to surround myself with good people, and my family have always made sure of this too.
My first coaches Michel Vermande and Gary Sutton taught me a lot and riders such as Kate Bates and Liv Gollan in particular helped me a lot in my later junior years and then as I transitioned into the senior ranks.
One thing I forgot to ask your team mate Jessie MacLean was what perseverance did your parents have to get you to training and races when you were a youngster.
My parents and family have always been my biggest supporters, and it is because of their support and help that I have been able to progress to the level that I’m at today.
Family ‘holidays’ often involved going to some sort of race on a weekend, the five of us squashed into the car, bikes on the rack.
My Mum would spend many hours frozen on the side of the road waiting for the finish whilst Dad sat in the commissaires car watching it all unfold on the road (or maybe he just wanted to stay warm!).
Your results on Cycling Australia website is extensive and you have represented Australia since 2004 and the road World Championships three times but your first Olympics was 2012. Although you finished outside the time limit, was this special for you?
I think it would be fair to say that competing at the Olympics is the ultimate dream for any athlete. In 2012 I got this opportunity and it is something I will never forget.
The race, the people cheering so loudly you literally couldn’t even hear yourself think, the whole atmosphere… I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
Unfortunately I made some really critical errors in my preparation and as a result I turned up for the race with tired legs that were not a reflection at all of all the hard work I had put in over the months leading up to it.
As an athlete you always expect a lot out of yourself and when it goes pear-shaped like it did then it’s always hard, disappointing and incredibly frustrating.
Having said that, we are also good at being resilient, bouncing back and learning from these experiences!
I have asked this question before but it’s great to get another view. How important is Orica-AIS to Women’s cycling in Australia?
Orica-AIS is really important to women’s cycling in Australia. From the start it has been great that Gerry Ryan and Shayne Bannan have been so willing to support a women’s team, and this alongside our partnership with Cycling Australia and the AIS has enabled the creation of this team.
It’s a professional team that provides an opportunity for us to grow and improve and learn from the best in the world.
Last year we were so fortunate to have Judith Arndt join our team in the last year of her career and I was able to learn so much from riding alongside her.
It provides a great path for female cyclists in Australia to progress to a professional level, with fantastic staff and equipment.
I recently emailed interview Jessie and she tells me that you gals like to hang out at museums and art galleries. You lucky devils, do you have a checklist of museums/galleries to tick off or do you go hey I am in (ie) Barcelona, lets check out National Museum of Art of Catalonia and I hope they have good coffee?
I love exploring and going on adventures. I don’t always like to plan everything in advance so sometimes it is really spontaneous and it’s more a case of exploring a city and deciding what to do once I am there.
For example last year after Emakumeen Bira stage race in Spain I had to stay a night at Bilbao airport before my flight the next day with my teammate Linda (Villumsen).
We went to grab some dinner from the airport and next thing we knew we were taking the bus into the centre of the city and standing outside the Guggenheim Museum. Like I said, sometimes it is spontaneous!
This year early May was always planned as my mid-season break, so with a week off the bike I spent some days away in Venice and Verona exploring.
It’s nice to be able to use these opportunities when we get them, because they don’t come around very often.
Actually when I was catching the train back home I told my Mum that my week as tourist was finished and it was now back to normal life.
She was somewhat amused that I called my life normal saying that ‘if normal is riding your bike and drinking coffee’!
I am sure you raced proudly in Europe with your national jersey, how important of a goal is this for Orica-AIS?
Wearing the National Champions Jersey is a huge honour and privilege, and after wearing it for 2012 I know how special it is.
It is a big goal for our team to win this. It is always tricky timing because Nationals is so early in the season and in our build-up for the Spring in Europe, but it’s worth putting in the effort at this stage of the season to be in good shape to really go for the jersey.
The level in Australia for women’s cycling continues to get stronger and stronger and we were matched for numbers by several other teams and strong individuals this year, so it is certainly not a one-horse race and when you can pull of the win you know you have really earnt it.
Describe to Aussie Cycling Fans:
A typical training day
I live in Northern Italy so I feel pretty lucky on most training days, with options to train around the lakes area – Lake Como, Maggiore, Lugano, or head into the mountains for a little extra torture.
If it’s a weekend then usually you end up with a huge bunch of riders sitting on, or it’s also a chance to practice speaking Italian if they decide they don’t want to wheel-suck anymore and have a chat.
A typical rest day
No alarm, sleep in until the church bells in the town centre wake me up. Coffee. Coffee. Maybe another coffee. Relax! And do some uni (that one is for you Mum).
A typical race day: Most of our races are starting around lunchtime so normally we will have a long breakfast and fuel up the race.
Travel to the race arriving 1-1.5 hours before the start. Get ready, sign on, then depending on how chaotic and technical the race is expected to be we are on the startline anywhere from 20 minutes to five minutes before the start!
At the recent Borsele race in Holland riders were lining up 40 minutes before the start, and within two seconds of clipping in we were travelling at 50km/h plus!
Then we race, attack, win (hopefully), execute our plan discussed in team meeting is most important.
After it’s all over we grab a protein drink, food and pile back into the car and vans. If it’s a one-day race it’s off to the airport, or if it’s a tour then to the motel. Massage, dinner, debrief meeting, and repeat.
Based on one of Jessie’s comprehensive answers I am going to fire this one at you Amanda (sorry), your coaches and sport directors are male – not to detract or suggest Barras or McPartland are at all lacking or second-rate but they have never raced a women’s race! Of course I have raced with women and been comprehensively beaten too and I will say racing is racing … but would you or your peers like to see more female coaches and sport directors?
I think the most important factor here is to have people working with women’s cycling that are passionate about women’s cycling.
It does not matter that our DS Dave McPartland has not raced a women’s race before.
His understanding of the races, riders, tactics and his ability to bring together a team that races well together and backs each other 100 percent is the most important thing.
Rochelle Gilmore has kindly done an interview with me. She has created her own team, Wiggle Honda (with support of course), and has a skill set that is unique, but do you see more entrepreneurial opportunities for women?
I think for sure, what Rochelle has managed to do, shows that with the right resources and support that opportunities like this are possible.
It would be great to see more teams like this being formed and supported by good long-term sponsors.
Is there any European languages that you are studying? Is there any study that you are doing for post-cycling?
Parlo un po’ di italiano (I speak a little Italian), but in reality it is really not as good as it should be.
I have completed a University Certificate in Business and now I am currently studying a Bachelor of Communications by distance education – I prefer not to think about how long it will be until I am finished with this!
Any favourite movies, bands, books (plural you have the benefit of Jessie saying she cant pinpoint any single one..lol)
I have a pretty broad taste in music and am always searching iTunes or the music charts for different songs. Pink, Emile Sande, Calvin Harris, Angus and Julia Stone and Tegan and Sara have all been playing a lot on my iPod recently.
As for book and movies, there are too many to pinpoint just one!
What are your next races?
I have a few one day races at the end of this month and then it’s onto tour mode. First up is the Emakumeen Bira stage race in the Basque region of Spain, then the Giro D’Italia and then onto my favourite tour of the year – Thuringen-Rundfahrt in Germany. This sort of lumpy terrain suits me and I have fond memories from helping Judith win there last year. Plus who doesn’t love a race where you get beer on the podium and bratwursts to celebrate successful completion of tour haha.
You’re known for having the biggest smile in the peloton. What keeps the smile on the dial?
That’s pretty simple – I enjoy what I do!
Thanks so much for your time Amanda.
Follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaSpratt