Profile: Amanda Spratt, GreenEDGE–AIS cycling team
GreenEDGE–AIS cyclist Amanda Spratt made a remarkable recovery from a leg injury to win the elite women’s road race at the 2012 Cycling Australia Mars National Road Championships.
The 24-year-old has been a scholarship holder in the AIS Cycling program since 2006. She also joined the GreenEDGE–AIS women’s cycling team in January. The GreenEDGE-AIS women’s team is a three way partnership between GreenEDGE, Cycling Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport.
Spratt has been training hard at the AIS European Training Centre in Varese, Italy, in preparation for major European races. She is looking to qualify for the women’s road race event at the London Olympic Games and the UCI World Road Cycling Championships in Holland.
She spoke with Australian Sport Online about her aspirations and goals for 2012 and what it takes to compete at the elite level.
When did you start cycling?
I have been riding a bike since I was 4 or 5 years old.
My dad and grandfather both used to race competitively at Parramatta Cycling Club in Sydney when they were younger, so cycling is in my blood! I started BMX cycling with my brother when I was nine years old at the Blue Mountains BMX Club. Three years later I moved into track and road cycling, joining the Penrith Panthers Cycling Club in 1999. Four years later, I debuted in the Australian team at the Junior World Track Cycling Championships.
What was your biggest break?
2004 was the year I really started taking cycling seriously, making the transition to the elite level. I competed at the Junior World Championships in four women’s road and track events (road race, road time trial, points race and pursuit). I won gold in the points race and claimed bronze in the women’s time trial race and finished within top-9 placing in all events.
What have been some of the major challenges in your cycling career?
I struggled with a chronic leg injury from 2006, which wasn’t properly addressed until 2008 because I stupidly ignored it! I ended up needing surgery to release my sciatic nerve, which involved an extensive rehabilitation period.
As a result, I missed out on most of the 2008 cycling season and all of 2009, and was living at the AIS Residence in Canberra on a medical scholarship.
This was a very challenging time both physically and mentally for me, but I had a fantastic network of people (including coaching and sports science staff), who supported me and helped me believe that I would get better.
I recovered from the injury and learned a lot from the experience, which reflects my positive attitude and approach to both training and racing. Moving into the senior division, I struggled to develop because of injury and took some time making the transition to a competitive level. For the last two years, I have been able to train and race consistently, which has resulted in big improvements and better results.
Which are the highlights and successes of your cycling career?
My first big win was in the points race at the Junior World Track Championships in Los Angeles in 2004.
My biggest victory in a major European race was in 2011 when I won the first stage of the UCI Tour in the Czech Republic, then went on to win the overall title thanks to the support of my team-mates, coaches and support staff (specifically mechanic and soigneur).
I really had to fight to win this tour and pushed myself harder than ever before, but once I got the sniff of victory I wasn’t going to let go of that yellow jersey.
Last year I also had the privilege of being named captain of the Australian cycling team at the UCI World Road Championships. Taking on this role with the backing and belief from the coaches and my team-mates to do a good job is something I am really proud of.
In January this year, I won the 2012 Cycling Australia Mars National Road Championships. This would rate as the highlight of my career so far. It’s a huge honour to wear the Australian Champions jersey for the next 12 months, and is a constant reminder of what hard work can result in. My whole family watched me win the national championship, which was an emotional victory for me — particularly given they don’t get to see me race very often at home. So it was fantastic to have them cheer me on to victory.
What is your motivation for cycling?
I have been on the bike from a very young age and still love it. Call me crazy, but I love the pain of training and racing and the satisfaction you get from finishing a hard session. I enjoy setting goals and achieving them as part of a team within an inspiring environment. I also like travelling overseas, meeting and working with different people from all over the world, as well as drinking espressos in Italy!
How has the AIS supported your training and development?
This is my seventh year as a member of the AIS Cycling program and I can’t thank the AIS enough for supporting my training, racing and development.
I have been able to travel overseas and compete in some of the world’s biggest races, with amazing coaching and sports science support staff, access to world-class facilities, services, equipment … the list goes on!
The AIS is also a huge part of the reason why I am still in the sport today. The professional support that they provided when I was injured and coming back from injury was second to none. I feel very fortunate to have worked with such a professional and motivated team of people in Canberra, and credit a lot of my success to them.
Do you have any pursuits outside cycling and plans for a career after sport?
I have completed a University Certificate in Business through Charles Sturt University and am currently studying a Bachelor of Communications through Open Universities.
When I am not travelling, training or competing, this keeps me pretty busy!
What are your aspirations and goals for 2012?
2012 will be an exciting year for me as a member of the new GreenEDGE–AIS professional women’s team. We have a good group of Australian riders in the team, as well as some very experienced and successful international riders, including current world champion Judith Arndt from Germany. I think riding alongside riders of this high calibre will really help me to step up to another level. So I will be learning as much as possible from my team-mates throughout the year.
March and April will see us racing the classic style races up in Holland and Belgium on the road featuring plenty of cobbles and nasty climbs. Coming off an Australian summer with good form, I'm aiming to be right up at the pointy end of the races throughout this period.
The London Olympics is definitely a goal and something I am working towards, but with only three spots available in the Australian team, there are certainly no guarantees.
The good thing about cycling is that during the European season we compete in some big races on a regular basis. My focus is on the current race and the one after that, rather than getting too carried away with thinking too far ahead. I am learning from every race and getting stronger with every performance, so that's my approach to competition.
The world championships are in Holland this year, over a hilly and technical circuit. This type of racing and terrain is exactly what suits my strengths as a cyclist, so the road race here will be a key objective.