When Belgium’s biggest fan of Aussie bike racing, Mr. Dirk Van Hove asked us to publish his interview with Australian ladies’ champion Amanda Spratt there was no way we could refuse.
He’s chaperoned us around Het Nieuwsblad given us some of our best Aussie contacts and most importantly, introduced us to ‘Orvelo’ beer – and a fine brew it is.
Here – with just a little editing from Ed Hood – is Dirk’s interview with Amanda.
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Amanda is 25, a member of the Penrith Cycling Club (NSW) and current Australian Road Champion.
This is not her first Aussie title though, ‘Spratty,’ as her friends call her, won the National individual time trial title in 2008 and a National title team pursuit in 2007.
And not to forget the ‘O Cenu Ceskeho Svycarska‘, a five day Czech Tour in 2011.
It’s safe to think she’ll add more wins to this list before the end of this season.
I had an appointment with Amanda at the Holiday Inn Express in Ghent the evening before the ‘Le Samyn’, a 1.2 UCI ranked race.
I was a bit early and as I sat down, Wayne Nichols (GreenEdge mechanic and former pro in Belgium) came in.
We brought back some memories with a coffee.
A few minutes later Amanda joined us at the table and Wayne left us to go back to work on the bikes.
It was time to fire questions.
What goals for 2012 did you set on January 1st ? – did winning the Nationals a few days later change your plans?
“Not really, the National title was my first goal of the season.
“I worked and trained hard in the previous months to have a condition peak for the road race.
“Also the Ronde van Vlaanderen is a race I want to perform well in.”
Returning to this title race, three laps to go you jumped away, did you think ‘this is it?’
“Not at all – I didn’t think I would stay away but it just worked out well.
“I had some teammates in the chase group and they did a good job there too.
“With Tiffany Cromwell behind me, keeping an eye on Rachel Neylan, I felt a bit safer.
“The atmosphere around the circuit in Ballarat was also incredible.”
Is Victoria ‘the’ cycling state – more, lets say, than New South Wales or South Australia?
“Next question please!
“There’s always a big crowd at Ballarat; maybe a little different then from when the titles were in Adelaide.”
Are you more relaxed now you’ve already had a big win?
“Certainly not, another big race should be added to the list this year, for me and for the team.
“I keep working, there’s no time to sit back and watch.”
In a previous interview I read that you were dreaming of a European team?
“Yes, I did, but that was just until the end of last year when I could sign for GreenEdge.
“No need to dream any longer; this is a great team with a European program and European team members.
“But before all this I had a great time and great support from the Australian Institute of Sport.
“Now I can learn a lot from the experience of the Euro girls.”
Has riding in Europe changed your style of racing?
“We work as a team, we are a happy family.
“For example last Saturday, in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, I would have been trying to sit in the front of the bunch right from the start.
“Loes (Gunnewijk) told me not to worry about the first 40km.
“That’s experience of someone who knows the race, who has ridden the Omloop before – she knows where the cobblestones and the hills are.”
I saw you in the race doing a lot of work in the break for Loes?
“Yes, together with Tiffany (Cromwell) we did what was necessary to stay away with our little group.
“We had three girls in the break, we had to work so we could save Loes for the end.
“Which worked out perfectly.
“She attacked at the Lange Munt [Amanda pronounced it in perfect Flemish], on her way to the victory.
“But the next race it could be someone else who’ll be looked after.”
Is GreenEdge changing things for Australian womens’ cycling?
“For sure!: With this team as a model, other Australian teams and sponsors may follow.
“It’s up to us to show women cycling is not what it used to be – were not just riding around, we race!
“It’s up to us girls to get more publicity and TV coverage.
“The rest (she means money! DVH) will follow.
“But it won’t be fixed overnight, it’ll take time.
“But with GreenEdge we’ve certainly moved many steps forward.”
You started cycling at 12?
“In fact I rode my bike first when I was 9, as a BMX rider.
“I rode the Nationals, Worlds etc…
“Then I picked up track and road.
“At first I wasn’t going that well, but with hard work I got to be where I am now.”
What are your strongest and weakest points?
“My favourite races, and where I am at my best, are the Classics; breakaways are my thing too.
“Sprints with small groups, I don’t dislike.
“But I am working hard on my hill climbing – it’s not the ones in the classics I am afraid of, but mountains like the cols in the big Tours are not my cup of tea.”
Last question – where do we see Amanda back in the final of a race?
“Tomorrow, and in the Ronde van Vlaanderen!”
I think we’ll see her in lots of finals, the way she talks is with love for the sport.
And she’s ready to work if necessary and take her chance to win whenever she can. She’s a girl to follow!