Bicycling Australia: Where are you now for this interview and why?
Amanda Spratt: In a hotel room in Belgium preparing for the second race of the European season tomorrow – Le Samyn
BA: Where do you live?
AS: When I am in Europe, I base myself in Switzerland and Italy. When I’m in Australia I live in the Blue Mountains.
BA: Were you born into a
AS: Yes – My father and grandfather were both riders. My brother Nick and I both started cycling at the same age and he still rides today. My older sister Zoe has only taken up cycling in the last year, but is quickly realising its addiction. My Dad rode when he was younger and started up again when Nick and I did – he is still a very accomplished Masters rider with a sprint to envy, taking out state and national titles, and regularly races A grade at club level.
BA: How would you describe your personality as a kid? Outgoing, introverted, bookish, sporty?
AS: I was definitely more shy and determined – a quiet achiever but always doing all sorts of sports.
BA: How did you get into cycling?
AS: I got into cycling when I was nine years old when my Dad took Nick and I to the local BMX track to have a go – I did BMX racing for five years. When I was 12 I started out on the road and shortly after on the track. I joined the Penrith Panthers Cycling Club when I was 12.
BA: What kind of racing did you do at first?
AS: I started out with BMX racing at the Blue Mountains BMX Club when I was nine and did this for five years. I became NSW champion, fifth at the Australian Championships and even went to the World Championships when I was 11 years old as they were in Melbourne, where I placed fifth.
BA: Do you ride full time or study
or work as well?
AS: Aside from my cycling I have completed a University Certificate in Business through Charles Sturt University and I am currently two-thirds of the way through a Bachelor of Communications.
BA: Have you ever had any sports testing done?
AS: I would have to be one of the most tested road-cyclists on record to have gone through the AIS! It means that there is a lot of data I am able to look back on and see where improvements have been made, and what else I can really work on. My VO2 max is generally around 65-70.
BA: What is your favourite ride in the world and why?
AS: I really love training in the area where the AIS is based in Northern Italy. Here you have a perfect combination of flatter rides around the lakes, shorter climbs, or longer mountain passes.
BA: Do you have a coach?
AS: Gene Bates. For my first four years of road and track cycling I just went out riding with my Dad and brother a few times. I then got my first coach when I was 16 – Michel Vermande. It was a good time as I was headed into the u19 category where I was hopeful of Junior Worlds representation and success. I got both of these, and ended up winning the points race on the track and getting the bronze medal in the road time trial at the World Championships.
BA: Do you believe that having a coach is a good thing for all riders, not just NRS?
AS: Yes I think that having a coach can be really valuable. Everyone can go out and ride hard when they want to, but having a coach there that can look at your training and goals and set out a good plan to help you achieve these goals can be really beneficial.
BA: What’s the best thing your coach (if you have one) ever told you?
AS: The importance of recovery – you can’t benefit from the hardest sessions if you don’t also give your body a chance to recover and adapt.
BA: What does a typical training week look like for you?
AS: I generally train anywhere from 500-700km a week depending on the time of year. Usually there are two easier days, and a two day block and a three day block of training including efforts such as big gear hill efforts, sprinting, motor pacing and more power climbing efforts once we are into the race season. When I am building for the season I am also in the gym two to three times a week.
BA: How much of a role does
AS: Diet plays a pretty big role in my cycling career – fuelling for training and racing as well as during rides is so important to be able to get the most out of yourself.
BA: Have you ever crashed?
AS: Last year I broke my collarbone in the Flanders World Cup in Belgium. I was coming around a corner on the side of the bunch and a person on the side of the road was standing on a part of the road we were racing on. I had no time to react and crashed straight into them resulting in a broken collarbone and six weeks away from racing.
BA: How do you stay motivated when you have to take time off the bike?
AS: I spent two years racing in Europe injured before I finally accepted something was wrong. I had piriformis syndrome which resulted in surgery, a lengthy rehab of 18 months and then further issues with chronic pain for a couple of years after. I just kept setting little goals or targets for myself, which helped to keep me motivated and looking forward. I couldn’t ride a bike, but I could still hurt myself swimming, on the arm crank, in the gym.
BA: What events have you ridden with the team?
AS: Our team races together from January until the end of the European season in September, which means I usually get around 55-65 race days over nine months. We always start in Australia at the Bay Crits, Nationals and the Tour Down Under in Adelaide.
BA: What results have you achieved?
AS: Winning the Australian Road Championship in 2012 is still one of the highlights of my career – it is one race that every Aussie wants to win, and it was so special to race with the stripes all year.
BA: What is your goal for this year?
AS: Win some races in Europe – overall last year was not a great year for me after breaking my collarbone, so I want to get back a good level of consistency and aim for some wins and podium results. Ultimately I want to become World Champion
BA: What is your favourite NRS event and why?
AS: I don’t get a chance to race many of the NRS races, but this year I really enjoyed the Women’s Tour Down Under. Making it a four day event and including a couple of road races over solid terrain really made the racing hard and exciting.
BA: Do you think the NRS
is a good thing for Australian women’s cycling?
AS: I think the NRS is a great thing for the development of Australian women’s cycling. Every year I come back from overseas, I notice the level getting higher and higher amongst the domestic peloton. The other thing the NRS has done is really develop the idea of team-riding. I no longer see individuals in the races, I see riders operating as team units and really thinking about how they can use the strength of the team to win. This is all beneficial in closing that gap between the NRS and the racing overseas.
BA: What do you think could be done to make the series better?
AS: From what I can see, the NRS is getting bigger and better every year and is definitely moving in a direction that is allowing it to grow and progress. The road races at the TDU were relatively short at 65 and 70kms so I think a logical next step would be to further develop the events that are there and increase some of the race distances.
BA: What is your advice to women who are thinking of taking up cycling?
AS: Cycling is a sport that can suit anyone at any age. Find a local club and some riders that you can ride with and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everyone has had to start from somewhere and more than willing to pass on advice. Cycling is a social sport that can take you many places, and you will achieve things you never thought you could.