AIS training camp, Part II: An interview with Amanda Spratt, December 24, 2005
Amanda Spratt is a real prospect for the future of Australian women's cycling, and with much success as a junior, it's now time for Spratt to move into senior ranks, a move that is not always easy. But this young, quietly-spoken girl from just outside Sydney is ready for the challenge. KRISTY SCRYMGEOUR caught up with Amanda Spratt after witnessing her go through the "torture test" in the lab at the AIS camp.
Despite having just been through a lung-busting test on the indoor bike in the physiology lab, Spratt was still all smiles. "It's good to familiarise myself with the people here and the coaches," she told us. "It's a good experience and really my first taste of what it's like to be a senior. I'm a little bit nervous; there are a lot of riders here who I've looked up to for a long time, but mostly I'm excited."
Many coaches have spotted Spratt as a rider of the future, but in her eyes, this camp and the upcoming races are still a chance for her to prove to herself that she's ready to move up into the senior ranks. "Hopefully I'll get the opportunity to go overseas and get some racing experience," she says. "I won't be going for a full year. Just for short stints to get experience and see what its like. It depends on how I go at camp and in the racing in January."
Racing for the women is intense during the New Year period, starting with the Jayco Geelong Bay Classic in early January, national championships, the Adelaide crits, and for Amanda, "hopefully track national's", then the Geelong Tour at the end of February, and the World Cups in Geelong and New Zealand. "I'm looking forward to it," she says.
Road, or track?
Choosing between road and track is not something that Spratt has to do just yet. In fact, many riders can adapt to be very successful at both, but as a developing rider, it's hard to do too many things at once. "It's difficult because I love both road and track and I'm happy to do both," explains Spratt. "I love track - it's been great for my road training - but I think I'm leaning towards road right now. I don't want to give up the track. I'll just use it to complement my road training."
Spratt has been coached by Michel Vermande for the last three years and is very happy with the way her training has developed so far. "It's been really good for me because he individualises a lot. We can talk and he listens. He's very supportive." Having just finished high school four weeks ago, the break from study will give Amanda a chance to transition from junior to senior ranks and get enough rest. "I'd like to go to Uni, just not straight away," she says. "I'm also thinking about doing some study by correspondence," something that Australian national coach Warren McDonald encourages in his athletes.
Being at the camp is something that all of the young girls really find encouraging. "It's been really great here," says Spratt. "We're having a team dinner tonight, which will be great just for everyone to sit down together but so far the atmosphere has been nice." Spratt says over the last few years she has looked up to riders like Kate Bates, Oenone Wood and Olivia Gollan. "Just their experience is helpful for the younger girls. All the women have been really supportive for us as juniors over the last few years. I met a lot of them in Novellara and I've kept in contact. It's been good."
Another BMX bandit
As Robbie McEwen and many other riders have proven over the years, BMX racing as a kid is an excellent background for any cyclist. So here is another good sign for Spratt, who raced BMX from the age of nine until she was 12. "My dad and grandfather were both road racers," says Spratt, "and dad took me along to a [road] ride when I was 12. I was on a mountain bike and got completely flogged, but I loved it."
From then, Amanda has proven that bike racing can be a very good career option, but of course, the move from being a junior to a senior can be tough. Many talented young athletes get discouraged as they go from being dominant and successful as a junior to struggling in senior fields, but it seems Spratt is prepared for that and it provides her with an added maturity, something that is striking about the amiable teenager. "As an athlete, you have to accept that you are going to go through hard times," she says. "I've already been through a few of those. I know this is going to be a hard one. It's just a matter of getting stuck into training and sticking with it."
She is also dealing with what some would call pressure to be the next big thing, but modestly pushes that aside. "I don't see it as pressure," she says, remaining philosophical about it all. "It's nice for people to say that. At the same time, ultimately it's the athlete that has to put in the hard work." She's setting her sights high, but realises it all starts with a single step. "I'm just trying to work towards what I want to achieve." And that is? "To represent Australia at world championships and hopefully Commonwealth Games and Olympics some day," she says.