AIS training camp, Part II: An interview with Amanda Spratt, December 24, 2005
After much success as a junior, it's now time for Amanda Spratt to move into senior ranks, a move that is not always easy. But this quietly-spoken teenager from the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, is ready for the challenge. Kristy Scrymgeour caught up with her 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 at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra, Spratt was still all smiles. "It's good to be here 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."
Spratt was one of 25 Australian women cyclists invited to Canberra in early December for testing and get-together, organized by national women's coach, Warren McDonald.
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 said. "I won't be going for a full year. Just for short stints to get experience and see what it's like. It depends on how I go at camp and in the racing in January."
Racing for the women is full-on in the New Year, starting with the Jayco Bay Classic in early January, the Australian Open Road Championships, the Adelaide Advertiser women's crits, and for Amanda, "hopefully track National's", then the Geelong Tour at the end of February, and the World Cup rounds in Geelong and then New Zealand. "I'm looking forward to it," she said of the packed program.
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," explained 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 this year, the break from study will give Spratt 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 said. "I'm also thinking about doing some study by correspondence," something that Australian national coach Warren McDonald encourages in his athletes.
Being at the AIS camp was something that all of the young girls found inspiring and encouraging. "It's been really great here," she said. "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 said 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 (AIS base in Italy) 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 9 to 12. "My Dad and Grandfather were both road racers," Spratt said, "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, Spratt has proven that bike racing is a career option, but of course, the move from 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, displaying a maturity in her attitude that is beyond her years.
"As an athlete, you have to accept that you are going to go through hard times," she said. "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 pushed that aside. "I don't see it as pressure," she said. "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. 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."
April 3, 2006: Mark Webber cautions motorists to watch for cyclists in Amy Gillett's name
February 21, 2006: AIS survivors tell of crash and recovery
February 7, 2006: AIS crash verdict: "German law was applied"
February 4, 2006: AIS crash: driver sentenced
December 25, 2005: An interview with the survivors of the German tragedy
December 23, 2005: An interview with Warren McDonald
December 13, 2005: Emotional conclusion to Amy Gillett Charity Ride
Amy Gillett Foundation Charity Ride diary
October 28, 2005: AIS women at charity luncheon in Sydney
October 20, 2005: Yaxley making solid progress
October 6, 2005: Investigation in Gillett's death almost complete
August 24, 2005: Graham vows to return
August 22, 2005: Yaxley and Rhodes home
August 18, 2005: Rhodes and Yaxley bound for home
August 14, 2005: Yaxley and Rhodes continue to make progress
August 11, 2005: Brown vows to return to cycling
August 8, 2005: More support for Gillett-Safe Cycling Foundation
August 3, 2005: Rhodes and Yaxley out of intensive care
July 29, 2005: Amy Gillett's life recalled in moving service
July 28, 2005: Rhodes and Yaxley recovery 'amazing'
July 24, 2005: Yaxley improving, Rhodes still unconscious
July 21, 2005: AIS head 'optimistic' about recovery; 'Brownie' tries his best
July 19, 2005: Unprecedented carnage in GermanyJuly 18, 2005: Amy Gillett dead after crash in Germany