Amanda Spratt made history Sunday night as she became the first rider to defend either the Santos Women's Tour or Tour Down Under. Spratt's overall win was built on the back of her stage 3 win, but there was late drama for the Mitchelton-Scott rider when she hit the deck in Sunday's final stage criterium.
"It was quite stressful out there and I took a tumble in one of those sprint primes," Spratt told reporters after clinching the win. "It wasn't ideal but my team didn't panic. I think I was more panicked than anyone else. Annemiek [Van Vlueten] got to me and tried to calm me down. Everyone around me was very calm, which helped."
Spratt took a solo win on stage 1 of last year's race and held off all challengers across three sprint-friendly stages. After the race, the riders were asked to give feedback on the parcours, and Spratt and Mitchelton-Scott's request for more hills in 2018 was heeded.
"It was probably our team that said that actually, but we were happy to see the two hilltop finishes. I feel that we can be challenged. We don't get too many hilltop finishes, but I think it does professionalise the race and not having two criteriums is making it a better race," she said.
Third place on the first hilltop finish in race history at Mengler's Hill, Spratt saved her best for the following day's tough finish in Handorf. Her seven-second win over Lauren Stephens (Cylance Pro Cycling) put her 29 seconds clear of the American. By Sunday evening, Spratt's winning margin was extended out to 41 seconds.
With Katrin Garfoot and Rachel Neylan moving on at the end 2017, Spratt is one of the riders taking on a greater leadership position for the new season. A dual national road champion, Spratt has improved year on year since joining the GreenEdge set up in 2012.
In 2018, Spratt is aiming higher than ever before and isn't afraid to articulate her grand plans so early in the season. Her decisive Santos Women's Tour win provides an ideal start for the year to come.
"The plan for the year is Cadel's race and then I head overseas and focus on the April period with the Ardennes. Then I'll hit the Giro hard again like last year but I want to go there in top shape and be even better. With the team we have, we can really aim for the win there," said Spratt, fifth in 2017. "Obviously with Annemiek as well. And then looking to the world championships in Innsbruck. It is a hilly course and I have already seen it. It is a huge, huge challenge I have set for myself this year but I am ready to embrace it."
For Spratt, the confidence to take on such ambitious aims circles back to her coach and sports director Gene Bates.
"I haven't had that huge one year, but every year I am getting that little bit better and I am loving working with my coach Gene Bates," she said. "I think he is a big reason why I am getting better each year. He keeps me motivated, he challenges me, he sets sessions I don't think I can do but I manage to go out there and do them. Having that refreshing approach and support is really helping me as well."