Getting ready for the next step

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."

Also see:
AIS training camp, Part I: An interview with Warren McDonald, December 23, 2005
AIS training camp, Part III: An interview with the survivors of the German tragedy, December 25, 2005

Index to all AIS women's training camp features

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