Driving the pace on the front of the chase group on stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia Donne Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco) once again looked like the powerful rider who in 2018 and 2019 stepped up onto the GC podium of the longest race on the women's calendar. What’s more she felt like it too.
After finding out that the cause for a puzzling period of underperformance, disappointment and doubt was Iliac artery endofibrosis, the Australian underwent surgery in October of 2021, beginning the long build back to form at the start of the year. The announcement that she would be the GC leader for her team at the Giro d’Italia Donne, after spending much of the season in a support role, appeared to be a good sign that she was on her way back to her best, but it was Monday that provided the proof.
Stage 4 of the ten day race – straight after the rest day which allowed the peloton to travel to the mainland from Sardinia – delivered a first measured dose of climbing and, somewhat surprisingly, the first big GC moves. Spratt took fifth on the stage, and while she may have dropped more time on overall leader Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) than she wanted, the BikeExchange-Jayco rider delivered a performance on the 120km stage to Cesena that proved she was back in the hunt after a long period in the wilderness.
“I’m really happy with the result,” said Spratt in an audio interview posted on the team's Twitter account. “We knew the climb at about 70km was going to be where it was really going to split, so the girls did an amazing lead out to that and really looked after me and Kristen [Faulkner] so well, so I’m thankful to them. Then It just exploded from that point and we were in groups.”
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Faulkner initially jumped into the lead attacking group with Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Mavi Garcia (UAE Team ADQ) that went on Colle del Barbotto, with 50km to go. However, she drifted away from the lead trio and back to the chase group including Spratt.
“I had Kristen there in the second group with me and she did a really amazing job there,” Spratt said. “Then the gap to the front went out but I just tried to do what I could in that group behind.”
Doing what she could in that group behind meant that once Faulkner – who won the time trial on the opening day – had also fallen out the back of the chase, it was constantly Spratt that was driving the pace. Even though a lion’s share of the work fell on the 34-year-old’s shoulders, she was still quick to respond in the final stages of the race, chasing down the moves and securing fifth place on the stage after taking second in the sprint from the group, which followed the break riders of Van Vleuten, Garcia and Cavalli in.
“It was a very hot stage today and I think a lot of riders suffered a bit from that but I think it also gave some answers on the GC riders,” BikeExchange-Jayco sport director Martin Vestby said. “We are very happy with Spratty’s performance today and how we are going into the next phase of the race.”
Spratt is now sitting in sixth overall at the Giro d'Italia Donne, but with few willing or able to aid the Australian's chase attempts on stage 4 a large gap has opened up to the three lead contenders, meaning Spratt is 5:14 back from Van Vleuten and 4:17 back from the podium, though Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) in fourth is just 14 seconds away.
Possibly more important for Spratt and the team, however, is not the position on the overall but was the strength on display. It looked every bit like the 34-year-old could have hit a turning point in her recovery, which bodes well for the tough mountain stages ahead on stage 7 to 9 and also for some big targets in the rest of the season and beyond.
“Personally I’m actually really happy,” Spratt said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen the legs back at that really good level again since the surgery.”
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