The post-race interview for a runner-up can be a sober affair. But when Amanda Spratt walked into a press conference room in the bowels of the Innsbruck convention centre on Saturday afternoon, there were nothing but smiles. Having secured second place at the world championships, Spratt was buoyant as she answered media questions with the silver medal around her neck. “I can be really proud,” she declared triumphantly.
Spratt and her Australian colleagues had looked imposing during the early stages of the race, controlling the tempo and reigning in attacks. “The team did a really great job protecting me.” Spratt looked strong among the form climbers on the initial Gnadenwald climb and on the first of three laps of the challenging Olympic circuit. Then she almost came undone with a rookie error and subsequent tumble.
“It was pretty lucky it happened about 500 metres from the start of the descent,” she reflected afterwards. “The bunch I was in was going pretty slowly. It was honestly just an amateur mistake by me – I was having a gel and overlapped the wheel in front of me.
“Fortunately for me I fell off into the grass so there was minimum damage and I was able to get up quickly and back on before the start of the descent,” she continued. “It was more a wake-up call to myself to get the focus back. A few kilometres later I was in the breakaway.”
When Dutchwoman Ellen van Dijk dropped from Spratt’s elite lead group, there was a sense that the race had reached a pivotal moment. With the orange-clad team boasting the best squad in Innsbruck, they had to make a move or risk Spratt going away on her own. Unfortunately for the Australian, it was then that Anna van der Breggen erupted.
“I anticipated that the Dutchies were going to come across,” she explained. “Anna came across so quickly to that move. I just tried to hold her wheel as much as I could. Maybe I made a little mistake to go through and do a turn – she did attack after that – I probably could have stayed with her longer than I did. But honestly I think she was on another level today.”
Spratt heaped praise on her team-mates, particularly the trio making their debut at this rarefied level of road cycling. “I think the team were incredible today, all of them,” she said. “We had a mix of real experience and three first-timers. We were really clear with our plan – everyone knew their role, so I think that takes away the pressure.
“Brodie Chapman and Grace Brown did a really good job of covering moves,” Spratt continued. “And I have to thank Lucy Kennedy, she did an incredible job on the first time up that climb.”
Even thirty minutes after crossing the finish line, fatigue remained evident on the 31-year-old’s face. “It was four and a half hours almost – that’s a really long race for us,” she said. “In the last bit I was cramping and I was eating more than in any other race, trying to get the energy in. It was a really hard circuit.”
Spratt’s silver continues a love affair with Austria that began over a decade ago. “13 years ago, I had the junior world championships for the track and the road in Austria,” she recalled. “It’s been a while between events, but I love Austria – the people, and also it’s a beautiful course and beautiful area. In October last year I brought myself over to ride the courses and I remember walking out of the train station – I was just in awe of the nature and scenery.”
But with her Worlds campaign done and dusted, it is now time for Spratt to switch attention to another alluring location, Tokyo. As the post-race press conference wrapped up, the Mitchelton-Scott rider admitted she was already contemplating her next big opportunity in national team colours.
“I am completely focused on 2020,” she said. “Personally I haven’t seen the course, but I know some people from Cycling Australia have – so that’s a discussion I am going to have after Innsbruck. My brain has been all Innsbruck at the moment so it will be good to move on and think about [Tokyo]. I know with the number of altitude metres over 2,000, pretty much in women’s racing that will never be a bunch sprint. It is something I definitely have my eye on.”