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Amanda Spratt, recently wrote the following memoir from her Junior Worlds training and racing in Europe. Originally published by CycleSportNews.com, Amanda has generously agreed that WomensCycling.net can publish her article. 

Enjoy this story of a seasoned junior Australian, Commonwealth Youth and World champion's training and racing in the Northern Hemisphere in summer 2005 

Chasing the Rainbow Again                                          

Amanda Spratt

Well I have now returned from my last race as a junior at the World Junior Road and Track Cycling Championships which were held in Austria from August 7th- 14th. As part of this adventure I had a two week track camp in Sydney with the endurance squad before heading to Italy for three weeks with the road team.

I finished off my 2nd Italian experience on a high note when I won the Gran Premio Banca di Credito Cooperative Pordenonese – a 12kms individual time trial, the last major hit-out before the worlds. Although happy with the result it was certainly a tough day in the office- 35 degree heat, coupled with some heavy legs made for a tough battle in winds but constant screaming and yelling from the car behind helped me keep my focus…and a trophy, a cute duck, beauty products and thermometer I won will always come in handy!  

The following day Cameron Meyer and I left behind the beautiful pizza and gelati….not that I ate that much (nudge, nudge)….and headed up by plane to Vienna to meet up with the track team. It was a rather daunting trip for me at times…..especially when the plane started making loud noises as it headed down to land! So after squeezing all the life out of the arm rest of my chair we found ourselves in Vienna, looking to quickly get our track legs going. 

Surprisingly for me, the track form came back from pretty much the first session and I felt right at home. We had 5 days back on the track before competition started. My first race was on the 2nd night of competition and was the 20kms points race. This was the race that I won last year and I guess it was always going to be hard to defend the title. Despite this I headed out determined to have a good ride. In the first 4 sprints I got two 1st places and a 2nd and was leading comfortably. Unfortunately for me, 3 girls went for a lap after a sprint that I had led out for 2.5 laps….bad timing, they could have at least warned me! Despite my best efforts to chase, no-one else was committed to bringing back the break and they gained a lap, giving them an extra 20 points each.  Swiss rider Andrea Wolfer won the title with our Kiwi friend Rushlee Buchanan in 2nd and myself in 5th. Despite the fact that I did not reclaim my title, I am still extremely satisfied with my ride. I guess there is always that element of ‘what if?’ but I gave it my best shot on the day. 

The next morning (no rest for the wicked!) I had the individual pursuit qualifying. I qualified in 2.30.374 which gave me 3rd position. Bianca Rogers, also from Australia qualified in 1st. The finals that night saw me riding against Kimberly Geist from America. I raced against her last year as well, but this year she was too strong and I simply didn’t have the legs, dropping by 3 seconds from my qualifying time….I am working on that! Bianca had a rather odd warm-up which involved getting smashed in the back by a Greek sprinter who failed to look where he was going during a flying 200m in warm-up. Bianca is a tough nut and despite an extremely sore back that affected her start, she battled it out to take the silver medal being narrowly beaten by Ukrainian Lesya Kalitovska.

In other events bronze medals were won by the pursuit team, madison boys, team sprint boys and Scott Sunderland in the kilo. The last night was a memorable one for the Aussies with Chloe MacPherson and Skye-Lee Armstrong winning the kieren and scratch race and picking up a rainbow jersey each…nice! 

The following morning the trackies-turned-roadies drove up to Oberwart to join the road team. We stayed in a lovely motel, full of chocolate- literally. As we walked into the reception we were greeted with a chocolate fountain and whole room full of different types of freshly made chocolates…it certainly was helpful in improving my willpower…but let’s just say that on the last night, you knew where to find me! 

The time trial this year was 15kms in length- an out and back circuit, and pancake flat, and I mean FLAT! I was hoping for a good result this year after my bronze medal last year and felt confident going into the event. As I rolled down the starting ramp all I could hear was the sound of rain hitting my aero helmet as I started my ride into the headwind – nothing like a bit of rain and wind to make things interesting! I felt like I was missing something in the time trial, like I couldn’t get the power into the pedals that I would normally be able to, and found it hard to get into a rhythm on the way out. With a tailwind on the way back, I paced myself well and crossed the line to finish in 10th place. I had been a bit sick with a cold during and after this event but I don’t want to go making excuses. I had a bad day and I guess along with the disappointment was the frustration with the fact that I felt as if I could have ridden better had my legs allowed me to. But I know that it is those sort of disappointing days that will motivate me more in the future.

With only one day to recover, Bianca, Tiff Cromwell and I lined up on a beautiful Sunday morning, with 70kms of undulating, hard, gut-wrenching riding ahead of us. With the first 4 placegetters from last year in the race again this year, it was going to be a tough one. I had a really good warmup, but the legs just didn’t seem to agree with the road that lay ahead. We completed 5 laps of the course that involved several short, steep hills and one main 2kms climb. I found myself struggling a bit…well a lot today…to stay with the frontrunners and seeing my name painted on the road on the climb as I had my head down, elbows bent, biting the handlebars definitely helped  (thanks Zak, Rik and Gary!) With one lap to go Tiff and I were still in the front group. On the final climb Marianne Vos (last year’s winner) and Mei Bekker Lacota attacked up the road. They were not far ahead but far enough to eventually take the top two placings with Lacota taking the rainbow jersey. In the sprint for third I had nothing left in the tank and rolled in for 25th place, with Tiff not too far behind.

This year has definitely been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, but it has taught me a lot. The road race did not have the desired outcome, and I wonder how things could have turned out if I had felt better on the day. But I had the best ride that I could have had in the circumstances, and at the end of the day, it was just another bike race. Besides, as the coaches always say, it builds character! There is always going to be down times and times when I won’t be going as well as I want to but I am determined to turn the disappointments into positives and get on with the job – I have plenty more bike races ahead of me!  

I am now enjoying a break off the bike while I fit back into ‘normal life’- get back into some school work – yes I am in year 12 with an HSC looming!, turn 18 finally, and catch up with family, friends and all those who have given me so much help and support. The support of family, friends, coaches and my sponsors Shimano, Briko and Kuota have made the ‘ride’ along the way a lot easier! As far as cycling goes I now move up into the senior ranks, and whilst the thought of no longer being a junior after so many years is a bit daunting I am eager and motivated to make a good start!

Postscript – No account of my time overseas this year would be complete without reference to the terrible accident in Germany that claimed the life of Amy Gillett and seriously injured five of our top riders. I had the privilege of racing with these women in my first lead up race in Italy and was due to race the Tour of San Marino with them after they came back from Germany. It is impossible to describe how I felt when I heard the news  - it was just horrible and it was so hard to refocus on what we were supposed to be doing. I was so lucky to receive the support that I did from my coaches, team-mates, some of the pro-women and the AIS staff - they were just fantastic. It was hard to concentrate on the racing but hearing regular reports on the great progress of the girls was inspiring and it helped me along. Now when I hear how well they are doing with their recovery it makes anything seem possible. 

We will all miss you Amy.

 Amanda Spratt


Thanks to Amanda Spratt and CycleSportNews.com for granting  permission to use this article






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