Amanda Spratt and Jessie MacLean Talk Ronde van Drenthe

Fri 14 Mar 2014

As part of the Drenthe week in Holland, ORICA-AIS will line up on Saturday to contest the first World Cup of the season, the Ronde van Drenthe.

Ahead of the World Cup, we sat down with Jessie MacLean and Amanda Spratt to listen to their perspectives on the race. In their own words, they give us a colourful description of the course, the team’s plan, Dutch racing and sheep.

Yes, sheep.

Spratty: I was in the team car for Drentse 8 so I’m really looking forward to racing tomorrow. I’m expecting a very hard race. They’ve made it harder for us with an extra cobble section. The cobbles are long in length, about 3-4 kilometres, and they are really bumpy. Since Holland doesn’t have any hills, they’ve made one for us over a rubbish hill called the VAMberg.

The VAMberg is in an industrial area. We hit it the first time just ten kilometres into the race. That won’t have much of an impact. We hit it again two more times in the final two short circuits around Hoogeveen, the finish city. Those final two times up the climb will definitely have an impact on the race. Although the climb is pretty short, it’s quite steep – about 17% on average. Coming into the climb there is a sharp lefthander on a very narrow road. If you’re not in the top two or three, you’re literally doing a track stand at the bottom.

I expect that in the race the climb will be easier than in training yesterday when I had to climb two fences and run from sheep to get there. Maybe the race can organise a pack of sheep to chase us. Sheep in GreenEDGE jerseys. I could use that up that hill!

Jessie: Yeah, and if you win the sprint with the sheep, you win chocolate milk as a prize. Chocolate sheep’s milk!

This year the UCI has introduced jerseys for best young rider, sprinter and climber as a way to broaden interest in the World Cups. I think they should add a wind jersey, too, as the winds are predicted to be 40-50 kilometres per hour tomorrow.

Spratty: Of course we will have a team plan, but everyone always has the same plan – to be at the front. With everyone wanting to be at the front at the same time, it makes for a crazy racing. Dutch racing always is. The key is to be organized, to get to the front and stay there. After each cobble section, you check to see who made it through unscathed.

Jessie: Emma will be up there at the finish. Boels Dolmans are a very strong team at the moment. We saw that at Het Nieuwsblad. Ellen Van Dijk has had a slower start to the season but the team is strong.

Spratty: Specialized-lululemon just got their first win of the season. They’re always a strong team, as is Rabobank.

Yesterday in the car I saw how many punctures and mechanicals there were. It’s so hard to predict because anything can happen to anyone. And the weather can always make a difference. If it rains like it’s predicted to, it will be very slippery over the cobbles through the forest. There are so many factors that can have an impact on this race.

Jessie: And it’s not just the cobbles but the other girls that you have to watch out for! Everybody is slipping and there’s no holding your line. You’re just trying to keep your bike upright.

Spratty: It’ll be like a slip and slide on the cobbles. Like Loes [Gunnewijk] said, it’s as if an airplane just dropped rocks on the course. You’ll slip and slide but you just have to keep pushing on the pedals and keep riding. Stay focused. Try not to hit the bumps or other people.

Jessie: This race has more of an intense feeling than the rest of the races. It’s like everything is hyped up on Mountain Dew to quote Ricky Bobby’s son. Some of us are more nervous than others. Nervous and excited. Spratty is just excited because she’s had a day off. I’m excited but there are nerves in there, too.

Spratty: I’m excited. We all know we have good legs and good form. Things are really coming together.

ORICA-AIS for Ronde van Drenthe:

Amanda Spratt
Emma Johansson
Gracie Elvin
Jessie MacLean
Loes Gunnewijk
Valentina Scandolara