In Her Own Words: Amanda Spratt Previews Omloop van het Hageland

Fri 7 Mar 2014

In the first two races of the European season, ORICA-AIS has already started to flex its muscles. With a win and a podium in the first two Belgian races, the Australian based squad is looking to increase its win tally when it lines up for Omloop van het Hageland this Sunday.

Ahead of the race, Amanda Spratt tells us, in her own words, about the course, the team’s ambitions, how to measure success and the current state of the women’s peloton.

The course is pretty similar to last year. First we encounter a larger 59 kilometre loop and then five laps of 13 kilometres. The opening lap includes the first of four intermediate sprints and the first GPM of five. The cobbled climb is about 700 metres long and could potentially cause a small split in the group.

The finishing circuit includes a tough climb that doesn’t look too hard on paper but takes its toll on the legs after five ascents. The critical thing about the climb is that after the crest we turn onto a narrow farm road. If it’s a bit windy, it can put a lot of pressure on the bunch and cause big splits.

Emma [Johansson] has won this race twice before. In fact, she’s the only rider to have won it more than once. Her history with this race plus her win at Le Samyn on Wednesday leaves us with no other goal than the top step.

We always want to race aggressively and be a part of the race. When we race together as a team, like we did at Le Samyn, we come out on top. Things didn’t come together in the same way as we would have liked at Het Nieuwsblad. At Le Samyn, we were more on the front foot and we gelled better as a team. We want to continue down that path.

I think we will be a strong team at Hageland. Gracie [Elvin] arrived in Europe right before Het Nieuwsblad, and she’s had the week to recover from her jet lag. Shara [Gillow] has been here a week and should be good to go. Neither raced on Wednesday, so they should both have fresher legs than the majority of the bunch.

At Hageland there will be 31 teams starting. That adds up to a lot of riders. The level will vary within the field as there are club teams mixed with the professional teams. It creates a lot more stress in the bunch coming into critical moments when everyone knows they need to be at the front. That’s why we will try to make it as hard as possible. We want to try to reduce the size of the peloton for safety and for a better chance to achieve our goals.

Whoever has the chance to make their move on Sunday will take that chance. We want to force a break by racing aggressively. On this course, that can happen, and as a team we’re prepared to support whoever is up the road. Obviously Emma has shown she has great form, which is typical for her at the start of the spring. It’s likely that she’ll put herself in the race winning move, but we have options aside from Emma.

Personally, I chose to come over to Europe early this season to get used to the weather and the cold. I wanted to hit the spring a bit fresher to achieve my own personal goals. It’s all worked well so far. In the first couple of races, I lacked the race intensity, but I hope my legs and body are getting used to it all quickly. If I get the opportunity, I can always go for my own result. However, the team comes first.

When we say the objective is to win, it’s easy to think anything less than that means we haven’t been successful. We like to think that’s not the case. Sometimes we race great as a team and we do everything we’ve set out to do, but we get beaten by a better rider at the end of the day.

On the flipside, it can go the other way, too. At Het Nieuwsblad we didn’t race well as a team but Emma ran second. It was a good result, but we all knew that we didn’t perform as well as we could have. We weren’t organized. We didn’t gel. It wasn’t a success. Overall, I think it’s important to look at the big picture, take it all in and measure success beyond the result on paper.

ORICA-AIS for Omloop van het Hageland:

Amanda Spratt
Carlee Taylor
Emma Johansson
Gracie Elvin
Loes Gunnewijk
Shara Gillow