There’ is not going to be any easing back into European racing for Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco) following surgery to address form-stifling iliac artery endofibrosis, with the Australian rider returning to the fray at Saturday’s Strade Bianche after more than five months without lining up at an international race.
The 34-year-old, who has twice finished in the top ten of the race through the Tuscan hills, was able to start training again in late December after she undertook surgery in October to address the blood circulation limiting condition which had unknowingly been weighing on her form for some-time.
Spratt did line up in the January’s Australian National Road Series Event, the Santos Festival of Cycling, but being so early in her recover was without any result ambitions for herself, instead burying herself in a team domestique role as a way of mixing up the rehab and introducing intensity. Since then Spratt has had another five weeks of training but Strade Bianche’s challenging terrain plus a field packed with top teams and riders is bound to make the Women’s WorldTour event a tough reintroduction.
“I am very excited to be back with the team. It’s my first ‘big’ race after a while and I have picked one of the hardest races of the year to start again, but it’s such an epic and challenging race and I can’t wait,” Spratt said in a team media statement.
“Everyone always wants to always be at the front, especially in the technical gravel sectors and then in the hard finale, of course. It will be really aggressive racing and this can adapt to our style.”
Spratt, whose key season goals start a little further down the track at the Ardennes Classics, will be lining up with the familiar company of Georgia Williams, Ane Santesteban and Jess Allen while team newcomer Kristen Faulkner will add valuable firepower and first-year professional Ruby Roseman-Gannon will make her Strade Bianche debut.
“I have been in Mallorca for a nice training block, my expectation for this race must be realistic, but I really hope that with the team we can support each other and take the best out of it,” Spratt said. “I have seen Ane is in really top shape, so we will work together and do the best we can.”
The BikeExchange team knows what it is to win at the race that winds its way through the hills of Tuscanny with Spratt, Williams and Allen all having been part of the squad that supported former team leader Annemiek van Vleuten to victory in both 2019 and 2020. Santesteban also finished 15th in 2020 while racing with Ceratizit-WNT and Faulkner took 16th in her debut at the race with TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank in 2021.
“We are going to Strade Bianche with a strong team, we are confident we are lining-up in good shape and with multiple options,” Head Sport Director Martin Vestby said in a statement. “The level of the race will be high, we know that, and anything can happen when you race on these white roads in the Tuscan hills. It will be important to work well as a team and be well positioned throughout the race.”
Saturday’s 136km race includes a total of 31.4 kilometres of gravel over eight sectors and six categorised climbs, with the final ramp into Siena a crucial late challenge before the finish line in the historic Piazza del Campo.
“The key will be positioning,” said Vestby. “If we stay united and in the front of the group in order to avoid any type of issues, anything can happen in Siena.”