Australia’s Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) claimed the bronze medal in a stunning women’s road race at the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire on Saturday.
In one of the most incredible individual rides ever seen World Championship history, Dutch powerhouse Annemiek van Vleuten soloed the final 105 kilometres to claim the world champion’s rainbow jersey.
Following an epic battle in the chasing group across a punishing course, Spratt took the bronze behind 2018 world champion Anna Van der Breggen (NED).
“That was epic. It was the hardest race I have ever done. Every part of my body was cramping, my thumb cramping in the end,” said Spratt, who became the first Australian woman to claim two World Championships road race medals after winning silver in 2018.
“I am really proud. I really feel like I have won this bronze medal.”
Spratt’s team of Brodie Chapman (Tibco–Silicon Valley Bank), Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon–SRAM), Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott), Lauren Kitchen (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Chloe Hosking (Ale-Cipollini) and Jessica Allen (Mitchelton-Scott) joined 152 starters from 49 nations for the 149km race from Bradford to Harrogate.
With the early pace set by the strong eight-rider Dutch outfit, debutant Allen and Kitchen sheltered Spratt over the first 40 kilometres as the peloton approached the first major climb of the race, ‘Lofthouse’.
It was here Van Vleuten attacked as the climb further decimated the already dwindling peloton. Spratt took up the chase in a world-class nine-rider breakaway which included 2015 world champion Lizzie Deignan (GBR), reigning Olympic and world champion van der Breggen (NED), recently crowned 2019 time trial world champion Chloé Dygert Owen (USA) and Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA).
With little cohesion in the chasing group, the powerful Dutchwoman established a lead of two minutes as she entered Harrogate for three laps of the challenging 14-kilometre town circuit.
“Suffer suffer suffer. It was about who could suffer the most. I predicted it would be before the race and it was,” said Spratt. “The race really opened after only 45 kilometres, and it was full gas racing which doesn’t really happen very often.
“I tried to play it smart, I chose to not participate in all the attacks but conserve and save my energy for the circuits, which was the smarter move. You only had some many bullets you could fire on this circuit and be careful how to use them, so I chose to wait to use them until later.”
With the chasing group exploding as it approached Harrogate, Dygert launched a solo attack on Van Vleuten’s lead. Spratt and Van Der Breggen shook the rest of the peloton including Deignan and Borghini, before absorbing a fading Dygert on the penultimate lap.
With Van Vleuten’s spectacular victory nearly complete some two minutes ahead, Van der Breggen attacked Spratt inside the final six kilometres and rode to the silver just seconds ahead of Spratt.
“Once we got to the final circuit, everyone was dropping like flies,” Spratt explained. “It was attack, after attack, after attack. One rider was dropped, then the next rider, then the next. It was survival of the fittest.
“When Chloe (Dygert) was away, we weren’t sure we could get her back, but once we did, we knew we were racing for a medal. In the end, Anna (van der Breggen) was just a little too strong in those last five kilometres.”
Following her second straight World Championship medal, Spratt was content with what she considered an exhaustive performance.
“It was a brutal, brutal race and everyone finished with the tank completely empty,” said Spratt. “There is not a lot I could have changed. Yes, you come here, and you want to win, but honestly, no one coming here today was going to beat her.
“Sometimes you have to realise when someone is having an exceptional performance as Annemiek did today. Congratulations to her, she is a worthy world champion. She was on another level today.”
Moments after crossing the line, Spratt paid tribute to her teammates for delivering her to the crucial part of the race in position.
“Anyone watching the race saw how amazing the team were. We knew that Lofthouse climb would be supercritical and they did a great job of looking after me and protecting to that climb where it all exploded, so I am really grateful to the team,” said Spratt.
“I am so proud of this medal, but also of the work the girls, also the staff, put in this week. It has been a really incredible feeling within the group and the whole team, all the staff and the riders, boosted all of us up this week.”
Following her second medal at the past two World Championships, Spratt reflected on her performances.
“I have to pinch myself sometimes because I don’t think of myself as of one of those riders,” Spratt admitted. “But it has happened twice now.
“I have hit my stride last two to three years, and it shows that all the hard work is really paying off. I did put a lot of pressure on myself, but I had excellent preparation.
“I will take a lot of confidence out of this heading towards Tokyo 2020.”