Giro Rosa - Spratty's last interview, and more rider reactions

Throughout the Giro Rosa, I had daily Q&As with ORICA-AIS riders Amanda Spratt and Jessie Maclean - so of course I had to have one last chat with Spratty to find out how she was feeling after the race! And I've been asking other riders for their post-race thoughts - read on, too, for Q&As with Marijn de Vries, Martine Bras and Emily Collins

Amanda Spratt

Throughout the race, Spratty was giving away the dark secrets of a domestique, like her shameful coffee habits, why her team-mates consider her the wise one of the team, and how much she enjoyed the mountains days. I spoke to her once she'd had a few days to recover, and she took a look back at the race for us...

PdC: How are you feeling?

Spratty: I'm good! I'm tired, but good, back home now, emerging from my Giro coma slowly, but it'll take a few more days.

PdC: What happened on the final day? Is there a big post-Giro party after the ITT?

Spratty: It was pretty intense with Tiff [Cromwell] having her flight back home booked - she finished her TT and had another race against time to catch her 'plane. JMac and I had it easy - we saw Shara [Gillow]'s ride, then chilled out, heard how good Shara had gone and had a nice cruisey drive back home with stops for gelato and coffee. I have heard that some years there was a Giro after-party, but there's never been one when I've raced it - mostly it's everyone getting to their flights back home straight away.

PdC: And you did really well in the ITT, didn't you? You ended up 13th!

Spratty: Haha, yeah, yeah, I found a little bit of my inner Time Triallist in me. It was a bit different - usually the TT is in the middle of the Tour, and if it's half-way through then I get instructed not to go full gas, so I can save my energy for doing my job supporting my team-mates in the GC.

For 11km I was going well, and then a humungous mushroom cloud started following me with 5k to go, and somehow I had to get to the finish. Our mechanic was following me in the car, and I was saying it must have been obvious I'd blown up, and he said, yeah, it was hilarious to watch!

PdC: Obviously I was really pleased for you, but it was a bit of a surprise - I always think of you in the attacks, but not so much the ITTs

Spratty: If you go far enough back in my history, I do have TT pedigree, but not recently - but I'm looking to improve that in this season and the next. I love my little TT bike - I've got a baby TT bike, it's very cute.

PdC: You've said before you're not the tallest rider - how tall are you? And does that make a difference getting a bike that fits?

Spratt: I'm 161 [cm] on a good day [5'3"] - my team-mates were laughing, there's a picture of me on one of the climbs, I'm third wheel up and look like this little midget. But I'm good, Scott make bikes that are small enough for me. In some brands you can't always get frames that fit, but I'm on the XXS frame. I'm on a different model TT bike to the rest of the team, but it's good.

PdC: Do you have to do anything to make sure your bike comes in over the 6.8kg limit? I know some of the shorter riders have to worry about that - and we saw Fabiana Luperini get disqualified because of that....

Spratty: No, no weights - I'm just enough of a giant for that. But I do get lighter bikes than the rest, so there are some advantages to being small.

PdC: And you didn't just do well in the ITT, you ended up in the top 25, didn't you?

Spratty: 23rd - but for me, that doesn't really matter, I was more there to help Tiff and Shara in the GC. But it was still encouraging, seeing how I went on the hilly days. I was worried how my form would be after my crash in Spain [in the Durango-Durango Emaukeen Saria in June] because it interrupted my preparation for the Giro, but hopefully this has set me up for the rest of the season.

PdC: How do you feel about the team performance overall?

Spratty: I'm really happy with how we did - we were really trying every day, we left it all out there on the road. We didn't always get the results on paper, but we worked really well as a team.

PdC: And Tiffany's crash on Stage 3, when she was out with Marianne Vos, so close to the finish - that was such bad luck!

Spratty: I watched that for the first time yesterday. Vos is so hard to follow downhill, she's so amazing technically... Tiff was disappointed, but she took a lot out of it, being the only rider who could keep up with Vos gave her a lot of confidence, she's still pretty buzzing about it.

PdC: And it's a choice a rider must have to make - whether to take the easy option, let Vos go and ride for second, or try to stay up there and race for the win. Better to 'die' trying, right?

Spratty: You should always try, and Tiff is very much like that. She wasn't there to go for second. We're all such competitive people, and she said that even though she was already getting a little bit gapped on the descents, she had to push to keep up.

PdC: That stage was one of my favourites to watch, despite Tiff's crash - what were your favourite moments?

Spratty: To ride.... the first stage in Bari, because of the crowds. There were amazing crowds at the start and in every town we went through, it reminded me a little bit of the London Olympics. The coolest thing was they weren't there to watch the men's race come through an hour later, they were there to see us. That's one of the highlights, definitely.

And the routes we were racing, the courses themselves were highlights, that balance of the flat ones and the lumpy ones. Having two mountain top finishes, much as it hurt. We kept zigzagging across Italy, slowly moving up, and we stayed in some really nice places, lots of places I wished I could stay for a holiday.

Off the road... we had some fun moments as a team, rocking to AC/DC at the presentations! Tiff had her birthday, too - and there was a cute incident I think JMac told you about. JMac and Mel and Maja had put all this effort into decorating a cake for Tiff, and then her parents had ordered this amazing cake to be delivered to the hotel, and when we same them next to each other, everyone just lost it! We're Aussies, we laugh at each other and ourselves, when stuff like this happens!

PdC: I did like the video of the team presentation on Tiff's birthday, with Tiff rocking out and the rest of you collapsing laughing

Spratty: Yeah, that's pretty much the way it goes - you don't want to be next to Tiff, she's such a performer, you'll be invisible! We had fun making the video for ORICA - they told us to dress up like rockstars, and we all came in trackies and only Tiff dressed up. She came seriously prepared! High heels, leopard-print trousers - we thought she was planning for a post-race party, but then we remembered the video!

PdC: Now, I asked on twitter for any questions for you, and I got a couple of people asking if you were single, and if you wanted to go out for a coffee after the race...

Spratty: [laughing] They'll have to ask my press secretary, JMac, she looks after all requests of that nature, so all requests, while appreciated, have to be vetted by her first!

PdC: So, a more serious question - what have you learned about yourself from the Giro?

Spratty: Erm.... ahhhhh.... that I don't like to eat chicken 8 days in a row?

I took confidence out of the TT, and after such an interrupted preparation, I didn't stress so much. I relaxed, and didn't stress when I couldn't ride for a few weeks, and that was god.

PdC: And you were in all the right places, you were in all those breaks

Spratty: Yeah, whenever we set out and had a plan, I could contribute, and I always want to do whatever I can that's best for the team, so that was good.

PdC: So how do you recover from the Giro?

Spratty: Eat gelati and pizza! No, just rest and sleep a lot. This time last year I didn't get that right, I tried to do far too much between the Giro and Thüringen, so this time I'll take more time out.

PdC: I met you in Thüringen in 2011, when you were riding for the Australian National Team - will it be very different, racing with ORICA than it was back then?

Spratty: Yeah, definitely different. Back then we could fly under the radar, even though Shara ended up third on GC. But with ORICA, Emma [Johansson]'s back in, and we're racing to win the GC and the stages. We're there to win, and we know we can. It'll be very professional, on and off the road, doing everything we can at all times.

PdC: And what are you doing for the rest of the season?

Spratty: After Thüringen we've coming to London to do the Prudential Grand Prix on 3rd August - JMac, Loes [Gunnewijk], [Sungeun] Gu and I are coming over. Then I don't know, our programmes have't been finalised for August and September. I'd like to do the Vårgårda World Cups, of course, but that depends on who's doing the Team Time Trial. Personally, I want to keep improving - I'd certainly like to be on the TTT team, but because I'm tiny, I have to be extra powerful. And obviously, with Emma as the Swede on the team, the Road Race World Cup is one of her targets, so I'd love to be part of that.

PdC: And what about Worlds for Australia? Do you have any idea about that?

Spratty: I don't know about Worlds. The team is selected late in the piece, but of course I'd love to be there.

PdC: It looks like a good course for Aus, with you and Tiffany and Shara

Spratty: Yeah, it's definitely good for someone like Tiff - the lap's got the climb, and a technical descent, it's got Tiff's name written all over it.

PdC: And what will you do after the season? Will you be going back to Australia for the winter - well, for another summer down there

Spratty: We keep chasing summer! Last year I went on holiday to the Greek Islands with Mel and Loes. I haven't got anything planned yet, I'm a bit of a last-minute spontaneous person, but I know I'll be on holiday somewhere, and then I'll be back in Aus in late September.

PdC: Maybe one of the guys who want to ask you out can make you an offer to take you on holiday?

Spratty: Pretty much! If they've got a good destination, all offers can go through JMac! Obviously I had a beach holiday last year, so I'm not sure if I want to be beachy again, but they can come up with suggestions!

PdC: And once you're back home, what do you do over the off-season?

Spratty: I normally have about four weeks off the bike before I start getting back into training, seeing family and friends, catching up with everyone and being a bit more normal. The Euros think the Aussies race too much, because we're back into crits in December, home for Christmas, then there's Nationals in January, then Qatar, and the season's started - and next year there's the Commonwealth Games - the show rolls on, as always.

PdC: I have one more question for you.... What were the most embarrassing or funny moments of the Giro for you?

Spratty: Probably my most embarrassing/idiotic moment on tour was when in desperation for cooling down climbing up the mountain in stage 6, I failed to check that my bidon had water in it prior to pouring it all over my head and shoulders.... fail.... it was sports drink. And hence it was a rather sticky ride the rest of the way up the mountain. I'd like to think it made me climb quicker but in reality I'm sure the stickiness seeped down to my tyres and was actually slowing me down!

Another funny moment was when our soigneur Maja did the feeding wearing one of the pink Giro umbrella hats. This was on stage 7 where we did circuits so we got to see her several times. It was a fast and hectic feed and everyone was tired but it was a good way to make sure we were smiling at least once every lap!

You can follow Spratty through the season on her twitter - huge thanks to her and JMac for all their time throughout the race, and to ORICA-AIS for setting it up - it was very much appreciated!

***

Martine Bras

This was Boels-Dolmans rider Martine Bras' final Giro, before she retires at the end of the season. Bras told us about her hopes for the Giro before the race, so of course I wanted to check in with her afterwards!

PdC: How was the Giro?

Martine: The Giro was a hard one as I was not at my best. It always seems to go faster then all other races. Stage 6 we were flying, after 2 hours we already had done 90 km. If you are not one 100 percent fit you will feel that most days. I got better every day and that was a good thing. Made me wanted to go one for an other 2 or 3 days :)

PdC: How does it feel to know you have raced your last Giro?

Martine:
Every last race this year seems to be a bit emotional. Not all the time, but at some moments. I love the sport so much, and all what comes with it. The game of cycling, the suffering, the lifestyle. But on the other side I don't want to do all of that again next year. So most moments I loved it and was happy to say goodbye to every stage and hill, but there were other moments I was sad because I knew I was going to miss all the same things.

PdC: Do you think you'll change your mind and we'll see you next year?

Martine:
No :)

PdC:
What were the best bits about the Giro?

Martine: I loved the finish at Cerro al Volturno. Again bad and good things are close in the Giro this year for me, because it was my worst day of the week. But that uphill finish at the castle was amazing. So beautiful. Also the start of Stage 6 was at a beautiful spot. I am a nature person so I can really enjoy places like that with waterfalls, mountaintops with snow at the horizon, etc etc;

For the race itself I loved the 3rd stage - again my worst day, but watching it back on tv, the way Marianne Vos rode that day was amazing and so nice to see. Maybe not the smartest thing to do for the GC and her energy, but respect for her way of racing.

Also one of the things I love about the Giro is the atmosphere at every start. The team presentation with heaps of people, music and of course the good weather!

PdC: And what are the bits you hope to forget?

Martine:
My crash on stage 2 (already forgotten) and the start of stage 3 as I had to let go to early and never came back in the downhill. Was a long day at the office!!

PdC:
How would you compare this Giro to others you have raced?

Martine:
It was kind of the same as other years. Just more travelling. I missed a famous hill finish like that year we did the Stelvio. Or that timetrial at the Colosseum. That always gives it something heroic. But the atmosphere was the same.

PdC: What are your aims for the rest of the season? What would you love to achieve before you retire?

Martine: I just want to enjoy the rest of the year and do nice things with my team Boels Dolmans. After my two crashes it seems hard to get back to that form you need to do big things on the bike. Maybe I will get a bit closer after this Giro. I hope so, then I might do some nice things myself as well.

Follow Martine through her final season on twitter - here's to her finishing on a high!

***

Marijn de Vries

Friend of the Café, Marijn de Vries, also told us about her hopes before the race, and of course I wanted to know how it turned out - and especially about that Lotto Belisol team dance at the presentation!

PdC: How would you describe your second Giro?

Marijn: Finally nice weather! After a spring with rain and cold it was so good to finally race in sunny circumstances. I know for a lot of girls it might have been a bit too hot, but I liked it. It was a fast and furious race, very good for the climbers and the sprinters. For me it was a comeback race after being ill for two weeks. So I started easy, as far as possible, and tried to help my teammates as much as possible.

PdC: What were the best moments?

Marijn: Being together with the team. We have such a fun group of girls and we had a really nice time. If the spirit is right, the results come along and I think Ashleigh [Moolman] did a great job, especially on Stage 4 where she finished 3rd. We were all so proud!

PdC: Any moments you'd rather forget?

Marijn: The climb up the Monte Beigua. That was a really hard one. The whole stage was superhard: short, but from the gun we raced like hell. With over 30k/h uphill, I thought I was going to die...

PdC: How did it compare to the other Giro you raced? And to other races?

Marijn: I was a bit disappointed there was no stage where the bunch let a breakaway go. Stage 4 was rather suitable for that and I tried very hard to get into the break, but it just didn't happen. Normally there's always a stage (or two) where the peloton takes it easy, but since this Giro was only 8 days there was no such stage this time.

The Giro is always much faster then any other race. And the atmosphere is so awesome; there were really big crowds this year, also in all the towns we passed. People decorated everything, we've seen so many pink balloons and ribbons! Supercool.

PdC: Tell us a bit more about the team presentations - who chose that song?

Marijn: Carlee [Taylor] chose the song, she's been singing it all season already. So funny. She also came up with the first moves and finally we made a little dance of it.

PdC: What did you learn about yourself in the race?

Marijn: I hoped to do well in the time trial, but found out you won't if you haven't started the Giro top-fit. I should be happy I got a bit better every day, but am still a bit disappointed about my performance in the TT.

You can read all Marijn's blogs on her race on her website - in Dutch or via Google Translate - and of course, follow her on twitter.

***

Emily Collins

Finally, New Zealand rider Emily Collins was racing her first ever Giro with Wiggle Honda. She told us what she was expecting before the race, and answered some post-race questions on how it turned out.

PdC: When you were daydreaming about racing the Giro in the past, how did you imagine it? And how was reality?

Emily: I imagined hot weather, a whole lot of hills and plenty of pasta! The reality pretty much matched my day dreams ;) Maybe a few more moments in the pain cave - as who would dream about that?!

PdC: What were your favourite moments?

Emily:
Favourite moments would have to be Stage Two with Giorgia [Bronzini] taking the win for Wiggle Honda. It was a very special moment for the whole team; riders and staff. We came into the Giro focusing on stage wins and after some terrible luck on Stage One, everyone was very fired up come day two. We worked well together and Giorgia pulled off a fantastic finish. A true champ she is!

I also loved seeing a lot of the country - even though the transfers were pretty draining it was a big highlight being able to see so many different parts of Italy. A special favourite was staying in a B&B on top of a crazy high mountain after Stage 6. Our Vanomobil camper only just made it up; it was an eventful trip!

PdC: And were there any moments you'd like to forget?

Emily: Moments I'd like to forget...hmm maybe a couple! On Stage 4 I had a bit of a nightmare. My team mate Lauren Kitchen was taken out on a fast descent coming into a corner. I came barrelling round soon after and went slamming into our car parked near her. Not the happiest moment! Thankfully we were both fine aside from a few bruises and scrapes and were able to find a wee group to cruise in to the finish with.

Another moment I think many riders would like to forget was the challenges of the hot Italian sun. Hot spots on the feet and dry raspy throats! The heat just makes things that much harder and was definitely a challenge some days. I tend to sweat out a lot of salt so it can be a bit of a problem for me and trying to avoid cramp. On day one of all days I found myself in a difficult situation on the border of cramping. Was a bit of a worry but got through!

Us Wiggle Honda girls did make a promise, however, back in the glorious winter/spring races, that we would never complain of the hot conditions come summer, as surely nothing could be worse than those freezing cold days we had on our bikes back then! Definitely have to prefer the tough hot conditions over the chill!

PdC:
You were racing a lot in the USA before this year - how is the European racing different?

Emily: Yes, I raced two seasons with US based Vanderkitten. I loved my time in the US with these guys.

The racing there is very different. It's not that it's easier, it's just a completely different style of racing.
The pelo size here is a lot bigger and the riders are just a wee bit crazier and aggressive. I love it!
I do miss racing the American crits though - they were a lot of fun; often massive crowds with a great atmosphere. I enjoyed just getting out there racing a good old criterium and having a bit of fun with it. Maybe when I get some time between races I will get into a few of the Dutch crits.

In saying that, I'm thriving off the Euro experience. I learn something new every race here and am pretty thrilled to be mixing it up with the top guns. It's really cool having such experienced team-mates too as they're very supportive and are happy to teach and share their knowledge with us younger, less experienced riders.

Definitely looking forward to the second part of the Euro season!

PdC: And while it's still fresh in your mind, what advice would you give to any riders who want to race the Giro for the first time next year?

Emily: I would say just enjoy it! It's such a special event, and so competing there for the first time it's important to try and take it all in. Sure, there will be many tough times, but the main thing is to have fun while you're at it!

***

Huge thanks to all the riders who answered Café questions for all their time - it was very much appreciated! For part 1 of the Post-race rider reactions, with Marianne Vos and more, click here - and for all the Podium Café Giro coverage, with Stage reports full of video, results, photos and links, and the rider Q&As from before and during the race, head over to the Story Stream. Good luck to all the Giro riders for the rest of the season!

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