Amanda Spratt, better known as Spratty ("When someone in the cycling world calls me Amanda, I look at them and say 'who!!?'") comes from a keen cycling family, and followed her father and brother into the sport. She started out on the BMX, racing in the BMX World Championships at ten years old, then moved to the track and road, winning the Points race in the 2004 Junior Track World Championships, and the coming third in the Individual Time Trail at the Junior Road World Championships. Things were looking good for her career, until she had mysterious back pain and was off her bike for most of the 2009 season. She recovered, and came back, racing for the Australian National Team to win the Cxech Tour de Feminin in 2011.
The 2012 Australian National Champion, she signed for ORICA when they started, and she's been racing there ever since - known for suicide attacks - for example, when she came 4th in this year's Trofeo Binda World Cup - and getting into impossible breaks, making the other teams chase her down, and killing herself for the team. You can always spot her in the peloton as the shorter ORICA rider with an enormous grin, smiling through the pain! Find out more about her on her ORICA profile, and by following her on twitter.
PdC: Hi there, how are you?
Spratty: I'm good, just hanging out on the top of a mountain at the moment! We've literally just had a two-hour transfer. When we were coming up the road in the bus, it didn't look like there would be anything up here, and then there was the hotel. Pretty much all the teams are here - we had to play tetris to get the cars into the hotel car park, but we get pretty good at that!
PdC: How was Stage 2?
Spratty: It was chaotic again! Today was four laps of a 25k circuit, it had what looked like a little climb, but you can't trust the stage profiles, it was 15%, and someone was nice enough to attack on the first lap!
It was pretty fast, with a descent straight after the climb, and then pretty flat. A lot of the teams were motivatd for a sprint, especially Wiggle Honda after Giorgia [Bronzini] punctured in the last 5k yesterday. The last 5k were pretty chaotic and scary, but we got through it!
PdC: How do you manage racing that? Do you have time to think, or are you just hanging onto your handlebars?
Spratty: At the time, you just try to keep good position and look out for your team-mates. We were trying to set it up for Gracie [Elvin] - we're pretty good at finding each other in the bunch.
PdC: How do you make decisions in a race like that - you don't have radios, right?
Spratty: No, we don't have radios. We always have a team meeting the night before, so we all know the team plan, and Loes [Gunnewijk] is the team captain - so once we're on the road, if a call needs to be made, we look to her if questions need to be answered. Like today, if Mel [Hoskins] had been up there, we would have lead out for her, but because she wasn't, we were racing for Gracie instead.
But we've got so much experience - so many of us have stepped up, learning from Loes, for the most part we're aware of what we need to do in a race.
PdC: So what happens at the end of the stage?
Spratty: When we finish the race, we try to pack up and get food as quickly as possible. Each day one of our mechanics drives straight to the hotel, so when we get here, we already how our rooms set up, with our suitcases taken straight to our rooms - rock star treatment! Then we just have to fight for our beds - we've got four riders in one room here, so whoever gets in first gets the best bed. Then it's massage and dinner.
PdC: What makes a good bed on Tour?
Spratty: Not a fold-out bed! And with four sharing, a bed with a bit of space, that's a bit separate from your team-mates, so you can relax into it!
PdC: I've heard that coffee is also important to you?
Spratty: It's good! Normally at the airport we try to cram in as many good coffees as we can, but racing in Italy it's usually good coffee.
PdC: But I've heard you prefer Instant....?
Spratty: No! Those are supposed to be housemate secrets! I can't believe JMac told you that!
I do start the day with an instant coffee, yes, because I don't trust myself to make decent coffee in the morning. But I always have a good one in the day! It's my dark secret, people are never going to look at me in the same way again!
PdC: Ha! So how do you decide your room-mates? Do you get to pick, and to avoid the ones who snore, and talk in their sleep?
Spratty: It's always a bit tricky - but we always rotate and share, so we spread it out a bit. Obviously I can't tell you who are the snorers and sleep-talkers - I'd get shot! I love all my team-mates, they're all good!
PdC: Of course they are! So what are you expecting tomorrow?
Spratty: We've had two sprint stages - well, that ended in a sprint - so tomorrow the first opportunity for it to be hard, it finished up a bit of a cobbled climb, so it'll be selective - people will be looking for opportunities to get up the road in a break.
PdC: How do you decide if you join a break, if you're at the front and one goes?
Spratty: For us, it depends on the combination of riders - and if they're going up the road too early, if it's obvious they're going to be pulled back. Normally we have a rule that if there's three up the road, we want one of us to be in it too, if there's five, two of us join. But once the GC's decided a bit more, you've got more of an idea of if it will be allowed to go.
PdC: You're often in those breaks, aren't you? You're a bit of a suicide attacker, grinning through the pain. How does it feel when you're out there, and you realise all of Specialized or Rabobank are on the front chasing you down?
Spratty: Once you get up the road and the time's going up, often you'll get the information from the team car that the chase is on, and you just hope they'll stop working together, or someone will disrupt the chase! But it's cool to be part of a team like this - you do your job, and even if you get caught, there's a team-mate there to take over.
It's part of what I love about cycling. I really enjoy it. I don't always get opportunities to go for the win myself, but then when it's a team win, it feels like everyone's won. That's what I love about sport.
For more on the Giro Stage 2, including videos, have a look as my race report - and if you want to follow the race as it happens, here's my "How to", and the Podium Café Giro Rosa storystream. For other rider reactions, have a look at what they're saying on twitter.