PdC: How are you doing?
Spratty: I'm good - I've just had a very painful massage, so all those people who think that being a sportsperson is great because you have regular massage are very wrong!
PdC: How's this year's Giro been so far?
Spratty: It's been good so far - typically chaotic, starting down south, which I think we all realised when we saw it was starting near Naples, because it started here a few years ago. Unusually we stayed in the same hotel for three days, but the racing's been typically Italian, I would say, with the late prologue, and the first road stage, which was harder than everyone thought it would be. But you know that racing in Italy, you should never trust the road manual until you're out on the course!
PdC: I was impressed that they gave you a neutral lap on Stage 1, because you could at least see where they were lying on the race manual
Spratty: Exactly! Our DS Gene had been out to have a look at the course, so we were prepared a little bit, but Loes [Gunnewijk] said afterwards that when she looked up and saw the motorbikes going up this really, really steep climb ahead of us, and she thought "no way, it's wrong, it's not possible" and then, sure enough, that's where we were headed!
And it's funny, I was looking in the race manual and they said today was going to be the first day there would be a GC shake-up, and but that already happened in the first stage!
PdC: I suppose it can be quite good, because if they tell you it's going to be easy and it's hard, maybe if they tell you it's hard, it's going to be easy?
Spratty: We saw the profile in the race book, and we knew it was going to be hard, but then we saw another one on twitter this morning, that looked way harder, so we said let's all prepare for it to be super-hard, and if it's easy, we'll be stoked! Today it said it was only a 5 kilometre climb to the finish, but we hit the 10k to go sign and started climbing, so there were a few angry people in the bunch!
PdC: That's what the Giro's all about - surprise climbs and extra 20 kilometres and stuff like that?
Spratty: Exactly! Today was a few Ks shorter than it was supposed to be, so we were saying what's the betting that on the climbing stage, when you're counting down every metre of road, it'll be 10ks longer than it's supposed to be!
PdC: You said on twitter that you were you bouncing off walls on Stage 1?
Spratty: Yes, I was, along with many, many others, on this dreadful corner. There was a really tricky descent, with hairpins and off-camber corners, and there were crashes there on every single lap. So then on the second or third time there, there were already a few people who had crashed, and I was breaking too late and had nowhere to go, and went right into a stone wall, but I was able to wash off a bit of speed, so that was alright. But then my lever was all bent in, so I had to stand at the side of the road and wait for quite some time for the team car, so I was way off the back by then, and lost about 15 minutes - but that's the Giro too
PdC: At least that means the peloton will let you go in a breakaway later
Spratty: That's what I was thinking - "I've lost some minutes, just let me go!"
But I think I was more scared as I was crashing, because I was falling on my right side, which is where I had my collarbone break and surgery, so the whole time I was crashing I was thinking "Oh no, my collarbone again". Loes came around the corner and said you could see in my eyes that I looked terrified, and knew I was thinking about my collarbone.
PdC: All your nice new staples bent out of shape
Spratty: Exactly, my little metal shoulder held up well
PdC: So today's Stage 3 - it was meant to be a shake-up in the GC - and you had Loes and Vale out in the breakaway. I was thinking the breakaway was going to be caught by the time they got to the climb.
Spratty: Yeah, different to what everyone thought!
PdC: Was that the plan?
Spratty: Yeah, we wanted to be aggressive and go for an early break, because we thought there would definitely be an opportunity for that. There was an intermediate sprint at 17.5k, and straight after that we started attacking, along with everyone else, but it took a really, really long time for a break to get going. We were attacking non-stop, there were attacks going for probably 25km before the break finally succeeded.
We were really happy to have two up there - but also to have Loes there with Vale, because sometimes Vale can get a bit too excited, so Loes was there to calm her down a bit.
PdC: She does attack a LOT!
Spratty: Yeah, my twin, as everyone keeps calling us - people in the peloton can't tell us apart because we look identical on the bike apparently - it's pretty funny.
PdC: Is that because she also suffers from a height impediment?
Spratty: She's also vertically challenged, yes. She has exactly the same colour hair as me, the same sized ponytail. We're taking applications for a name for us - so far it's Spandolara, Scratty, the Scratt twins...
PdC: So if anyone wants to make a suggestion, they should send it to you on twitter!
Were you surprised they stayed away for so long? When we were watching it on twitter, we heard nothing from the bottom of the climb until suddenly they were at the top
Spratty: Yeah, they got away, but they never really got a big gap, maybe about a minute and a half maximum, there was always a big control. But the first climbs was a bit shorter than what they said on the race manual, and it wasn't quite as hard, I think. So the time gap came down on the climb, and after that it went back out a bit, after that first climb there was not much organisation at all, and then UnitedHealthcare sent a rider to the front, and a team here and there sent a rider, but a lot of teams had riders out ahead, so they weren't willing to commit to the chase, and then we slowly started bringing rider after rider back. But that's what allowed the break to stay away.
PdC: What do you do in that scenario? Do you sit back and take it easy, stay out of trouble, or do you try to disrupt the chase?
Spratty: Nah, it's an unwritten rule that if there's an organised chase happening that you don't disrupt it, so for us it was more about saving energy and conserving, and if it was going to come back, we still had plenty of us there to try to attack again, or leading into the final climb, to support our best climbers, Emma, Shara and Katrin.
PdC: So what's the plan for the next few days?
Spratty: They're both written in the race bible that they're supposed to be sprint stages, but you never really know, I think there's supposed to be some lumps in there too. We have Mel here, who's in really good shape at the moment. And I think yesterday we showed that we're really organised as a team, so we can try that again, and we also have cards to play if there's a breakaway or a move showing. Like Tiff [Cromwell] showed in 2012, if you attack on a sprint day you can get out there and get a gap, and sometimes teams will just look at each other... So get through the next two days, and then the real climbing starts!
PdC: I was impressed with the ORICA work on the last couple of kilometres yesterday - I was expecting riders like Tiff to ping off the front and attack, but you seemed to be keeping it so fast that no one could get away.
Spratty: We were going pretty hard, and it strung the field out - and a lot of teams wanted a bunch sprint anyway, rather than take a flyer at the end. It was pretty amusing, watching that on television, Vale told us the commentators were saying that I'm the team sprinter, which we thought was absolutely hilarious!
PdC: She's your first ORICA Italian - does that change the Giro for you as a team?
Spratty: A little bit, because we know it's a home race for her - and she's our translator, whenever things get too hard, we turn to Vale
PdC: And you trust her, she's not winding you up and making you believe ridiculous things?
Spratty: No, no, no, we trust her - or maybe we're just too naive!
PdC: So tell us about your coffee habit. You upset people last year telling them that you preferred instant coffee.... has it got worse? Is it Camp Coffee in a bottle, or some kind of barley-based coffee substitute now?
Spratty: I've improved - because JMac is in Girona now, I went and visited her and [former ORICA social media guru] Jessi Braverman, and she had a nespresso machine. I know for true Italians it's fairly devastating to hear, having pods, but it's still an improvement, I have a Nespresso machine now!
PdC: So in about 4 years time you'll be drinking coffee made from proper beans, in a French Press?
Spratty: I feel like I got very judged last year
PdC: Only by poseurs! Can you tell us some Giro secrets about your team-mates - how's it going?
Spratty: It's only Day 4 at the moment, it'll probably become a bit more interesting over the next few days, when we're a bit more tired, and finding everything ridiculously funny. But I think it was a sad moment, when on Day 2 JMac was already trying to make rice taste better, because we have a fairly plain diet when we're on tour, it's fairly repetitive, so she was combining pepper and cinnamon with rice, so I'm a bit worried about JMac, I think she's losing the plot - but so far everyone else is holding up pretty strong!
PdC: How's Katrin Garfoot's first Giro going? Is it weird seeing riders facing it for the first time?
Spratty: Yeah, I did my first Giro when I was 18 so that was a long time ago for me. She's holding up well I think, but it's a bit overwhelming. We're just reminding her to eat and drink. We always say "just plan for chaos, and it can only get better from that"
PdC: How many times a day do you find yourself saying "ah, nah, that's just what happens"?
Spratty: Every day, pretty much! Like when we went to check out the prologue, it was just like "Ah yeah - Italy" - or when the climbs start at 10k to go, it was just "...yep!" or yesterday, when we went over roads that were more bumps than smooth road.... But Vale says this isn't really Italy, that's her way of justifying when we says "It's just Italy"!
You can follow Spratty on her twitter - and if you have questions for her, we'll be talking to her at various points throughout the Giro, so let us know in the comments!
I also was able to ask Vale Scandolara after her day in the break and her Queen of the Mountains jersey
PdC: So how did the break start?
Vale: The first 50 km were really fast and aggressive. We all went into lots of moves, but the bunch chased everything back quickly, 'till our move went away in a little climb, and when we saw we had two from our team there, we just pushed it to gain that first, initial gap, and then started to look around and decided how to behave there.
PdC: Did you think it could stay away?
Vale: I didn't think it could stay away till the finish, 'cause already on the first climb the bunch was coming back. But we reached the top with a minute, and later the gap grew again... In the last climb they were catching us, we could see them looking back, but no one except me and Tiffany Cromwell tried to avoid their comeback. We were basically the last two dropped in the end, and the others came to the finish ;)
PdC: How did you win the Queen of the Mountains points?
Vale: Before the start Gene Bates (our director) told me I should give it a go, if I was around the front, 'cause it was worthwhile and I was only three points from Ashleigh Moolman. When I found myself in the breakaway, I led it up the climb with Tiff and Elena Berlato, and then sprinted with the riders who were interested in it at the top…
PdC: And what did it feel like when you were on the podium in the green QoM jersey?
Vale: It was nice, at least something came from all the work that Loes did for me. I was so sorry to have missed the final by so little, I felt a bit bad for the entire team...
PdC: Apparently when things aren't great in the race and your team-mates say "that's Italy", you've been denying that you're actually racing in Italy a the moment - tell us more!
Vale: Well, unfortunately the South of Italy has a lot of really well-known problems. It's a wonderful place - we only saw Caserta this year, but just some kms away, you have places like the Amalfi Coast, or Pompei, Capri... Just try to google them and you'll understand what I mean. I know some amazing people here, I love how warm they are, and friendly. Unfortunately for some reason, a lot of things don't work here. Road's tarmac is awful, dangerous potholes everywhere, rubbish and dirt and smells on the roads, and drivers are just crazy - in general, not only with cyclists. There would be some big discussions about how to deal with those things... But those topics are bigger than me and than this all... I'll stop here though, or my teammies will say I'm "always making dramas in the Italian way" ;-P
PdC: Finally, what are the biggest differences racing the Giro with an Australian team than in previous years?
Vale: It's not about the "Australian" or "Italian" team... Orica is a top Team, when you go to races, everything is super organized, the staff are really serious and prepared, and this makes me feel comfortable.
But at the same time, things are also pretty relaxed, I must say it is like a family: we always have a lot of fun before, during and after the races. Pretty much all the time =) ... I love this Team and each one of its members!!!
Follow Vale on her twitter, leave questions for her in the comments, and if you want the more formal view of the stage, read the ORICA-AIS race report - and for our race report, with links to the videos, blogs and photos, head over here.