There are some teams and riders that everyone is squarely looking to as key favourites at the women’s elite/U23 road race on Sunday at the UCI Road World Championships and the Australians aren’t necessarily among them, but that may not be a bad thing for the green and gold clad squad.
The team is content for it to be other riders, like Belgian favourite Lotte Kopecky and pretty much the entire Dutch team, that have a target on their back across the 154.1km race on Sunday, which includes 2,229m of vertical ascent and six laps of a brutally technical 14.3km city circuit.
“I think that we’re definitely the underdogs for sure,” said Amanda Spratt, who was second at the 2018 World Championships and third in 2019. “Maybe, no one’s looking at us but I think on this course that’s also a benefit.
“I mean, Kopecky is the out and out favourite, I think everyone’s saying that … so there’s so much pressure on her and I think, as Australians we’re good when we don’t have all eyes on us and we can do our thing. And we’re all really quietly confident in the form that we have.”
The results for key Australian riders at the recent Tour de France Femmes may not have been akin to those of Kopecky or winner Demi Vollering, which were as good as a pointing neon sign at ensuring they would become Worlds favourites. However, the performances certainly showed promise of powerful form, particularly when combined with subsequent indications that the form was still on the build rather than falling from a peak.
Spratt finished among the top 10 overall at the Tour de France Femmes, Grace Brown took fourth in the final time trial in France and then stepped it up several notches at the World Championships time trial to take silver for a second year. Alexandra Manly, too, managed to take a sixth on stage 2 and then went onto secure a silver on the track at Worlds in the Madison.
There are clearly multiple riders with strong form within the Australian team – even with one team member Ruby Roseman-Gannon in question after a positive COVID test – but ever keen to avoid drawing a target the squad is keeping its cards close to the chest on just who they see as the top prospect.
“If there was one single team leader, I wouldn’t be telling you anyway because that would put a big bullseye on that person’s back,” said Australia’s directeur-sportif Matt White in response to a question about team roles at a pre-race media conference on Friday.
“But I think what we’ve got in this group here is a…