Australia has the firepower and teamwork to match it with their powerful rivals in the elite women’s road race at the world championships.
Even with Annemiek van Vleuten in doubt because ot the elbow fracture she suffered in Wednesday’s crash, the Dutch remain the nation to beat.
The Italians also rode a masterful race last year to usurp The Netherlands and Elisa Balsamo capped it with the world title.
But the host nation is brimming with confidence for Saturday’s 164.3km race, featuring six laps of the testing 17km Wollongong city circuit.
Amanda Spratt, who has finished on the podium twice at the worlds, said the Australian team lacks nothing in comparison to the other big players in the women’s race.
“We can be definitely competitive against them and they would be looking at our lineup, thinking ‘okay, this is a really strong team with four, five riders who can get really get to that final,” she said.
“It’s just going to be a real race of attrition – I can see riders just going out the back door for a lot of the day.”
Time trial silver medallist Grace Brown and Alex Manly will be the main Australian hopes.
Spratt will be their on-road captain and is always a contender, while Brodie Chapman is a darkhorse.
Under vetern coach Donna Rae-Szalinski and former pro Loren Rowney, the Australian women have worked on team culture and it showed at the Commonwealth Games.
Their faultless team tactics suffocated the race and set up Georgia Baker for the most emphatic of gold medals.
“It’s something we’ve actively worked on over the last 12 months. It was really so cool to see,” Spratt said.
Spratt missed the Games in the midst of a massive 12 months for one of Australia’s all-time great cyclists.
She needed major surgery late last year to fix an iliac artery problem and then had her season disrupted by a bout of COVID-19, before crashing out of the women’s Tour de France.
Spratt has also announced she will leave the Australian BikeExchange-Jayco team, after being one of their foundation riders in 2012 when they started as GreenEDGE.
The 35-year-old will join the powerful Trek-Segafredo team under director Ina Teutenberg.
Spratt said she is leaving the GreenEDGE organisation on good terms.
“I’ve done my 11 years in GreenEDGE and really grown up as a person and rider.
“It was a personal challenge. I felt like if I’m going to end my career and never having ridden for another team, would I regret that?
“I’m really pumped to work with her (Teutenberg).
“Trek have been a team I’ve always looked up to and for me, they’re the most professional women’s team.”