Australian cycling star Amanda Spratt will make a shock racing comeback in Adelaide this month as she recovers from major surgery.
- Spratt was a medal favourite in Tokyo but failed to finish due to the debilitating condition that is common among cyclists
- She was expected to take several months to recover from surgery but will make a surprising early return at the Australian road race later this month
- The Santos Festival of Cycling replaces the Tour Down Under, which Spratt has won three times
Spratt has entered the Santos Festival of Cycling, the domestic replacement for the international Tour Down Under.
In October, the 34-year-old had surgery in the Netherlands to repair iliac artery endofibrosis, a rare condition that has afflicted several top cyclists.
The condition, which ruined her Tokyo Olympics campaign, causes restricted blood flow to the leg muscles during training and racing.
Spratt must wait five or six months before she is back to peak condition, but her rehabilitation has gone smoothly.
She spoke with Dutch star and former teammate Annemiek van Vleuten, who made a successful return from the same operation.
“I obviously wouldn’t put my hand up and say I want to race unless I was ready to do so,” she said.
“It’s just a chance to break up the training and the rehab.”
Spratt has won the Tour Down under three times, but her racing from January 23-26 in Adelaide will be more about a high-intensity work-out than chasing results.
“Everyone knows I’m a racer and I love to be around the team,” the BikeExchange-Jayco star said.
“It’s just a chance to get a little bit of intensity back in my legs. We will still be taking a cautious approach in the European season.”
But her comeback also is a sure sign that the surgery and rehab have gone smoothly.
Spratt is enjoying the reaction from people who did not expect her back racing until well into the European season.
“It’s been fun — actually, I had a couple of people message me and say they’d heard I’m doing the road nationals on Sunday,” she said.
“I assured them I’m definitely not ready for laps of Mt Buninyong.
“I will watch that from the comfort of my couch as everyone suffers.”
Immediately after the operation, Spratt had a nine-week period where she could not raise her heart rate above 100.
She said her only setback has been a minor hamstring in the last month.
“I’m really pleased — I have to say, it was all pretty smooth sailing, the rehab,” Spratt said.
“It was a lesson in being patient and I also realised it was a time when I had to not be too stubborn.
“It’s not what I’m always like. I’m very keen to push myself … I’m sure I was driving people crazy in the last couple of weeks when I really felt quite fine”
Spratt added she has had a strong support team around her.
“This was a very serious operation — I was cut open in four places,” she said.
“They were replacing an artery with a vein from the leg. There are obviously risks involved, as well.
“From the day I was in the hospital, all the way through, I had that support network so that just helped me keep calm and looking ahead.”