Spratt and Gigante with gold and silver at the 2019 National Championships

Spratt and Gigante with gold and silver at the 2019 National Championships. Credit: Twitter/Amanda Spratt

The Women's Road Race has historically been a strong event for Australia at the Olympics. The team for Tokyo 2020 are something special.

Road Cycling is one of the events that Australia has had some of the strongest histories of success at the Olympics. The women’s Road Race, in particular, has been successful for Australia.

The History

In 1992, Kathryn Watt stole the race to win gold by 20 seconds, and she had two teammates inside the top 15, finishing in the second bunch.

2000 saw, Anna Wilson came oh so close in the bunch sprint, finishing fourth, in a heartbreaking twist that prevented a home medal.

In 2004, Sara Carrigan beat Judith Arndt to take gold in Athens. Teammates Oenone Wood and Olivia Gollan finished inside the top 15, with Wood just beaten for bronze in a sprint, and Gollan leading the main bunch home.

In 2016, Amanda Spratt missed the critical move, and the chance to steal a victory. She finished with the third bunch on the road but learned plenty.

At Tokyo 2020, Australia has named a strong team for the women’s road race, with the hopes of returning to the medals, after 17 years without a chance to step on the podium.

The Investment

In 2011, Cadel Evans won the Tour de France, raising the profile of cycling in Australia in a way that had never been done before. His success encouraged children across Australia to get into cycling.

Among those he inspired, was a 10-year-old girl who had already started racing. She would take her racing to a new level as a result, and eventually find herself racing the same roads of Europe.

In 2012, Gerry Ryan changed Australian cycling, investing in a home-grown professional trade team, Greenedge. The Greenedge program has dominated women’s cycling since the beginning (racing first as Orica-AIS), and men’s cycling in recent years.

The development of women in the sport, and particularly Australian women in cycling, has taken off in leaps and bounds. Over the years, the team has taken various names, including Orica-AIS and Mitchelton-Scott.

In 2021, the Greenedge team has rebranded as Team BikeExchange and has had strong results at the Giro d’Italia, and throughout the women’s Spring Classics season.

The impact of Greenedge is felt keenly when looking at the women’s road race team for Tokyo 2020.

The Captain

Tiffany Cromwell (Team Canyon-SRAM) turned pro in 2007, and was a founding member of the Orica-AIS team, and finished fourth in the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and sixth in 2018. She has two top 10 finished in the World Championships, but over the past few years, has developed from a finisher to becoming a road captain.

Over the back half of the last decade, Cromwell has become one of the most respected road captains, guiding teammates to victories in a number of major races in the 2021 Spring Classics. Her experience will be invaluable as she attempts to guide her teammates to a gold medal finish.

The Finisher

Amanda Spratt (Team BikeExchange) is a three-time national champion, with a bronze medal from the World Championships in 2019, and three victories in the Women’s Tour Down Under.

She raced at London 2012 and Rio 2016 and thinks that this time around will be different from before. Cromwell and Brown have raced together, and hope to use that leverage together for success at Tokyo 2020.

The Specialist

Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange) raced first at the National Road Series level, racing with Holden Team Gusto. She rapidly rose through the ranks, and at the start of 2019, she joined the Greenedge program, racing for Mitchelton-Scott, which has become Team BikeExchange.

She has quickly become a one day specialist, winning Brabanste Pijl, and Classic Brugge-De Panne. After multiple podium finishes at the Australian championships, and at some of the Spring Classics, Brown has been selected on strong form. This year, she races with Spratt and can highlight that experience racing with her Olympic teammate full-time.

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The Young Gun

Sarah Gigante (Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank) is the young surprise packet of the team. At just 20 years old, she is one of the youngest riders in the professional peloton. Gigante’s first proper racing experience was on Holden Team Gusto (with Brown). She’s already a three-time Australian National Champion. She’ll race the time trial, and be a surprise in the road race.

The Inner Sanctum previously spoke with Sarah Gigante.

Gigante has had a tough season, with a bad crash at Fleche Wallone resulting in three broken bones. Despite racing back to the bunch, Gigante abandoned the race but has shown strong fitness in her return from injury.

The Team

With all the connections and the history, the four women set to race the Olympic Road Race carry a good chance of restoring the past glory of the event. The girls will be riding for gold, and for each other, with all the camaraderie of their team.

The Inner Sanctum has spoken with the riders ahead of Tokyo 2020. They spoke about their path to the Games, and changes to women’s cycling over their careers.

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