Injured van Vleuten has Spratt on alert

·3-min read

Hard-as-nails Annemiek van Vleuten's elbow fracture has Australian rival Amanda Spratt on high alert at the world road cycling championships.

The Dutch ace crashed heavily at the start of her ride on Wednesday in the mixed team relay in Wollongong and later confirmed the extent of her injury.

While it is a blow to van Vleuten's chances, she is renowned as one of the toughest riders in world cycling.

The Olympic and world champion returned to racing only a few weeks after the horrific crash at the Rio Olympics that could have killed her.

Two years ago, van Vleuten finished runner-up at the road worlds after breaking her wrist the week before.

"If it was anyone other than Annemiek van Vleuten, I'd say with a broken elbow, they're probably not going to race," Spratt said.

"She's the toughest and most resilient - I don't want to say crazy - (but) I can 100 per cent imagine her starting on Saturday.

"My expectation now is that she'll still race and she'll be even hungrier to go out there and absolutely smash it."

The Dutch, as usual, will be the team to watch in Saturday's road race, which will feature a tough course in and around Wollongong taylor-made for van Vleuten's all-round strengths.

"We are a bit of a crazy breed sometimes and we can push through pain and put up with it ... she's probably one of the best athletes at that," Spratt said.

"She's the kind of rider that can sometimes bounce back from things like this and produce incredible performances."

It has been a frustrating worlds for van Vleuten after she surprisingly finished out of the medals last Sunday in the individual time trial.

"Some people would write her off, but I think the opposite is going to happen," Spratt said.

The Australian is also a rider to watch on Saturday and is a two-time podium finisher at the worlds.

Spratt has rebuilt her form after needing major surgery nearly a year ago to fix an iliac artery problem.

Her first eilte world championships start was at Geelong in 2010, the only other time Australia has hosted the event.

"It's pretty amazing to be coming back so many years later and race here in Wollongong," she said.

"My mum and dad drove me to worlds yesterday, which felt a bit strange - squashed in the back seat with my bike and bike bags.

"It's going to be really special."

The Australians will field a team featuring plenty of potential medallists and all-round strength.

Spratt will be the on-road captain and share team leadership with Grace Brown and Alex Manly.

"I do feel fresher and happy with how the form is," she said.

"It's a course that can suit me, but also suit our team, especially with Grace Brown and Alex Manly.

"We can be definitely competitive."

Another Australian to keep an eye on will be Brodie Chapman.

While her main job will be to work for teammates deep into the race, she is also capable of a result and looms as a darkhorse.

"Other nations who I race against, know who I am. So if I try to make some sneaky move, there's plenty of riders who will want to follow me," Chapman said.