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FEATURE: Who is Lucy Kennedy and where did she come from?

Sat 14 Apr 2018

At the start of the 2018 season Mitchelton-SCOTT signed an exceptional new talent, 29-year-old Australian Lucy Kennedy. In her first European race and first ever WorldTour race, Strade Bianche, Kennedy surprised everyone to finish in fifth place in the gruellingly harsh conditions.

So where did she come from?

With a background in tennis and running, Kennedy is fairly new to the sport and after spending the past couple of years balancing cycling ambitions and work as an engineering, the Australian certainly has a lot to give and has found her feet quickly within the pro peloton and within Mitchelton-SCOTT.

“I was a tennis player before I ran and I started running a bit by accident. As a requirement of my tennis scholarship at high school I had to go to cross country training for fitness,” Kennedy explained. “I instantly loved it and by my senior high school years I was more focussed on running than tennis. I was making state teams for Nationals by then, but it wasn’t until my early twenties that I improved a lot and earned a scholarship to Iowa State University to run in the US collegiate system.”

“Initially I kept improving there and I was starting to think about qualifying times for National teams, but then I was just constantly hampered by injury. I came home for the summer break after my first year there and realised just how broken I was. I decided not to go back and for the next two years I basically couldn’t do any exercise that involved using my legs. 

“I swam just about every day during this time, which I really didn’t enjoy, but I did anyway, for sanity as much as fitness. Eventually I started running again a bit, but also started riding as a lower impact option. It seemed logical to have a go at triathlon. This was very short-lived – I only did three races, and although I was doing quite well, I still kept getting injured trying to run and really didn’t enjoy swimming.”

“This left me with cycling, which I was enjoying more and more and finding my body coped really well with it. I got my first coach, Cameron Hughes, and in 2014 he encouraged me to do a local club criterium. It just progressed from there.”

Steep learning curve 

Her clear talent was luckily noticed within Australia and Kennedy was given a huge opportunity to peruse a career in cycling.

“I jumped in the deep end by racing the Australian national championships in 2015, where I was noticed enough to be invited to the Australian Women’s Development Team selection camp which is where I decided I wanted to give cycling a proper go,” continued Kennedy.

“After that I was offered a QAS scholarship and got a couple of starts in National Road Series races. In 2016 I signed with the High5 Dream Team where I stayed for two years and learned a lot about racing and gained a lot of experience in the NRS.”

“2017 was definitely a breakthrough year. Under my current coach Kim Palmer, the bronze medal in the Australian national road race and winning the Oceania Time Trial title, as well as some good NRS results meant I was selected for the High5 National Women’s Development Team to spend 10 weeks racing in Europe.”

From Australian racing to full-time professional in Europe

Kennedy is now based in Italy with the Mitchelton-SCOTT women’s team, where she is able to commit and focus fully on her cycling and race at the highest level.

I’m really enjoying being on a professional team. I think being on an Australian team makes the transition a lot easier. With so many new experiences to take in, having the familiarity of Australian personalities and the English language makes it less daunting,” said the 29-year-old.

“It has certainly been a huge change in lifestyle. Until December I had been fitting in cycling around an almost full-time job as an engineer, so it feels like a huge luxury to be able to fully focus on training, racing and doing all the little things to help my performance. I've felt completely welcome in team from day one and it's such a supportive and happy environment to be in on and off the bike.”

“I still feel far from comfortable in the WorldTour peloton. My fifth place at Strade Bianche was a big surprise and was the best race I’ve ever had. I think my niche is these really hard hilly races and I was kind of lucky that my first race was one of those so I could show my strength. I’m comfortable when the race gets down to a select group and it’s just hard gritty racing. I’m still learning and developing in a lot of areas, so it’s a work in progress.”

Next up, the trio of Ardennes races

Kennedy will take on a challenging week with the women’s team racing three hilly classic WorldTour races, Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

“I’m really excited to be racing my first Ardennes week. It’s the type of racing that suits me and that I enjoy. From watching it on TV in the past and from everything I’ve heard, the atmosphere and hype around it makes it really special,” Kennedy expressed.

“Unlike Strade Bianche, where I had little pressure on me because it was my first race, there’s more expectation now. We come into this block with a really strong team so I’m a bit nervous about making sure I ride to my potential to help the team can achieve what it is capable of. I can’t wait to see what we can do together!”

We wish Lucy the best of luck in the coming week at the Ardennes classics.

Results

2018:
-       2nd National Championships Australia - Time Trial 
-       2nd Santos Women's Tour - Stage 2
-       4th Santos Women's Tour - General Classification
-       5th Strade Bianche
-       5th Santos Women's Tour - Stage 3
-       9th National Championships Australia - Road Race
-       9th Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio
Other results:
-       1st Tour Cycliste Feminin International de l’Ardeche - General Classification
-       1st Oceania Continental Championships – (ITT)
-       3rd 2017 National Championships Australia – Road Race

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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