Lucy Kennedy says that the World Championships is a chance for redemption after a season of setbacks. Despite an injury-ravaged year that means she raced just 21 days, Kennedy was named in the Australia team and is also in the running for Mitchelton-Scott’s team time trial line-up.
In just her first season in the professional ranks, this will be her first time at the World Championships
“A bit of redemption and a chance to show the form that I’ve had all year just to display it,” Kennedy told Cyclingnews on a recent trip to Innsbruck to check out the road race course. “Ever since this Worlds course was announced, it had been a big target because it is a real climber’s course. Obviously, having missed all of the selection races I was a bit worried about selection so I feel grateful that they still have faith in my ability to perform on this course and support the goals of the team. It was quite a relief to be selected because I knew under normal circumstances I would be up for selection but given the year it was not certain.”
Australia was one of the first nations to name their squads, making their announcement in August. Thanks largely to Kennedy’s trade teammate Amanda Spratt, who has had a career-best season, Australia qualified with a full complement of riders. The team will be formed around the ambitions of Spratt, while Kennedy is one of three Worlds rookies named. Australia has never won the women’s road race but they are aiming to change that next week.
“I think that’s the goal,” said Kennedy. “We’re going to go to the World Championships with the goal of winning. It’s not unreasonable. There will be some very strong opposition, namely the Dutch. There are lots of strong riders from lots of countries but the Dutch stand out because of their depth. You have to go in thinking you can win.
“I think it’s going to be a tough race. It’s long and there’s a lot of climbing. I’ve ridden the final little circuit. It’s not a super hard climb but it will be honest and a really hard race.”
Kennedy was a latecomer to the sport after beginning her sporting career in tennis before turning to running and then to cycling due to constant injuries forcing her to stop running. Her first venture into top-level racing was the 2015 Australian national championships. Last year, she won the Oceania time trial title and Tour de l’Ardeche. In October, it was announced that she would turn professional with Mitchelton-Scott.
The season got off to a hugely promising start with fourth at the Santos Women’s Tour, fifth at Strade Bianche and ninth at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda. It appeared to be a dream start but it came to a juddering halt with a big crash at the Amstel Gold Race that left her with a fractured clavicle, scapula and eye socket. She worked hard to get back to form for the Giro Rosa and was climbing as strong as ever but crashed heavily again on stage 4 and broke her collarbone.
“It has been particularly frustrating because it was a race that I was really targeting and it was such a motivation for me after that crash at Amstel Gold in April. The Giro was three months away but it was a reasonable time-frame to get back in form and it was a race that really suited me. It was a huge drive in that recovery so the disappointment of not being able to do the race was huge,” Kennedy told Cyclingnews.
“The Giro is still hard. If I think about it too much, it still gets me... That one was by far the biggest disappointment of the year, not just for my own personal reasons. I thought I could have had some good personal results but missing out on everything that the team did there…”
Another promising return was once again stopped in its tracks by a crash, this time on the second stage of the Ladies Tour of Norway in August. On the final lap of a finishing circuit, she came off her bike and broke her fall with her face and had to leave the race with a concussion. It was another setback, not only physically but mentally, but Kennedy is doing her best to focus on the positive in a season of frustrations.
“That’s what I keep having to tell myself, that I do belong here and I can do it and I’ve just had some bad luck. I’ve got to keep that in the back of my mind that I can do it,” she said.