For the first time since 2014, Lauren Kitchen will have a fellow Australian for a teammate. Judging from how Kitchen and FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope teammate Shara Gillow raced the Australian national titles, the duo is set for a successful 2018 season. Kitchen took silver in the road race while Gillow claimed a medal in the time trial for the eighth straight year.
Although FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope won't be racing the Australian summer calendar, the team have given Kitchen and Gillow the opportunity to race on home soil with the national team at this week's Santos Women's Tour.
Both riders are aiming to hit peak form in the European spring, with Kitchen targeting the cobbles and Gillow the hillier Ardennes. While Kitchen would never pass up the opportunity to take a win, particularly in Australia, the early season racing is about building a platform of success between March and April.
"The spring Classics are my big focus for the year and I hope that this also helps me make the Commonwealth Games team," said Kitchen, who has three Worlds appearance to her name. "I think that I can definitely be a big factor in that race. Whether that is helping Kat [Garfoot] or being a factor myself. I have a bit of a sprint and I think with the field that we have there and dynamics of that course, we can have a really strong team there and I hope to be there."
Speaking after her silver-medal performance and day in the breakaway at the nationals, Kitchen further outlined her season aims, explaining how to balance the classics campaign of northern Europe and the Commonwealth Games road race on Australia's gold coast in April.
"For me, the Ardennes will be hard to miss but my focus this year will be the cobbled classics. We have a strong sprinter in our team and I will be helping her in the early season spring classics and then the Flanders classics are more suited to myself, with Shara focusing on the harder classics like Strade Bianche and possibly the Ardennes," she said.
"For me, it works really well to focus on the cobbled classics around Flanders and then have two weeks until the Commonwealth Games on the gold coast and possibly fly back to help my team for the remainder of the Ardennes to carry that form before having a mid-season rest."
In articulating her personal goals, Kitchen also expressed her ambition to get the best out of Gillow. A four-time national time trial champion with a Giro Rosa stage to her name, Gillow's 2017 season was one of her best and came in her first year with FDJ. Having observed Gillow's season, Kitchen believes she can be the rider to unlock the full potential of the 30-year-old.
"Shara and I are very different riders, but together we can form a really great team," she said. "She has a huge amount of strength, which I believe is untapped. I think I can help her achieve some really big results. She was fifth in La Course last year on the Col d'Izoard and fifth at Strade Bianche. I think. Flèche Wallonne as well she was top 10. I think in top-level races she has the strength, and I would love to captain her to some really big results. We showed today that we are a really good duo, and I hope we can carry that through into the European season."
With two Australian races to come before the European season, Kitchen will be hoping that she and Gillow can again find the podium and share in one another’s success.