Australia’s Lucy Kennedy is about to make her way back to racing after a crash in the Ardennes in April, with the Team BikeExchange climber lining up as defending champion at one of the hilliest one-day races on the calendar, Spain’s Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa, on Saturday.
Kennedy came off at Liège-Bastogne-Liège resulting in complicated fractures of her hand and collarbone, which required surgery, as well as an eye socket fracture. It was the second major crash in the Ardennes block of racing for the 33-year-old rider, who is in her fourth season as a professional, as she also came off and suffered multiple fractures at the Amstel Gold Race in 2018.
“I'm feeling really strong on the bike again,” said Kennedy in a team statement. “The extent of my injuries meant six weeks off the road, but I was able to do plenty of work on the trainer and then a really solid seven weeks back on the road since.
“It took some time to feel the desire to race again, but I am definitely there now and can't wait to finally pin on a number again.”
The injuries came at a particularly tough time for Kennedy – not that there is ever really a good time – as the climber who was hoping to secure a spot in the Australian Olympics team was also about to head into some of her key races of the season. She was due to shift from a support role in the Ardennes to a leading one in Spain in May, taking on races such as Durango-Durango, which she had won in 2019. Kennedy was also planning to line up at Giro d’Italia Donne as a valuable ally for Amanda Spratt on the climbs. It’s a race where she was also a potential stage winner.
“It feels fitting to make my racing return at San Sebastian, where I have such great memories from 2019. It's special starting a race as defending champion, especially after the cancellation last year. The beautiful but challenging course and the passionate Basque fans make this race my favourite.”
The 139 kilometre Women’s WorldTour race starts and finishes in Donostia and includes climbs over Jaizkibel, Gurrutze as well as the brutally steep Murgil. Team BikeExchange head sport director Martin Vestby said while Kennedy had recovered and trained well ahead of the event there would be no pressure on her at all in this first race back.
"It will be all about getting settled back into racing," said Vestby. "We are confident her form is good after her recovery went so well, but of course it can go both ways, it will be more how she feels getting back into the bunch and feeling comfortable with the racing but she is excited to return as defending champion.”
Team BikeExchange will also line up with Jess Allen, Sarah Roy, Ane Santesteban, Urska Zigart and Janneke Ensing.
“We can definitely go in with confidence, having first and second places from 2019 with Janneke, and a well-rounded team lining up,” said Kennedy. “I'm excited to see what we can do together."
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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.