• Lucy Kennedy (right) is taller than your traditional climber but showed that it doesn't slow her down (Cycling Australia)Source: Cycling Australia
Lucy Kennedy (High5 Dreamteam) produced a superb performance to take bronze in the Nationals Womens Road Race behind runaway Orica-Scott pair Katrin Garfoot and Amanda Spratt.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
8 Jan 2017 - 2:33 PM  UPDATED 9 Jan 2017 - 6:23 AM

She came into the race as an underdog compared with the World Tour riders but for those who know her for her National Road Series showings, it was a natural progression for the former runner.

The 28 year old didn’t have the conventional experience of riding since her youth and building up her skills and power. 

“I was a runner, living in the States, going to Iowa State and running in the NCAA system,” said Kennedy. “I picked up some injuries and couldn’t run, so I got on the bike, basically so I could keep fit and start running again. I had a couple of years where I was trying to keep fit however I could but I didn’t really start cycling until 2014. Now here I am!”

Coming into the race, Kennedy was an outsider against much-vaunted World Tour opposition but was far from intimidated. She rode handy position near the front of the race and was always ready to respond to attacks or changes in tempo. That tactic paid dividends when Orica-Scott upped the pace in the middle of the race and began shelling riders out the back of the peloton.

“(The tactics of the race) weren’t so much as I expected, more so as I hoped,” said Kennedy. “I kind of expected that there would be an early break but I wanted it to be a hard race. The pace needed to be on to whittle it down to just a few riders because I can’t sprint to save my life! Orica-Scott started driving the pace and it kept getting smaller and smaller.”

With 4 laps remaining further surges from Katrin Garfoot and Amanda Spratt had dropped all but Kennedy with World Tour riders like Carlee Taylor, Shara Gillow and Tiffany Cromwell unable to ride with the tall Queenslander.

Unfortunately, in that position she was sandwiched between two of the strongest riders in the race who also happened to be on the same team.

“Orica really got going on the front and drove the pace until it was down to Amanda, Kat and myself. Amanda went off the front on her own and I was trying to chase her with Kat sitting on my wheel. Amanda slowed down a bit and Kat bridged across to her.

“It was always going to be hard, I had to decide if I wanted to sit on them and have a game of cat and mouse or let them do their thing together and just time trial a bit myself, with the group behind me I thought that was the better option.”

After Garfoot escaped, Kennedy was left in limbo, she was going to be hard pressed to catch two teammates working together in front. Behind, a group of five was gunning to try and catch Kennedy and with it, deny her shot at a medal.

“I just went into time trial mode. I was trying to chase the two in front for a while but it became clear that wasn’t going to happen in the last lap or two. I just wanted to stay away from the others then.”

In the end, Kennedy’s performance was one of the rides of the race as she was unable to lean on teammates like the Orica-Scott women could. Their dominance has been complete these championships, with a clean sweep of all the gold medals. As the only female Australian World Tour squad, they have a considerable advantage in the race and the fact that Kennedy was beaten into third was no discredit to her race.

“I’m really proud of that effort actually, there were eight of them and probably four or five that could win the race. To get in there in the bronze medal position, I’m really pleased.”

Kennedy rides for the High5 Dreamteam domestically and has re-signed for the 2017 season but her ability has shown that she could clearly mix it up with top riders, either in Europe or the United States. When asked whether she’s looking to secure a ride abroad Kennedy was adamant.

“Yes, definitely.”