• Lauren Kitchen (C) is stepping up in 2018. (Con Chronis/Ernesto Arriagada)Source: Con Chronis/Ernesto Arriagada
It's a new season, a new team and very nearly a new Lauren Kitchen (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope). After spending 2017 riding in the service of others, the 27-year-old hopes to really come into her own with more responsibility in 2018.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

9 Jan 2018 - 8:01 AM  UPDATED 9 Jan 2018 - 9:27 AM

Kitchen rode a smart and strong race at the FedUni Road National Championships, jumping in the break early before getting caught and working the tactics in the final selection. The nail-biting final sprint saw Kitchen jump past a fading Katrin Garfoot, but Shannon Malseed (TIBCO-SVB) swept past her in the run to the line, relegating Kitchen to second.

"Of course I'm disappointed not to have the jersey," Kitchen said after the race. "But it's a long season and it's a really good start. We both got a medal this week and I hope we can build on this for the rest of the season.

"It was my first race of the season and I didn't want to be in top form for the first race, it's a long season."

2018 is an important year for Kitchen, coming off a season where she spent most of her time riding at the front of the peloton for her team leaders within WM3 Energie. A transfer season change to FDJ will see the Port Macquarie local take on a lot more responsibility during some of the biggest races on the Women's WorldTour calendar.

"I wanted to come up good for January," Kitchen said, "starting with a new team but the spring classics are my biggest focus for the year.  I hope this result makes me make the Commonwealth Games team. I think I can be a big factor in the race, whether that's helping Kat (Garfoot) or being a factor myself.

"I have a bit of a sprint and I think that with the field that we'll have there and the dynamics of the course we can have a really strong team there and I can be a part of that."

The Commonwealth Games are a big focus for Kitchen, who isn't guaranteed of selection at this point, with only Katrin Garfoot and Shannon Malseed assured of a start at the moment in the six-rider squad. She has previously protested her omission from the 2016 Rio Olympics road team, though she was a member of the world championships squad that year. 

But it's not just all-in for the Commonwealth Games, Kitchen is enthusiastic about the prospect of teaming up with compatriot Shara Gillow, who was once in a similar situation to Kitchen, coming from a team environment where she was required to do a lot of work for the team leaders in her squad. 

Gillow's resurgence in FDJ colours may form the blueprint for Kitchen, though the two will target very different races, with the former a superior climber and time-triallist.   

"Shara and I are very different riders, but together we can form a really good team. She has a huge amount of strength, that I believe is untapped and we can help her achieve some really good results," Kitchen said.

"In races that are really top level, she has the strength and I'd love to be able to captain her to a big result. Here today, we've shown that we're a good duo and hopefully, that continues into the season." 

Kitchen has her season already laid out, building her Australian form into a position where she can utilise that strength in the races across the pave and hellingen in France and Belgium.  

"We have a strong sprinter in our team and I'll be looking at helping her the early season spring classics," she said. "Then cobbled classics like Flanders are more suited to me, with Shara focusing on the harder races like Strade Bianche and possibly the Ardennes.

"For me, I think it works well to focus on the cobbled classics, have two weeks preparing for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and then go back to help my team."