Her team Mitchelton-Scott thoroughly controlled the second and final stage of the Lexus of Blackburn Herald Sun Tour and finished with a memorable 1-2 on the general classification.
Kennedy launched up the Jeerang climb and passed her teammate Spratt, building a big lead on the vicious ascent over defending champion Brodie Chapman (TIBCO-SVB). Spratt marked Chapman, helping Kennedy to solo away in the final 11km to take the biggest victory of her career.
“It’s awesome to be able to cross the line and be able to go and hug Gerry (Ryan, Michelton-Scott team owner),” said Kennedy. “It’s really special to be able to win at home. This is by far my biggest win in Australia, it just feels amazing.”
When asked for her dominant emotion on claiming her first UCI win, Kennedy answered for herself as well as for her team, who can cop a lot of criticism when they fail to win races in their own backyard.
“Pride, I guess,” said Kennedy. “We’re the big Australian team in Australia and you get to cross the line with your arms in the air, it feels amazing.”
One of those missed opportunities came at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race where Kennedy was riding together with eventual winner Arlenis Sierra (Astana) before she was dropped by the Cuban in the final kilometres. This time the prodigiously talented Queenslander made no mistake.
“Once I was off the front this time, there was no way I was going to let anyone catch me,” said Kennedy. “It was a really nice way to finish the last race in Australia for the summer and then head off to Europe on a good feeling.
“That’s what is really cool about the team, everyone is so committed and what goes around comes around.
Some races you work hard for someone else and then other days you get the opportunity to have everyone work for you.
"You don’t feel pressure to pull it off, but when everyone is so committed, you really want to.”
Kennedy attacked over the top of Amanda Spratt, a similar tactic to what the pair have employed throughout the summer of racing.
“We were joint protected riders today,” said Kennedy. “Spratty had seven seconds over me (after Stage 1), but we knew that there were probably going to be time splits today, so it was really whoever was best on the day.”
Kennedy's personal approach has differed from previous seasons, with the climber previously targeting early races in the season. This year, Kennedy has her sights set on making up for a crash-affected 2018 season, where she looked in top form, but kept crashing out with little opportunity to showcase her ability.
“I’ve felt like my form’s been getting better and better throughout the summer,” said Kennedy. “I did feel underdone at nationals, kind of built a bit through Tour Down Under and then Cadel’s and now I felt really, really good today.”
Defending champion Brodie Chapman finished third on the stage and overall but was far from disappointed and was her normal effervescent self after the race.
“That was such a good race,” said Chapman. “The best climber won today. When Lucy went and Spratty was there I was like ‘Oh yeah, this is a good group to be in’. I respect those two girls and their racing so I’m stoked.”
“I’ve got a lot to learn with racecraft, but every race day you do you take something away from it. The Herald Sun Tour has to be one of my favourite races, I could give it another go tomorrow, but it’s such a good event and well supported by Lexus of Blackburn.”
How the race unfolded
The day was an aggressive one from early in the piece, with windy conditions keeping the peloton nervous in the early kilometres. Mitchelton-Scott thwarted a number of attempts to establish a breakaway as the Australian team sought to control the race.
Chloe Hosking (Ale-Cipollini) won both the intermediate sprint points, securing the win in the sprint classification.
What followed was a race of attrition but the race really broke apart with 25 kilometres remaining, as Mitchelton-Scott powered to the front in the crosswind and forced a big split in the field. Only 13 riders were left at the base of the Jeerang climb, with most of the general classification contenders present at the front.
Amanda Spratt was the first aggressor after teammate Grace Brown set a hard on the early slopes of the climb. Spratt established a gap but was still close at hand when Kennedy launched over the top of a chase led by Chapman, catching and passing Spratt as she quickly left behind her rivals.
Chapman caught Spratt but was unable to drop the world championships silver medallist, riding with the knowledge Spratt would benefit from her work on the following descent and flat into the finish.
Kennedy showed her strength to stay away for a memorable solo victory, with Spratt out-kicking Chapman in the sprint to the line.