A short but hard 91.5-kilometre course was on the cards for the penultimate stage of the Giro Rosa, with crosswinds and hard racing expected before the final decisive climb into San Marco La Catola. The Australian team was looking to pick up the pieces of a shattered Giro Rosa campaign after a late crash to race leader Annemiek van Vleuten and Australian star Amanda Spratt had seen both abandon the race after hospital checks the stage prior.
It was fast start to the day as the peloton headed straight into a climb as they rolled out of Castelnuovo della Daunia for the 92km stage. A rapid descent followed by crosswinds then saw splits open up, with the race already in several pieces in the opening kilometres of the stage. It was a worst-case scenario for Kennedy, caught behind the front group.
Sarah Roy made it into the second group on the road before making contact with the leading pack, while Kennedy was 40-seconds adrift alongside teammates Grace Brown and Dutch domestique Moniek Tenniglo.
"What we feared, happened," said Kennedy. "We got dropped in the crosswinds, but Moniek (Tenniglo) and Grace (Brown) are unbelievably strong and managed to help keep our group not too far behind, so once we started the long climb I pretty quickly bridged across to the front group."
Brown and Tenniglo's work had teed Kennedy up for the next climb as she bridged across to the leading bunch on the ascent with 55km to go. Kennedy then attacked over the top, drawing a group of riders with her to form a strong breakaway of nine riders.
"Then Alejandro (Mitchelton-Scott sports director) said as soon as I reached that front group I should go immediately in a break, and I did that, I went straight around and off the front and a pretty strong group came with me."
Kennedy's break got out to a maximum advantage of 40 seconds, with the teams of the climbers still keen to keep things in check before the final ascent of the stage.
"We were working well together and kept safe down the long descent, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get a big enough gap to stay away," said Kennedy. "That was pretty much the best opportunity for me for the stage, to be in the break and get a head start, but I just couldn’t go with them when they reached us at the base of the climb."
Kennedy battled on to take 15th on the stage, and will likely be the best Australian option for the final stage as well, with the hilly loop around Motta Montecorvino to conclude the Giro Rosa.