Lucy Kennedy has no regrets after deciding to retire just four years after turning professional.
The Australian rider hung up her racing wheels for good after a surprise appearance at the Women’s Tour in October. She was supposed to finish after the Tour de l’Ardèche a month earlier, but team injuries meant she got a last-minute call-up.
Kennedy only turned professional in 2018, but she wanted to change her priorities and move back to Australia to be closer to family.
She’s not given up on cycling, but it’s no longer her main focus.
“My husband and I, we’ve got plans to try and start a family so that’s basically the main reason,” Kennedy told VeloNews. “I haven’t been riding very long, but I’m 33 now and we want to try and start a family and we want that to be in Australia, with family.
- The long goodbye: Lucy Kennedy on her return to racing after 19-day retirement
- From Anna van der Breggen to Ruth Winder: Six riders who are retiring in 2021
“Particularly the last couple of years, you just realize how far away Australia is from the rest of the world. The whole pandemic has kind of changed my perspective on what’s really most important. I don’t actually feel like I’m done with cycling, but I want to prioritize other parts of my life more.”
Kennedy was a latecomer to bike racing, having started off as a track and cross-country runner.
Blighted by injuries, the qualified civil engineer took to cycling instead. She quickly gained the interest of local Australian teams and started racing alongside her job in traffic management.
After winning the Tour de l’Ardèche with the national team in 2017, she was snapped up by Mitchelton-Scott and began her brief but successful pro career.
“Everything happened really fast. From when I first started riding a bike to riding in the WorldTour. I never really even had a chance to imagine what cycling might lead to,” she said. “It was like a big waterfall. Suddenly I was there and then one thing led to another. I didn’t grow up dreaming of being a professional cyclist before I came to the national team, and I really didn’t know anything about it.
“I think I crammed into those four years what most people don’t actually do in that whole career… It was definitely memorable, and it really has changed my life. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and other people and it’s really has been a roller coaster.”
Though she had only been a full-time pro for two years, the seed of retirement was already forming inside Kennedy’s head at the start of 2020, even before the coronavirus pandemic took over the world.
She had hoped to take aim at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and then ride one more season, but COVID-19 and injury would upend her plans.
The 33-year-old’s final season, as with her whole career, was marked by a lengthy recovery period from a serious injury.
A huge crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April left her with a fractured eye socket, collarbone, and hand, and put her out of racing until August.
Despite having a less than ideal 2021, Kennedy didn’t feel she needed to rectify anything with another season. Even the temptation of worlds, at home in Australia, and the Tour de France Femmes was not enough to entice her into another year.
“I didn’t feel like I needed to prove myself or anything like that. It still felt like the right decision for me and my family,” she said. “There were some carrots with the worlds in Wollongong next year probably being the biggest one.”
“To race a home world championships would have been a big highlight. But it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t enough to keep me going nor the women’s Tour de France. It felt like the right time, and it still feels like the right time. I don’t have any regrets.”
Highs, lows, and future plans
The Liège injury was not the first big crash for Kennedy. In 2018, she had to recover from a concussion, a broken clavicle, fractured scapula, eye socket, and jaw following a fall at the Amstel Gold Race.
Having got back into the peloton for the Giro d’Italia Donne, she was left with a broken collarbone in a crash at the Italian race.
While there have been a lot of low points, there have also been some big moments. She won San Sebastian, Durango Durango, and the Women’s Herald Sun Tour in 2019 and defended the Sun Tour title the following year.
What she will remember most about her time in the peloton is the people she met along the way.
“I’m lucky that I’m not a particularly emotional person. I’m quite logical and analytical. I kind of just I’m quite good at accepting situations, I suppose,” Kennedy told VeloNews. “My career has probably been punctuated by more lows than highs but the highs have sort of made it worth it. It’s not just the major highs that have made it worth it. How I remember my career is actually not so much about the races I’ve won, but the whole experience and the team aspect of it.”
Kennedy is still working on her post-cycling career, but she is formulating some plans. Nothing has been finalized yet, though.
“There are lots of ideas swirling around. Because I’m an engineer, I could go back and get a full-time real job again, but it’s not that appealing to sit at a desk for 50 hours a week having done what I’ve just been doing,” Kennedy said. “There are some completely different avenues. At the moment I’m formulating a bit of a few different things to keep me busy but formal plans at all.”
When asked if her future plans might see her remain in cycling in some shape, she responded in the affirmative.
“It might actually. I’d like to and there’s a couple of opportunities that could pop up. It would be really nice to stay connected and give something back,” she said.