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The long goodbye: Lucy Kennedy on her return to racing after 19-day retirement

Lucy Kennedy was supposed to retire from professional racing last month but a late call-up to the Women's Tour means she has one last hurrah.

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It was possibly the shortest retirement ever.

Less than a month after racing what should have been the final race of her career, Lucy Kennedy has had to take her racing wheels back down from where she hung them to compete again.

Kennedy bid her farewell to professional racing at the Tour de l’Ardèche last month, closing it out with a third-place on the final day. It was supposed to be the perfect goodbye, signing off at the race where she took her first European victory back in 2017.

Also read: Paris-Roubaix Femmes winner Lizzie Deignan leads star-studded start list at Women’s Tour

However, the cycling gods had other thoughts and her career 2.0 began Monday with the Women’s Tour in the UK and will end Saturday. It might be one of the shortest comebacks, ever.

“I was actually sitting having a beer when they called,” Kennedy told VeloNews. “I found out after Roubaix happened when Georgia [Williams] had a crash, and they knew she wasn’t going to start here. So, that was 7 p.m. Saturday and I was on a flight at 11 a.m. on Sunday to be here to race.”

Kennedy knew in the back of her mind that she might have to race the Women’s Tour this week. Her BikeExchange squad is thin on the ground with available riders due to a litany of injuries and a wet Paris-Roubaix coming before it.

Though she knew it might come, her recent bike rides have been more for leisure than trying to keep race sharp.

Also read: Lucy Kennedy eyes a tricky pathway to the 2021 Olympics

“I have been riding my bike, but I haven’t been training,” she said. “It’s funny, even though you know that you’re maybe going to be racing you sort of don’t expect it.

“It has all been a little bit strange and I didn’t realize what it would be like. I’m finding it more difficult than I thought to switch back into race mode. Hopefully, as the race goes on, I’ll get more into it.”

This time it’s the last time, for real

While Kennedy might be having trouble dialing back in mentally for one last hurrah, she’s still physically up for it and she wants to help her team pull out as big a result as possible over the coming days.

“I’m more than happy to be here with my teammates again and I enjoy being with my teammates. I have no problem being here, but definitely, it’s difficult to get back into race mode. I’m hoping to see out the week,” she said.

“I’m purely here to help my teammates. Sarah Roy is in good form, despite all of her injury setbacks, so we want to support her for some stage and potentially GC results. We’ve got lots of riders that are still going well like Ane [Santesteban] and Janneke [Ensing] so I’m purely here as a helper. Maybe also as a cheerleader and for the vibes.”

Whatever happens this time, Kennedy knows this is truly her last appearance as a professional bike rider. She won’t be dragging out the long goodbye any longer.

“Last time it was strange as it was announced as my last race and at Ardèche, they like me there so we had a big send-off at the presentation so it should have felt really final and really nice, but in the back of my head I knew I might be racing,” she told VeloNews. “This time I know it is absolutely it and again it will be a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s definitely final this time.

“What I can guarantee is that I will not be getting called up to Drenthe.”

Next week, Kennedy will be putting her feet up on a well-earned vacation before she sets off for Australia in November — provided there are no last-minute changes with the country’s border restrictions. From there, she begins her life as a retired rider.