It’s been a while since I interviewed one of my favourite Australian female road cyclists so it’s about time I caught up and this time I’ve been speaking with Lauren Kitchen. I was lucky enough to see Lauren race in person at this year’s Tour Down Under in January, and was thrilled to meet her mum who was cheering her on.
Lauren and I chatted via email because she’s in Europe at the moment.
Before I share our conversation I’d like to highlight her great work on social media and namely Instagram. I picked up this great quote on a recent post of Lauren’s “The path towards the destination isn’t always clear but as long as the destination is clear your path will emerge. I feel like everyone has a story for 2020 about their path changing. My 2020 plans have changed several times and dealing with that has been challenging. But I have just realised that going back to my WHY is what keeps driving me no matter which turn my path makes. Because my destination is SO clear. Trust the process and put out the energy you want to attract.”
Q: How did you get into cycling?
A: I got into cycling through a talent ID program run by the North Coast Academy of Sport in NSW. I was 14 at the time and being competitive went along to the trial to just see if I had what it took to ‘get in’ without much thought of actually pursuing cycling. I found it quite challenging to begin with (and still do at times) and that is what got me hooked.
Q: I read that you’ve completed a University degree while you’ve been a professional cyclist? Tell us about your studies. How difficult was it to balance your job and studying?
A: I completed a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning through the University of New England via distance education. I graduated last year (2019) but I actually began studying directly after I finished school in 2009. I originally began at UNSW in Sydney, but being overseas for most of the year made it impossible to continue there. It was difficult to balance study and racing and training at times particularly towards the end of the degree when more is expected, however, my university was very supportive and I think having a good routine was really key. When I began the degree I didn’t really know what I wanted to do or even really know what a town planner did, but towards the end I really enjoyed the study and work experience I did and enjoyed completing it. When I began studying after school, I did it cause it was sort of what you did, not really because I wanted to. I finished it because I always complete what I start.
Q: I met your mum at the Tour Down Under Women’s race earlier this year. She’s very proud of you. How important are family and friends in supporting your cycling career?
A: Family is important to me. I don’t have a very large family and I don’t see them as much as I like but I really value them and their support. Both in Australia and in Europe. Without my mum’s support I wouldn’t be where I am today and the same can be said about my cousins in the Netherlands where I lived for the first years of my career.
Q: How important is mentoring other cyclists to you? What are your plans in the future for this type of work?
A: Mentoring is something that I really enjoy, Previous to coronavirus I would say I was mentoring in an unformalised way. I recognised that I not only really enjoy it, I actually feel that I have a responsibility to give back to the next generation of riders and If I can help them to achieve their goals and reach their potential then that will make me very happy. In the future I would like to expand my profile so I can reach more young riders and potentially have the opportunity to help and mentor many more young cyclists!
Q: What advice would you give to a young woman currently racing on the NRS circuit in Australia who aspires to get to the pro level in Europe?
A: Advice for young women in AUS looking to make the jump the European racing scene, firstly I would say reach out! I have a closed mentoring page on FB set up for advice and questions. But I would say make a plan and ask questions and have a go! I think there is a lot of talent in AUS but a lot of girls are scared to ask what it takes to come to Europe and find a team etc. Everyone’s path is different but asking is the first step on yours!
Q: Do you like being part of a French team? Do you enjoy living in France? Have you learnt to speak French? Are you looking forward to the potential Women’s Tour de France that the ASO says will happen in 2022?
A: I enjoy racing with FDJ, it is the best team environment I have ever been apart of, I have fantastic staff around me and the team is growing each year. I am proud to be a member of this team. I live in France and speak a limited amount of french but I am working on it! For the Tour de France, I will believe it when I see it. It has meant to be happening for years. I know it will take the sport to a new level with coverage so that will be great, but it is long overdue and ASO should have done it a very long time ago in my opinion.
Q: What can we all do to encourage more women to ride bikes?
A: I think to encourage more women to ride bikes, I think we can share more stories. Sharing our stories helps inspire others and encourages people to get on bikes and try it for themselves or to push themselves to new limits!