Three pieces of advice for my 20 year old self

First appeared on Voxwomen

I have recently been asked twice in the past week; What three things do you wish you had known earlier in your career/life? I didn’t have the answer straight away but having spent a lot of time in the past few weeks focusing on my mentality and what drives me. I have my answer;

1. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks.This maybe something we hear a lot, focus on you, don’t worry what they say, but seriously this was probably the biggest growth factor in my mindset as an athlete and a human when I realised it didn’t matter what everyone else would think. At the end of the day the person you have to look after and be happy to live with is the person looking back at you in the mirror. The moment you realise this, it can be very freeing. At the end of the day your happiness shouldn’t depend on what others think about you, Your perception of yourself is within your control If you don’t like it then change it. I believe this is linked with self-confidence and this is an area that a lot of us can work on, including myself. 

2. Stay curious and ask questions.I guess I am well known for not being afraid to say what I think and to ask questions. There are a lot of people around you as an athlete who have input into your performance or routine, whether that be coaches, trainers, managers, nutritionists, team captains, psychologists, parents and partners. I believe you should always question advice if you are not sure or don’t understand the goal of the advice. Just because one person believes one thing it doesn’t make it correct or right for you, Ask questions, do your own research and don’t take anything at face value if it is important to you. Staying curious is also key for me in my pursuit to always keep learning. I used to think I knew a lot and never really accepted or sought help but over the years, particularly during my cycling career, through overcoming injuries and obstacles, I have realised that I indeed don’t know best a lot of the time and asking and accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness, it can keep you grounded and help you achieve more. 

3. Know you purpose and your mission. Maybe the most important piece of advice I would give myself;  To always come back to your WHY. Your purpose in life is what gets you out of bed in the morning and your values guide you in everything you do if you realise this or not. Your values are generally a result of your upbringing and what hardships or obstacles you have overcome to be where you are today. Everyone has different values for different reasons and that is a good thing, if we were all the same it would be boring. But you have the power to change your values if you choose. I believe your mission is what you decide to do with your purpose. My mission is to explore my potential in every aspect of life while empowering others to reach their goals. I get a lot out of helping others and seeing them succeed. I like logistics, planning and overseeing situations and I believe this skillset can help others to reach their potential and in turn lead me to discover the best version of Lauren.  Knowing what gives you satisfaction in life can be empowering and personally helps to make things clear, every choice or decision I make comes back to this and makes it a lot more simple. Knowing your WHY is important. 

If I had known and more importantly believed these pieces of advice when I was 20 years old and just starting out, my career may have been different but I wouldn’t have changed anything if I had the opportunity to. Everyone’s path is different and is shaped by our experiences. I just hope my path right now is leading back to some bikes races soon! Lauren Kitchen

Leadership

First appeared on Voxwomen

During these challenging times, normal life as we know it has been turned upside down in nearly every aspect with countries being in complete lockdown, shops and businesses closing up or operating under strict rules and regulations and nearly all travel worldwide banned or next to impossible, we are seeing leaders step up, both in a political sense along with business leaders and community leaders. These thoughts made me stop and think about the leaders that have shaped my life and helped make me who I am today. 

Thomas Maheux

Pubali Chakravorty-Campbell (the CEO of Human Resource Partners) highlights the opportunity for potential through challenging times; ‘Unpleasant and harsh life experiences.. leave us with so much knowledge’ I believe  this means that we grow more through hardships and failures then we do when we have success or no setbacks in our path. Personally I have had some key leaders in my life that have had a lasting effect on who I am today and continue to have an impact through the lessons I have learnt overcoming obstacles in my career as a professional cyclist and as a human. 

Some of the key leaders in my life include;

Graham Seers; My first coach, Seersy taught me everything about bike racing, not just how to train, how to read a bike race and how to suffer but also about life, people, food and being accountable. I remember one experience in particular; Mersey Valley Tour 2008. It was a selection race for the U19 Australian Junior World Championships team. I was a favourite for the race and the selection. The race was combined with the Elite women’s category, while separate results were recorded. I remember after the second stage I was leading the U19 category by seven minutes on the GC, essentially I had wrapped up the race with a long breakaway on stage 2 with Carlee Taylor (Elite women). Stage three was another hilly road race and I finished with the main group behind a breakaway of Elite women, winning the U19 GC by seven minutes. Seersy had told me he would wait for me at the finish before going to the feed zone for the U19 men. When I finished the race he was not there. He told me after that he was disappointed that I hadn’t followed the breakaway in the stage as we knew I had the legs to be there, he told me that I showed weakness to my competitors just two weeks before the national title. Even though I won the U19 tour, I don’t remember being proud or happy with this, instead I was disappointed and realised I still had a lot go room to grow, I learnt a lesson and for that I am very thankful to Seersy. Seersy taught me to never give up, don’t show weakness and always race everyone in the race, this applies not just to bike racing but all aspects of life.  Seersy always fights for what he believes in, even if others don’t agree with him. Without lessons like this from Seersy I would not be the bike racer or person I am today. 

Bradley McGee; NSWIS head coach, Personal Coach 2014-2018 and National Coach 2018- Present day. I have always had a huge amount of respect for Brad, I find his personal accomplishments inspiring. His natural leadership is now steering Cycling Australia’s road program to new heights, evident through the success of the last couple of World Championships results. Brad taught me how to believe in myself, and that I should fight for what I believe in right to the end. Brad inspires those around him to be better, he brings people together with his dynamic and exciting  visionary approach to coaching. While these challenging times will indeed requires dynamic approaches, I have no doubt that the women’s road program will come out stronger with Brad taking the lead to support us through this holding pattern. 

Tony Thorne and Geoff Freeman; King and Campbell Consultancy. I have completed a Bachelor’s degree in Town Planning. I completed it over eight years via distance education through the University of New England. As part of my degree I completed two blocks of six weeks of work experiences at the King and Campbell consultancy in Port Macquarie. I thoroughly enjoyed my work at King and Campbell during these blocks of work experience and had the opportunity to be exposed to great leaders in the business world in my home community. Tony has a way with words and a presence that is felt, he taught me about my profession and how important it is to make use of those around you. Geoff taught be about how to read people and the situation, he always offered advise and had time for my questions, Both Tony, Geoff along with others at King and Campbell forced me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to problem solve and find a solution with decisiveness, clear communication skills and always with integrity. 

Mum, Robbi. My mum has always encouraged me to chase my dreams and always found a way for me to do what I loved. I never realised how many scarifies she made while I was growing up for this mentality to take shape inside me and my brother Nick, a ranking officer of the Australian Army. Mum has taught me that you are in charge of your thoughts and how you react to a situation, but most importantly she taught me that there is always a way if you want something enough. Mum taught me how to work hard and I have learnt how to put in the hard work to achieve a goal from my mum. When I made the Australian Junior Worlds team in 2007 I was required to pay a levy to travel to the World Championships in Mexico. My mum was unable to pay this directly so I sold thousands of Cadbury chocolates over 3-4 months to raise the money, each day at school I would forgo my lunch hour to guilt-trip teachers into buying chocolates so I could follow my dream to represent my country. My mum always found a way, she never gave up when it got hard and this mentality has lead me to a professional cycling career in Europe. 

Thomas Maheux

Stephen Delcourt, Team manager FDJ, Stephen has a vision, he is on a journey to grow his professional team to the top level women’s cycling. He works so hard, puts his heart and soul into the team and has inspired me to join the cause. I believe in our team and feel the emotion behind the team. The team means more than just a business transaction or sponsorship opportunity. It provides empowerment and belief to everyone involved. Stephen leads the team, staff, riders and partners and I feel confident he will lead the team successfully through this challenging time. 

It is time to step up and lead, whether that is lead your organisation, your friendship group, your family or simply your mental and physical health. Life is changing and in order to survive and flourish we must adapt as a humankind. In order to maintain equilibrium under pressure we need everyone to find the leader inside themselves to help others to be better each day and support each other, to inspire others to do what is best for everyone, to be selfless. 

We are facing something that is bigger than just you. Find the leader in you. 

Lauren steps onto the podium

Today Lauren finished second in the UCI race La Picto Charentaise in Poitiers, France. The race is quite important for her team FDJ-Nouvelle Aquataine Futuroscope, as it takes place in the backyard of the main sponsors and the home of the team. Lauren is also based in this area while she is in Europe. So it’s a bit like a home race for her and the team. 
The course was essentially flat with a short power climb near to the finish, the race consisted of 8 laps of 15km. Without any major climbs to make the difference, Lauren and her young french team, including 4 girls younger than 21, decided to ride hard as team mid race in a short section of the course with cross wind. This forced a selection and the team were represented with 5 girls in a group of 9, a very good situation for the team to play a tactical final. With the goal to win the race alone, Lauren and her teammates began attacking this breakaway in the final 20km of the race. Unfortunately Lauren ended up in a small group of 3 riders with a very strong Gladys Vurhulst from Charente-Maritime Cycling team and Brazilian climber Flavia Olivera. The final breakaway arrived at the finish just before the bunch, where Lauren took 2nd in the sprint. 


“To be honest I’m a bit disappointed, the team rode such a great race today, we really made the race and set it up well, I just couldn’t finish it off and that’s disappointing, however less then a week ago I had to pull out of the Ladies Tour of Norway after not recovering so well from my crash in Sweden 10 days ago, so I’m really happy to see the form has returned and I can be confident for the final part of the season now leading into the World Championships”

Lauren leads the breakaway with three teammates in her wheel


“While it isn’t the biggest race on the calendar it is nice for me to be back on a UCI podium, its been a solid season but without a big result, so this just gives me confidence that we are working in the right direction for the Worlds.”


Lauren’s team also picked up the win in the teams classification to top of a nearly perfect day.


“While it wasn’t the win we were after, I think we can be proud of this 2nd place, we did a great race as a team and if we keep racing like this then big results will keep coming!”

An epic weekend in Drenthe

Last weekend Lauren competed in the Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo 1.2 last Friday and the Ronde van Drenthe World Tour race on Sunday. The 145km race on Friday was shaped by the extreme wind of 70-80kmph ripping across northern Holland. The peloton were faced with very small roads and two accents of the infamous Vamberg climb, a manmade rubbish tip hill which this year also featured a cobblestone sector, along with two flat cobblestone sectors. The race was on directly with Lauren missing the front selection in the wind after the opening 20km.

“I felt good but not great, I didn’t have the legs to be in the front selection of 8 riders that ended up going to the finish after the raced was ripped apart after 20km, I ended up in the chase group of about 25 riders behind this group and therefore I saw this race as good preparation for Sunday”

Of the nearly 200 riders to take to the start line on Friday only 36 riders finished the race due to the tough weather conditions. Lauren eventually finished in 23rd place but in good spirits for the main event of the weekend, the World Tour race on the Sunday.

“While 23rd is not a great result, I choose to see the positives of getting a good solid race in the legs that will help me for the next races, plus in these winds, I was happy to stay upright! many girls didn’t…”

Sunday’s Ronde van Drenthe is known as one of the toughest races of the Spring. This year the race featured 165km of racing including 11 cobbled sections and three times the Vamberg climb. The weather for the race was 3-4 degrees with high winds, hail and rain on the menu. All of this set up an epic edition of the Ronde van Drenthe.

Lauren didn’t have a good start, being out of position for the first key moment of the race at 20km, being caught behind two crashes. This meant missing the front group and chasing for 60km to return to the front of the race. After the final climb of the Vamberg with 60km to go, Lauren was in the front group of approximately 40 riders with 3 long cobbled sections still to come and multiple exposed roads with high chance of cross winds. After 150km of racing and suffering the race split to pieces as the peloton approached the final cobbled section, Lauren continued fighting to make the best of the situation but would eventually finish in 28th position after more the 4.5hrs of racing.

“I’m really disappointed not to have a result to show for today’s effort, but in reality with the way the race panned out I didn’t have the legs int he final after having to burn my matches early, it was an epic edition in Drenthe and for sure one I won’t forget for a while”

“I have a young team and it was definitely an experience for them this weekend, I think this experience will make them stronger and hopefully we can be fighting for some top 10 results soon”

“While I didn’t get the result I was looking for I did enjoy the racing and the suffering, plus I got a free mud mask!”

post race Ronde van Drenthe

Ready for the Classics to begin

Photo: Thomas Maheux

Lauren has now settled back into the European swing of things and is busy preparing for the upcoming classics season beginning on March 2nd with the Omloop het Nieuwsblad in Belgium. Lauren traveled to France to join her team after January’s Tour Down Under, then the team traveled to Cambrils, in Northern Spain for the preseason training camp. At the nine day camp the team had the opportunity to test their new equipment, including the new bikes with disc brakes, along with some spend some quality time in the saddle suffering together. With the great weather on offer, the camp passed quickly and it was soon time for the team’s presentation at Futuroscope, near Poitiers in France last week. This is a grand event for the team and its’ sponsors, giving the opportunity for the team’s sponsors, riders, fans and media to come together before the stresses of the season begin.

“I am really excited for the upcoming season with the girls and the staff, Im looking forward to getting started now, its been a long preseason and I feel like it is time to pin a number on and get stuck in.”

Photo: Thomas Maheux

Following the team presentation, the team headed to nearby La Roche Posay for a three day training camp with a focus on intensity and race efforts together.

“I am quietly confident of the team’s level this year, I have seen a solid step up across the board and Im looking forward to seeing what we can achieve this Spring and into the rest of the season!”

My Spring program is as follows:

Omloop het Nieuwsblad- March 2

Omloop het Hageland- March 3

Le Samyn- March 5

Drenthe 8- March 15

Drenthe WWT- March 17

De Panne- March 28

Gent – March 31

Ronde van Vlaanderen – April 7

Amstel Gold Race – April 21

Photo: Thomas Maheux

Lauren ends the season by winning GP Isbergues

Lauren has ended her season in the best possible way by taking a solo win in the UCI french classic GP Isbergues on September 23. The victory was especially sweet coming after a difficult season, where Lauren has had to overcome a broken arm after a hard crash in the Spring.

photo; Thomas Maheux

“I was very happy and relieved to take the victory last Sunday in Isbergues, it was really hard to get back to top shape after breaking the crash I sustained in the Spring and this victory makes the hard work worth it. It is also the best way I can thank the team for their support of me during the recovery period and for their continued faith in me.”

The weather played a pivotal role in the race with torrential rain and wind present from start to finish. Lauren was part of a strong FDJ team for the race, with team mate Eugenie Duval attacking solo after just 10km and spending almost 100km solo in front. When she was caught with 25km to go, FDJ immediately began attacking and counter attacking again to regain control of the race. After a number of attacks from all the remaining team members, Lauren was alone in front with 22km remaining and continued to ride strongly at 20″ in front of the peloton for the remaining kilometres to win alone.

“The gap didn’t really change when I was in front, I just kept pushing and believing, with 5km to go I was thinking maybe they might start thinking about 2nd place and I could be lucky. It was defiantly hard out there, but I’m proud of my ride but also the whole team, the riders and staff as well. It takes everyone to secure a victory.”

“Now I will take some rest and recover and try to switch off a bit from cycling before I refocus on 2019 where I defiantly want to chase some more victories!”

Lauren extends with FDJ- Nouvelle Aquitaine – Futuroscope

Lauren is very pleased to share the news that she has agreed to an extension with the FDJ- Nouvelle Aquitaine – Futuroscope Cycling team. 2018 has been Lauren’s first season with the French registered squad after moving from WM3 Procycling last season.

photo Thomas Maheux

“I have really enjoyed my time in the team this season, I feel supported and valued here and I feel it is an environment in which I have the opportunity to help the younger riders in the team, along with the team leaders and to have individual opportunities when they present themselves.”

Lauren has finished twice on the podium this season, in the Australian National Championships and in Le Samyn des Dames. She suffered a setback in the Spring resulting from a crash in the Amstel Gold race ending with a broken arm requiring surgery and facial wounds requiring plastic surgery.

“My crash in Amstel was a bit of a setback, it took me quite a long time to feel normal again and I still notice a little difference, but thats part of it I guess. The team really supported me during this period, Im really thankful for this, Im a long way from home and family in France and the team really stepped up and it meant a lot to me.”

“Im looking forward to continue building my relationship with the girls and staff on the team and continuing to see what is possible in my abilities with a focus on the spring classics next season.”

Lauren will be racing in Sweden and Norway for the next rounds of the Women’s World Tour before the Boel’s rental Ladies Tour in the Netherlands and then racing in Madrid to finish off her season.

“It’s now getting towards the end of the season, Im proud to have got a few results earlier in the year for the team but I would like to finish strong for the team, so I’m motivated for these last races which I think suit my abilities a lot.”

Lauren preps for Scandinavian racing week

Lauren is heading to Sweden this week to compete in the next few rounds of the Women’s World Tour. The next rounds are taking place in Vargarda Sweden and in Halden in Norway. First up for Lauren and her FDJ team is a 42km Team Time Trial on Saturday before a one day road race on Monday. The team then moves north to Norway for again a team time trial on the 16th of August before a three day tour from the 17th to the 19th around Halden in Norway. The races offer challenging terrain, suiting explosive riders that can climb and sprint well. The racing is often dynamic with a number of race situations possible. The weather can also be a factor while racing in the north of Europe.

“Im really looking forward to these races, I missed them last year and that only makes me more motivated to return to Sweden and Norway, We have a strong team and I think we can be in the mix in all the races”

Lauren will be joined by fellow Australian, Shara, the two dutch teammates Moniek and Rozanne, along with two of the younger french stars; Maelle and Greta. This international team will look to show the FDJ colours and race aggressive.

Lauren is focused on this month of race after building a solid foundation over the past 2 months since returning to racing from her broken arm injury in April.

“It took me quite a long time to feel good in the races again after breaking my arm in Amstel, quite a lot longer then I thought it would to be honest, but last week in London, I finally felt fresh and fit and strong again and I’m hoping that my freshness after missing some training and racing earlier in the season will help me be more competitive later in the season.”

 

Lauren to combine track with road prep for 2018 season

Lauren has began her pre season training for the upcoming 2018 road season that will see her combine some track training in with her road preparations in an attempt to challenge herself and see what is possible on the velodrome.

“I’m excited to get some track training in this year in Australia, Its just something different and it makes the training fresh and its challenging which is motivating”

Lauren will add some state races to her calendar including the NSW Omnium championship taking place November 12 at Dunc Gray Velodrome in Sydney and possibly the remaining NSW state titles in mid December. Her focus is still firmly on the road preparations but the added opportunity to race so early will give Lauren and her coach, Brad McGee a reference point earlier then most years.

“I see these track races as a challenge and also a good reference to see what we need to add to my training in terms of speed work and what we can possibly do to improve for my big block of racing in January”

Lauren is hoping to compete in the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evan’s Great Ocean Road Race along with the national championships in January, however it is dependant on the national team being entered to race and the selection to this.

“I am preparing to race there, I want to be there, they are really nice races and I would the opportunity to fight for results there, but they are also important for Com Games selection and I want to have every opportunity for that team”

Lauren is preparing for the upcoming season at her Australian base in Port Macquarie, Australia with her family and support network. She works closely with her physio, massage therapist, strength and conditioning coach along with local support such as Rydges and Zebu and TRS cycles in Port Macquarie.

“I just love this time year, I am training hard and Im really motivated, having my support network is really key to my success and I think its that little extra that will get me across the line first next year.”

FDJ bound for 2018

Moving ahead with FDJ – In Lauren’s words;

I have decided to move to FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope for the 2018 season. This french team really caught my eye this year with their steady growth and appeared to be stepping up to the top level in an organised and professional manner. The management were eager to discuss with me last season and again this season and it just felt right to sign with them for 2018. The team really seem to value me and my input into discussions and their eagerness is what got them across the line for me. I am excited to join the FDJ family and to be honest it has sparked a new motivation in me for next year, like a chance to prove myself and work with new people along with my long term friend Shara Gillow.

I really believe that Shara has the potential to climb with the best in the world in some of the biggest races we have on the calendar and I’m really looking forward to playing a role in this next season.

There is just something about being with the underdog team that really gets me excited. I believe it is important in cycling to always keep moving, whether that is with new goals, new races, new roles or my case a new team, in order to keep the motivation and pressure pumping, never let yourself become comfortable, always push your limits and not just on the bike, in order to get the most out of yourself as a person

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Lauren signs with FDJ for 2018

With excitement for 2018, also come some sadness as I leave my WM3 team after only one season. I am very thankful for the support of WM3 and the friendship of my teammates throughout the 2017 season. WM3 is one of the biggest teams in the peloton and one of the key teams for each race they start, and it has been an honour to be apart of this. The dutch mentality feels very close to home with my family ties to the flatlands and the style of racing suited my abilities. WM3 is a top team with a top mentality to improve and I am grateful to have been apart of it.

Changing teams is an emotional rollercoaster. This time of year can be scary, nervous and exciting all at the same time. When I first considered the idea that I might change teams I was very upset and exhausted just at the thought, I mean new equipment, new staff, new team mates, new relationships to form on and off the bike with team mates, a possible new culture to adjust too.

All these thoughts had me in tears, I questioned how much do I want it? Is it worth it?

Do I have the energy required to go through a change again so soon after only joining WM3 this season? I questioned a lot of things about myself, my self worth and then came full circle to question what others think of me and if it was worth considering my future myself or waiting for someone else to decide for me. After speaking with my coach, Brad, and my family I decided to consider my options for 2018 and beyond and I’m really glad I did. My feeling to have signed with FDJ for 2018 is the opposite of my initial feelings towards changing teams, I feel valued and motivated, I definitely have the energy to forge forward and make 2018 the best year yet, both on and off the bike with a new culture. As my dad recently said to me recently,

‘A rolling stone gathers no moss’ so I can’t wait to keep moving.

FDJ I believe will give me the opportunity to prepare and race professionally and also support me to challenge myself with new ideas and opportunities. As a more experienced rider of the peloton I look forward to playing the road captain role with a younger french orientated team and sharing my skills and experience with them. Ill be challenging myself with the french language next year but at this point in my career, bring it on.