Interview with Lauren Kitchen | UNE Elite Athlete
Can you tell us a little about your background and what drew you to the sport of cycling?
I was born in Armidale, NSW, I started primary school at Martin’s Gully Public School. I moved to Port Macquarie with my mum and my brother when I was 7 years old. I stayed connected to Armidale over the years, returning to see family and friends, and one time to race a cycling criterium and to attend a soccer camp held at the UNE campus on school holidays.
I got into cycling when I was 15 years old through a talent ID with the North Coast Academy of Sport. I was immediately drawn to the sport as I found it challenging and I enjoyed the process of working towards a goal over time.
At what age did cycling start becoming serious? What did this mean for you, your family & your way of life?
I was 15 years old when I got into cycling and I wasn’t exposed to it beforehand. To me cycling was (and still is) challenging and exciting. It also means freedom to me; no matter what my feeling is, going out for a ride in the countryside always makes me feel good. Cycling is now a way of life for me. It is my professional life, but also personal as I can’t imagine my life without cycling playing a large part.
You recently graduated from UNE. What did you study? Where do you hope this will take you?
Yeah, I studied a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning. I would love to have a career in planning post cycling as I am excited about this prospect. I am very glad I completed my degree during my cycling career, it is peace of mind having it now, knowing that I have a solid degree behind me for when I stop racing full time.
Photo: Thomas Maheux
Why did studying at UNE appeal to you and how did you manage juggling being a professional athlete with a tertiary study?
I originally began studying elsewhere but changed to UNE in 2011 and began the BURP degree as the distance education at UNE is second to none and the elite athlete support was also really helpful. Being able to sit exams overseas and while in my national team camps was useful and without this support I wouldn’t have been able to complete the degree.
Can you provide some insight into your pathway of becoming a pro cyclist and the team you now ride for?
I began when I was 15 through the NCAS talent ID program. I progressed through the junior ranks to the AIS development program, which now no longer exists. From there I signed as a professional in 2012, and now I ride for FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope. It is a French registered World Tour Team. I have been with this team since 2018 and I have recently re-signed a new contract to take me through until 2022.
The pathway to becoming a pro cyclist, particularly for the women, is challenging for Aussies as basically means you have to get to Europe to get noticed and also to learn the skills required to ‘make it’ in the pro ranks. In the future I am aiming to set up a mentoring program to assist women in this position to help make that jump easier.
Photo: Thomas Maheux
Where you are normally based, and what does a calendar year normally look like for you?
I am normally based in France during the season Feb-Sep, and the Aussie summer I spend in Port Macquarie or in Portland Victoria with my parents. A normal calendar would begin with the Aussie races in January before the Spring Classics in Belgium and Holland in March/April, then moving towards the tours in June/July/Aug in Britain, Italy, France, Spain, China, Sweden and Norway and then the World Champs in September.
Wow, that’s pretty awesome!
COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. How has it affected you as a professional athlete, and how have you maintained your training regime?
It has indeed been a challenge. I am currently in Portland Victoria with my parents, I am staying motivated by having some off-the-bike challenges and exciting ventures going on. This keeps me more motivated for on-the-bike efforts – having a more balanced approach. Now I’m just trying to maintain some fitness so that when I can jump back into races I will be ready.
We are super excited to have you competing for UNE in an upcoming virtual cycle race. Can you tell us more about how this works and the benefits of this sort of technology?
Zwift’s online racing has become a phenomenal tool for teams to offer sponsors coverage during lockdown times. Zwift racing is very hard and while the race is virtual, the suffering is real. Being able to connect with others from all over the world offers a new platform of community spirit and coverage that isn’t seen through other channels.
What are Three of the greatest lessons you have learned on your journey of being a professional athlete?
Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned being a pro athlete are:
- Always know your WHY, make sure you stay true to yourself and live with purpose and to your values. Professional life and sport can lead you in many directions with lots of choices but if you know your WHY then choices are easy to make.
- Stay curious and continue to ask questions. If you don’t agree with something or don’t understand something then ask. Do your own research and remember no one cares as much about your career as you.
- Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. The person whose opinion that counts is yours, no one else’s. Make sure it is you that you are pleasing first and foremost and focus on you and what drives you.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story Lauren – we are very proud to have you as a UNE alumna!
Lauren is a member of our SportUNE Wellness Hub Strava Club. Check it out to see what she gets up to during training.