Chloe Hosking's performance at the Australian National Road Championships likely went unnoticed by the masses. Racing for sixth place, Hosking won the chase group sprint of 20. She crossed the line that a half-minute behind race winner Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS).
"Everyone knows the Buninyong course is not my favourite," said Hosking, who rides for Wiggle-High5. "I've been vocal about that in the past. Having the National Champs on the same course for ten years is a bit unnecessary.
"In the past, I've focussed a lot of energy on how ridiculous I think it is that we have to race on the same course every year," Hosking continued. "A lot of that energy was motivated by my personal feelings about the course. It's too hard for me. I'll never have a chance. If they don't change the course, I won't ever be road champ.
"This year – I sucked it up," Hosking added. "It was a 'well, if they're not going to change the course, I'll just suffer over it.' sort of thing. I got sixth. I didn't win the race, but on a personal-level, I'm really proud of the result."
Hosking has never finished that close to the front end of the race. She's been two minutes behind, eight minutes behind, so far off the back that she's pulled the plug. Her improvement at nationals this year was deliberate and calculated, and, she hopes, a sign of things to come.
"My dad has always told me I could get over the course," said Hoksing. "I need to channel his confidence. I can't say it surprised me – I still need to lose about five kilos to surprise myself! – but I'm really, really focused. If it's on my programme, I'll do it. I'm putting in the hard work, and when you do that, you generally get rewarded.
"I'm happy with sixth because it shows me that what I did with my coach to prepare got me ready," said Hosking. "I've struggled with peaking for an event in the past. I'm looking to change that this year."
Hosking's primary focus for 2016 is October's Road World Championships in Qatar. She's excelled at the Ladies Tour of Qatar in the past. She won the youth classification in 2012, and for the last three years, she has finished on the overall podium. She'll start her eighth Ladies Tour of Qatar on Tuesday.
"I'm looking at Qatar as Qatar – not a dress rehearsal for Worlds," said Hosking. "I think Worlds as a one day race will be so different, but you never know. I like starting my season strong, and with the Worlds in Qatar this year, I really want to have a good showing. If I start the year with a win in Qatar, it will be hard to look past me as one of Australia's protected riders at the World Championships."
The 25-year-old has not raced with the European peloton since July of last year. The night following La Course, Hosking slipped and cut her hand on a piece of glass, severing a tendon. The injury required surgery and proved season-ended. She flew home to Canberra for rehabilitation.
"When I cut my wrist, I knew pretty quickly that this wasn't a three-week thing," Hosking noted. "It ended up being 12-weeks of intensive rehab, and I still have to do my hand exercises every day.
"My coach and I decided to call it an early off-season," said Hosking. "I had about eight weeks completely off the bike and then I started doing ergo. The idea was to fit two seasons into 18 months rather than one season in 12 months, which meant my new season started in September when I went back to the gym, which was around the time I started logging big hours on the bike.
"Instead of using the racing in the summer in Australia to get ready for the classics in the spring, I'm already ready," added Hosking. "I already have the shape. I don't need to wait for it to come."
While Hosking's main target is the Road World Championships, she's also aiming to peak from early February through mid-April. She wants a strong spring. Last season, she made the front group at key races like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. She hopes to continue to make these elite selections and arrive fresher at the finishes.
"I haven't taken this approach before," Hosking said. "Even with the Olympics and preparing for the Commonwealth Games, you have to get the results to get selected. There's almost more emphasis put on having the form to qualify than having the form come race day – almost. This year, I really picked events that I wanted to target. My coach and I worked really hard together to target those events.
"There's a lot more structure to my season," said Hosking. "I've planned in a two-week break because I know I'll be tired. In the past, I would have sent my coach an emailing complaining that I'm tried and we'd need to adjust the programme This year, we've added that break in from the start. There's a lot more structure. Those are the things you learn season-after-season in Europe."
Hosking hopes the structure pays off with wins in the spring and a medal-winning ride at Qatar in October.
"To chase my goals, it's a matter of holding my form until mid-April," said Hosking. "I'll have a break, maybe two weeks off the bike, before I go to altitude and have five months building into Worlds. The Worlds are three weeks later this year than in previous years. It's a long season. I want to make sure I'm not mentally or physically drained by the time the 10th of October comes around."