At just 21 years of age, Australian Chloe Hosking has already shown herself to be among the fastest women in the world when it comes to bunch sprints. In her third year racing alongside Ina Teutenberg, Hosking is aiming to continue to learn from the German sprint legend and graduate to racing the Classics with the Specialized-lululemon team in 2012.
Hosking burst onto the scene straight out of the juniors when she won three stages of the Canberra Women's Tour at age 17. For her 18th birthday, she was given a round trip ticket to Europe to race her bike, and quickly showed herself at the front of bunch sprints - finishing third behind Dutch star Suzanne De Goede and Teutenberg at a stage of the RaboSter Zeeuwsche Eilanden and going on to a few minor victories and more podiums during the course of the season.
Even though most of her results have come in bunch sprints, it wasn't until Hosking finished sixth at the World Championships in Copenhagen this year that she believed she had the ability to be one of the world's top female sprinters.
"I had a few results before I went to Europe, and they just happened to be in sprints, and in the juniors, I was always stronger in the sprints than in climbing or time trialing, but I never said 'I'm going to beat Ina'," Hosking told Cyclingnews at the team's camp in Carlsbad, California. Yet she did just that to win stage 3 of the Tour of Chongming Island this year.
"I never thought I would be a world class sprinter. I'm still not at that level yet, but I think some of the results I've had so far have shown that maybe if I work really hard I can get there and I can be the sort of rider that Ina is."
The Worlds result demonstrated that Hosking can be competitive with the top sprinters, and more importantly, it provided her plenty of motivation to do the work in the off-season to improve upon that result.
"Sixth isn't a medal, but it's knocking on the door, and it's made me that much more motivated to get on my bike and ride six hours by myself," she said.
2011 might not have been the most prolific year for Hosking, but solid results toward the end of the season, including the Worlds finish and the best young rider in the Holland Ladies Tour, showed that Hosking is progressing. "I've had some smaller wins in American and China earlier in the year, it's been really good. I can see that each season I'm developing and getting stronger and I think that's really important."
Perhaps one of the edges Hosking has over the other developing sprinters is that she has Teutenberg as her mentor. Watching her teammate and how she moves through the bunch and positions herself in the sprints has been a big benefit for Hosking, who is looking forward to another year with her teammate.
"It was one of my deciding factors to continue with the team in 2012. She's got so much experience - you can't have anyone with more experience giving you advice. One of the things she's always telling me is with climbs or whatever, is, 'it's all in your head'. In the steep punchy climbs in Holland or in Liberty Classic, Ina goes, 'it's such a mental climb'. It really was, you don't look around you just put your head down and you get over it. I think that's why Ina's been so successful, because she's broken it down that, and it's definitely something I'm trying to do."
Looking ahead to the 2012 season, Hosking will start in the Bay Crits and the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships, but isn't optimistic about her chances for a national championship in the road race, since it has a big climb the riders must crest 10 times, but the race isn't a priority in an Olympic year.
"It's not an automatic selection for the Olympic team, but it's good to have a good showing there to put yourself into the backs of people's minds... but the selection for the Olympics is largely coach's discretion.
"I think my selection for the long team is fairly well-assured because of my win in China, so in that respect, the pressure is off, but I need to remain consistent, because you can't take a girl who doesn't have form to the Olympics."
In order to ensure her selection for one of Australia's likely three spots for the Games, Hosking is targeting races which have courses that are similar to that in London, so she can demonstrate her medal capability.
"It all comes down to having really good races in races that are similar to the Olympics - things like Flanders if I get there, Roselare, China World Cup is a good place, Valladolid in Spain, too. It's just important to stay consistent and put out competitive results, and that's what I'm going to try to do that and that's what's best for my Olympics campaign, and also be a part of a professional team.
"I don't have any one set races I'd like to win, I'll take any win. I just want to continue racing my bike well, and race with the team. I love racing with these girls."