Chloe Hosking isn’t the type of rider that thinks small and nor is the team she just joined, Trek-Segafredo, so it’s not surprising that when she came on board there were some lofty goals outlined for the sprinter. But, just like many things in life over the past year or so, COVID-19 has meant the plans have had to undergo a few rewrites. The goals are still just as lofty, it’s just that they’ll now have to wait a while.
The experienced Australian, with 36 professional wins to her name, was brought into the team to provide firepower in the bunch sprints. While for many, walking into one of the world’s top teams with a raft of big names may have been intimidating, it marked something of a homecoming for Hosking. She was re-joining old teammates such as Elisa Longo Borghini and Audrey Cordon-Ragot, as well as working with Trek-Segafredo director Ina Tutenberg, long a trusted ear and valued source of frank advice for the Australian rider.
In one of her first European races, she stepped up to the podium, finishing third at Le Samyn des Dames. The 30-year-old could then be seen burying herself on the front for the team during Strade Bianche and she was part of the squad that supported Ellen van Dijk to her Healthy Ageing Tour win.
She used her experience to take the role of road captain at races despite her position as a recent arrival and she looked to be starting to work her way closer to the front of the field with a seventh at Brugge-De Panne. A good sign on the run-in to one of the races she’d named as a goal when joining Trek-Segafredo, Gent Wevelgem, but then with a crash and crosswinds it turned into a DNF.
All in all, the opportunities for a sprinter had been a little light early in the season, but Scheldeprijs was just around the corner and it is known as a sprinters classic for a reason. Though, a phone call then came that quickly signalled the end of that opportunity.
“I was able really quickly to realise the situation I was in when I got the phone call saying that I was positive for COVID,” Hosking told Cyclingnews in the month after the diagnosis. "I knew that I just had to sort of draw a line on that day.
“OK, that's the first half of the season finished and I need to stop now, reset, refocus and essentially do another pre-season and rebuild for the second half of the year.”
She had been hoping that rebuild would start at the Spanish races in May, however the finish line shifted. Following the COVID-19 infection the sac surrounding her heart became inflamed, causing pericarditis.
“While it's a mild case, the cardiologist and the other medical staff around me advised me that I would be out of racing action for at least three months and my training had to be significantly wound in,” said Hosking on Instagram this week.
“I'm about half way through that now. I hope that in the next few weeks follow up checks can clear me to return to proper training and I can get stuck back into preparing for the second half of my season which is still packed with plenty of opportunities to get my elbows out and sprint for the finish line.”
The silver lining is that the late season provides even more opportunities to pin a number on than normal, with the delay of races like The Women’s Tour and the first ever women’s Paris Roubaix, something the optimistic side of Hosking is quick to embrace.
“The calendar is still being really affected by COVID so we're going to go late into October,” said Hosking while embarking on the first leg of her COVID-19 recovery. “So, you know, my positive mentality is saying it's not the end of the world to be having a break now. If anything, I'm going to be able to be fresh in October.”
Having made her way over to Europe as an 18-year-old to find a way into the peloton outside the more traditional supported pathway, the Australian is now embarking on her 12th season of racing as a professional and is highly unlikely to have made it this far if she didn’t steadfastly choose to overcome, rather than be overwhelmed by, obstacles.
“OK, it's been a bumpy start,” said Hosking. “I do think that a lot of the athletes that had the most longevity in their careers are the ones that bounce back from things like this and I think that I have shown time and time again that I do bounce back. So I'm sure that towards the end of the year, I'll be doing what Trek want of me."
What also makes that easier is that what the team wants of her, is also what she wants of herself.
“It's not like our goals are misaligned, my personal goals are the same as what the team want from me. In that way, so far, it's like a happy marriage. So I don't feel any more pressure ... I know the expectation is to win, but I also have that expectation for myself.”
To win the big races, to fulfil the job of road captain and to integrate into the team as a rider that they can depend on are all things Hosking would like to see happen, but they are all things that will have to wait, for now.
Big characters and big wins
For most riders it would be an intimidating team to walk into under even the best of circumstances. A top well-supported squad, with conditions to match, and a roster including former World Champion Lizzie Deignan, Italian champion Longo Borghini, world cyclo-cross champion Lucinda Brand, French champion Cordon-Ragot, US champion Ruth Winder, former world time trial champion and Tour of Flanders winner Ellen van Dijk as well as Amalie Dideriksen, another former world champion. However, it seems like the right fit for the Australian Commonwealth Games medallist and La Course winner, which should make it easier to overcome that bumpy start.
“We all know Chloe,” said Deignan, in a team statement welcoming the Australian to the team. “She’s a big character, and we’re a team of strong, big, charactered women, and we enjoy being around people with strong personalities. I am sure she will fit in really well.”
The team, formed in 2019, rode its way to the top of the rankings last year with Deignan also finishing the season as the leader of the Women’s WorldTour, so clearly it's a dynamic that is working.
“One thing that has been really clear coming into Trek-Segafredo is that everyone seems to be really on the same page,” said Hosking. “There's no sort of infighting or people disagreeing about certain tactics. There's a discussion and then decision that this is what we're going to do today. We give it a go and if it doesn't work out, then it didn't work out. And if it does work out, fantastic.
“Even though there are so many big riders with experience, I haven't seen it clash, which is quite special, and I think it speaks to the personalities that have come together in this team.”
While it looks like we’ll have to wait a while to really see Hosking in her element at Trek-Segafredo, the rider and her team are hopeful the rest of the field will have to watch their backs when we do.
“You can do this Chloe,” said Van Dijk in a comment on Hosking’s Instagram post explaining that she'll return to racing later in the year. “The peloton is warned for the second half of the season.”
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