Chloe Hosking is quick to acknowledge that her move to Alé Cipollini Galassia was unconventional on paper. The Australian was the first international rider announced to the revamped Italian squad that was presented in Verona earlier this month. The 12-rider team, headlined by Hosking and Marta Bastianelli, includes seven non-Italians, six of whom are new signings for the upcoming season.
"It was very evident during team camp that management wants this team to be viewed as an international team, not an Italian team," Hosking told Cyclingnews. "They told us very clearly that this is not how Italian teams are typically run. A typical Italian team wouldn't have more foreign riders than Italian riders. There was no translator at team camp for the English-speakers, and they're not pushing us to go to Italian classes three times a week.
"It still has an Italian flavour," Hosking added. "All the sponsors are Italian with Alé, Cipollini and DMT. I'll still make an effort to learn Italian, but it's because I want to be able to communicate better with my teammates, the staff and the sponsors rather than because I can't communicate at all if I don't."
Hosking's comments underscore the transformation happening at Alé Cipollini ahead of the upcoming season. While the desire to internationalise the squad pre-dates Hosking's hire, the team's 2017 line-up reflects the Australian's input.
"It's been humbling," said Hosking, who finished a two-year stint with Wiggle High5 at the end of the season. "[Alé Cipollini general manager] Fortunati [Lacquaniti] came to me in July. The team was looking for something really specific, and they were willing to give me the flexibility I wanted in order to get that.
"Once we came to an agreement, he consulted with me on the sort of riders that I thought would be a good fit for the team," Hosking added. "That's when I reached out to riders like Romy [Kasper] and Janneke [Ensing]."
In enlisting Hosking to fill out the roster, Lacquaniti not only demonstrated a respect for Hosking's preferences and reinforced her leadership position within the team, he also gained a key ally in pursuit of his ambitions. Italian teams haven't always enjoyed the best reputations internationally. Using Hosking to recruit helped Lacquaniti break down early barriers.
"Everyone has heard horror stories about Italian teams, but I think those stories extend beyond Italian teams to cycling teams in general," Hosking said. "I've heard of a WorldTour team or two where riders have rocked up overweight to a Grand Tour and they're told: 'You can't eat or drink on this stage.' There's the sense that this only happens on Italian teams, and that isn't true at all.
"I guess I think the reputation Italian teams have can be a bit unfair," Hosking added. "I think for a lot of riders that don't speak Italian, the language barrier is the biggest barrier. If you don't speak Italian, it can feel daunting. I think it says something about the non-Italian girls that did join the team. They have a get up and go about them. They won't let certain barriers hold them back. Those are the sort of teammates I want to have."
With that said, Hosking recognises that moving to Alé Cipollini represented a risk. She said any initial qualms she had about the risk she has taken were put to rest by an incredibly well-run three-day team camp.
"It was really organised, which isn't something most people would expect of an Italian team," said Hosking. "We had an entire day of running through the logistics of the team – how the team is run, what is expected of the riders, medical screenings that we have to do, who to contact when, that sort of thing. Everything was really clear and really professional. We also had bike fits. I had a shoe fitting where I found out that I would get custom shoes made by DMT because I was between sizes.
"To get this all done in November is different than what I'm used to," said Hosking. "It hasn't been like this for me the last few years. It's pleasantly surprising that they're so on top of all this. They really want to make an impact next year, and that's motivating."
The time spent at team camp also underscored the team's expectation of Hosking. She's known since July that Alé Cipollini hired her to win races. She learned at team camp that those wins she's chasing afforded her one of two key leadership roles within the team.
"Maybe I should have expected it, but I guess I didn't and it became very clear that the team is designed around dual leaders in Marta and me," said Hosking. "They expect big things from us. It's a compliment, and it's humbling – I know I keep saying that word, but it is – and it also makes me nervous. I'm sort of like: 'Whew, okay, well, I better have a big season.'
"I haven't really been in this position before," Hosking added. "Well, maybe I was at Hitec, but I was younger then and I don't think I was ready for it. And I hope I'm ready for it next year."
The 26-year-old's sentiments may be partially understood in the context of the rainbow jersey she had hoped to bring to Alé Cipollini but that will instead be worn by Boels-Dolmans' Amalie Dideriksen. The Australian team put all its eggs into Hosking's basket. Hosking sprinted to seventh place.
"It's not the first major event that I've gone to and fallen short of my target," said Hosking. "It's always disappointing. I was shattered after the Worlds. I wanted a lot more. I went into the race never even considering that it was possible that I would come away without a medal. I was that confident, so seventh – it's underwhelming.
"It was a tough way to finish what had been a good season," Hosking added. "It's been hard not to let that one result at the end of the year overshadow all I did achieve. I think I made a big step this year, and I'm working on getting my head around what I accomplished and what I didn't. I'm not there yet.
"People talk about redemption and all this other sort of nonsense, but I don't think there's redemption for me," she noted. "Norway isn't flat. Austria isn't going to be flat. Yorkshire? No way. I won't have another shot at Worlds in my career. My focus right now is squarely on repaying the faith Cipollini has put in me and winning as many bike races as I can for the team."
Hosking hopes that first big win comes during her first stint in Europe.
"I want to have a really, really good spring," she said. "I'm only coming over for six weeks for Het Nieuwsblad to Dottignies. I would love to win a race in that period, and I'm think I'm capable of doing it."