At the RideLondon Classique in early August, Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini) was winding up her sprint when a manoeuvre by Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor) caused her to crash and hit her head on the asphalt, leaving her with a concussion. Cyclingnews spoke to Hosking about her injury and the return to racing.
"In London, I went to a doctor at the race’s first-aid station. She looked at my head and said, ‘It’s not open, so you don’t have a concussion.’ That was a bit concerning," Hosking said.
"The next morning, I had a massive headache. I got in touch with a doctor from Cycling Australia who diagnosed that, yes, I did have a concussion."
With this diagnosis, Hosking had to give the next race on her schedule, the first edition of the Women’s Tour of Scotland, a miss. But she contended that long-term recovery takes absolute priority in the case of concussion.
"The Australian Institute of Sport has a concussion protocol that is based on that of the NFL. It prescribes seven days without any racing, so I had to cancel my participation in the Women’s Tour of Scotland," she said.
"When somebody else crashes, my first question always is, ‘How’s your head?’ so now I had to practice what I preach. Many cyclists, athletes in general, have tried to come back too early, ending up prolonging their recovery."
Hosking stressed that the issue has long been underrated in cycling as the ‘invisible’ nature of a concussion can lead many to believe it is less serious than other injuries.
"It really is a big thing for anybody to learn, to pay attention to how serious a concussion can be. Hitting your head can be more serious than breaking your arm or your wrist. Often if you crash, people ask if you’ve broken any bones, and if you haven’t, they assume you’re okay – but you’re not," Hosking said.
"Emilia Fahlin hit her head in a training crash back in May, and she still hasn’t returned to racing. The Cyclists’ Alliance has made concussion testing available for their members - that’s a good initiative."
Hosking has made a full recovery and was back to her best at the Scandinavian rounds of the UCI Women’s WorldTour, finishing in fourth place in the Vårgårda Road Race and placing second, sixth, and fourth in the Ladies Tour of Norway sprint finishes. Those results were very welcome after a spring campaign that did not go to plan.
"I didn’t have a great start to the year as I went into the spring races over-trained," she said. "Fortunately, the team gave me time to rest and recover with 10 days off after the Tour de Yorkshire. I could then refocus and rebuild my form in June and July. Now I’ve had four top-six results within five race days, so things are going in the right direction."
As a sprinter, Hosking is always chasing a win. In January, she won stages of the Women’s Tour Down Under and Women’s Herald Sun Tour, but in Europe, she has not reached the top step of the podium so far this year. The Australian says that she sometimes is her own worst critic.
"Cycling can be a crushing sport. I am constantly self-critiquing, but I’m trying to be nicer to myself. I’m floating in and out of those two mentalities. There is always a bit of luck involved in cycling; the last week shows that I’m close to the win, and so I’m taking confidence from that."
The 28-year-old's race program for the rest of the season includes the GP Plouay, Premondiale Giro Toscana, Madrid Challenge, and finally the Tour of Guangxi. The World Championships in Yorkshire are missing from that list, and Hosking says that she found the road race parcours to be too hard.
"At the start of the season in January, I really wanted to do the Worlds. But then I looked at the course in Yorkshire and saw how hard it really was," she said.
"I didn’t really put my hand up for selection after that. They’ve selected a strong team and done it early to give the riders time to prepare, and I’m looking forward to watching the Aussie team on those Yorkshire hills from my couch."