It was a long and arduous road back to just lining up at the start of a race for Chloe Hosking (Trek-Segafredo), who had to sit out for four-and-a-half months after a COVID-19 infection in early April. The Australian appears to be fully recovered and in top form having secured an emotional stage 4 victory at the Ladies Tour of Norway.
On her return at the Ladies Tour of Norway, initially Hosking looked to be easing her way back in and did not finish with the peloton on the first two stages. On the final stage into Holden on Sunday, however, Hosking came to the fore in the final, with the help of her teammate Lucinda Brand, and did a long sprint to the stage victory.
Normally exuberant and not at a loss at what to say, Hosking was crying with relief and struggling to find words in an emotional post-race interview.
“I am just really proud of myself and also thankful for the team. The whole process was like, ‘there’s no pressure, Chloe, come back when you’re ready.’ To finish with a win in a WorldTour stage race, wow, I’m just, it was all worth it, I guess,” Hosking said, continuing to wipe tears from her face.
Hosking’s last race had been Gent-Wevelgem in late March where she did not finish after an early crash. A few days later, she tested positive for COVID-19 just ahead of her next goal, the sprinter-friendly Scheldeprijs.
Wanting to return to racing in May, she was then diagnosed with pericarditis (an inflammation of the heart sac) and had to scale back her training significantly to avoid long-term damage, keeping her out of race action for another three months.
“It was more mentally tough,” Hosking looked back. “Australia is so far away, and it’s even further when we can’t really get in, and my family can’t come here. I felt alone, really alone, for a lot of the time. I was never physically super-sick, but I was being told that I had to take it easy and …,” at this point Hosking was interrupted by her teammates who wanted to congratulate her.
“I could see in my training that it was coming up and coming up, but I was looking at Norway to help me build for the races that are coming later in the season. But honestly, I love this race, I love this stage, and I’ve finished fourth on this stage before. This is my fourth try, and I finally got the line right,” said Hosking happily as she slowly returned to her usual talkative self.
Recalling the sprint finish, Hosking thanked Brand, who took a long turn from the end of the cobblestone section with 2.5 kilometres to go until 700 metres to go. Hosking was now at the front of the peloton and jumped on the wheel of Liane Lippert (Team DSM).
When Lippert swung off in a left-hander 400 metres from the finish, Hosking kept going as Team DSM’s Susanne Andersen led out Coryn Rivera beside her, and the Australian went all-in with 200 metres to go to win the sprint.
“I had Lucinda Brand there with me, and she is one of the best bike handlers in the peloton. For a super-technical circuit like this, that’s who you need in front of you. But she was on the front early, so I knew I had to surf wheels," Hosking said.
"I sensed that people kept coming and I kept upping my pace, and then, coming into the final S-bend, I was like, ‘you know what, screw it, I’m just going to go and just take up all the road and hope no one can come past me.’”
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