New challenges and the pressure of playing support: a pre-Thüringen Rundfahrt diary with Mel Hoskins

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Melissa Hoskins (Orica-AIS) flew from Holland to Germany this morning. A seven-day stage race and two one-day races are all that stand between the track world champion and the end of her road season. Like many of you, Mel followed along as Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM) and Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) shared their stories out of the Giro Rosa each day. And when I asked her if she would be game for daily check-ins out of Thüringen Rundfahrt, she quickly agreed.

The German stage race is one of the most beloved by riders. Although it lacks the high mountains of the Giro Rosa and the crowds of the Aviva Women’s Tour, it’s run over terrain that suits the punchy, gritty riders like Johansson, Velocio-SRAM teammates Trixi Worrack and Lisa Brennauer, Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) and Amy Pieters (Liv Plantur) which makes for an exciting race day-in and day-out.

The seven-day stage race begins on Friday, July 17, with a 66 kilometre road race in Gotha and ends on Thursday, July 24, with a 98.9 kilometre stage. The German tour includes one double day with a 19 kilometre individual time trial in the morning and a short road stage in the afternoon.

The climbs are short and punchy. The runs through towns are technical. There’s plenty of twists and turns and lumps and bumps. There’s even a cobbled uphill finish over the weekend. Bonus seconds are on offer at the intermediate sprints and on the finish line, which will inevitably liven up the racing.

Mel has never raced Thüringen before, and will race in support of two-time Thüringen Rundfahrt overall winner, Emma Johansson.

“I’m going in completely blind,” Mel commented. “I have a general idea about what to expect, but I haven’t seen any of the courses or anything like that. We know [Emma] is capable of winning the race but she can’t do it alone.”

Preparations for the seven-day tour

I’ve been at track camp for six weeks – leaving only for the Aviva Women’s Tour. My track teammates and I just did a massive block of strength training. I’m still fit, but I’m heavier than I was six weeks ago because of that strength block. I’m a lot stronger, which was the aim of the track programme. Will it benefit my road racing? I guess we’ll find out.

Lining up for a new race

There’s talk about “the fear of the unknown” for a reason. New challenges are a bit scarier than challenges you’ve already tackled. I’m in Thüringen riding in support of Emma Johansson, who is capable of winning the whole tour – which she has done twice previously. In addition to the usual pressure to perform, there’s additional pressure that comes with being Emma’s teammate.

I always want to do my best for the team – always. And I guess when I haven’t ridden a race before I don’t know exactly what’s involved in doing my best. Every day will be something new. Every day will be a challenge. Add to that the challenge of supporting one of the best general classification riders in the world, and well…

I haven’t done much road racing in the last two months. I’ve been with the track team and not my road teammates ever since Britain. I don’t know what to expect from myself and my condition. It’s a little scary, but I’m excited to see how we’ll go.

Supporting Emma’s ambitions

Obviously Emma carries the pressure. Everyone thinks she carries the most pressure, but as her teammates, I feel like we carry a lot of that pressure, too. She wants to win, and at the end, she has to finish off our work, but it’s my job and my teammates’ job to get in her in the winning position. There’s the pressure to perform so that she can perform.

And even when you do everything right, it still might not be enough. Someone else can be stronger or smarter. We saw that in Britain. We did all the right things for Emma, and it wasn’t enough. We have a different group coming into Thüringen, and we’re all really motivated to do whatever we can to support Emma.

We really want to do it this time – get her that win. In Britain, I was there for Emma at most of the critical moments. I hope I can be there for her at all the critical moments again this time. I hope we all can and that we can walk away with that tour title.

What I am eagerly anticipating

A change of scenery. I have been at camp for a very long time, and I’m ready to see my road teammates and tackle a new challenge. That’s what this sport is all about. I’ve missed my road teammates. Don’t get me wrong. I love the track girls, and spending time with them at camp has been a lot of fun, but I’m ready for the next chapter.

I’m also nearing the end of my season. I have Thüringen, La Course and the Sparkassen World Cup in German – and that’s the end of it. I’m looking forward to finishing up the season and heading home to Australia.

What I am maybe not so excited about

Seven straight days, including one double day, on the bike. Let’s just say that after six weeks of double sessions at track camp, I’m dealing with some really angry saddle sores. I’ll deal with it, I always do, but it’s a bit rough currently.

Personal ambitions

I don’t have any personal ambitions for Thüringen. I’m really focussed on supporting Emma. I do have personal expectations. I expect to come out of Thüringen the best I possibly can going into La Course.

Like I said, I’m a lot stronger at the moment because of this strength block, and I reckon I’m going to be a lot more powerful than I was at the start of the road season. It will be interesting to see how I survive Thüringen and how I can go into La Course and then Sparkassen World Cup.

I’m hoping my sprint will be better now coming off of track camp. That’s what happened in January. I went to Santos Women’s Tour as a short break from track camp, and my sprint was the best it’s been in awhile – and I won two stages.

We’ll be checking in with Mel again tomorrow night after the opening stage of Thüringen Rundfahrt. If you have any questions you’d like us to pass along to her, feel free to pipe up in the comments.


Follow Mel Hoskins and Orica-AIS from the Giro Rosa:

Follow Thüringen Rundfahrt

Thüringen Rundfahrt garners less media attention than Giro Rosa or Aviva Women’s Tour, so it may not be quite as easy for women’s cycling fans to follow this race as the last two stage races we’ve covered. Here are the resources we have so far – and we’ll add to this section on subsequent days as we know more.

Velocio-SRAM and Bigla both provided great live updates out of Giro Rosa, so hopefully we’ll get some information from their respective Twitter channels during the German stage race, too. Velofocus will be on location, and we’re looking forward to perusing his photo galleries nightly.

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