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The year 2016 was arguably Chloe Hosking’s best season yet with big victories at Tour of Chongming Island, the coveted La Course by le Tour de France, and a stage in the Giro Rosa. Going into the flat and fast UCI Road World Championships in Qatar, the Australian sprinter carried the privilege and burden of being a top race favourite.
The race did not play in her favour, however, and Hosking had to make do with a seventh place finish. Now, the 2017 season has brought a new team, a new race-life balance and a new set of chances.
She kicked off the season at home, winning the third stage and the points classification in the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under before heading to Europe where she won the Drentse Acht van Westerveld, but was left wanting better out of her spring campaign.
So off to China she went, hoping to defend her title in Chongming.
We checked in with Hosking throughout the tour to see how she’s faring this season of new endeavors.
In the 2017 Tour of Chongming Island, Hosking once again found the flat roads that suit her so well. After finishing second in the first stage and netting some bonus seconds, she started off the tour well and slipped into the familiar leader’s jersey.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into the Tour as I had about a month off from racing. I was definitely more nervous than confident going into it,” Hosking said. “Probably for a number of reasons; firstly with the new team I know they had big expectations bringing me back as the defending champion. Then the field, I think, had a lot more depth than in some previous years and I think this was well reflected in the racing.”
But Hosking did well for herself, even when a technical mishap took the win away from her.
“My chain dropped, so I actually had to stop pedalling, put it into the small chain ring to get it back on and then switch it back to the big chain ring,” Hosking said. “I lost a fair few places and unfortunately lost my train. Luckily my teammates had done such a great job of positioning me up until that point that I was still able to make up a lot of ground quickly and finish second.”
Practice makes perfect
Going into stage two, Hosking aimed for bonus seconds at the intermediate sprints, the way she took the leader’s jersey after the first stage. With every intermediate sprint and stage finish, Hosking and her teammates practiced their lead-out train.
“My teammates nailed the lead-out, and I ended up winning the first intermediate sprint,” said Hosking. “They gave me the maximum three seconds on offer and a four-second buffer on Wild, who had started the day only one second behind me. It also helped me extend my green points classification lead.”
Being awarded the green points jersey again after stage two, Hosking unfortunately had to give the yellow leader’s jersey to former teammate Jolien d’Hoore.
“It was a pretty tough day mentally, not so much physically,” Hosking said. “I was really disappointed because the girls had done everything for me throughout the stage and in the finish. I needed to do everything I could to fight back on stage three.”
When a group of four escaped the peloton on the final day, Hosking and her team had learned from their mistake the day before and didn’t chase them back, but let the quartet go – after taking the first intermediate sprint of the day with their by now well-practiced lead-out train. The four women, not dangerous for the GC, formed the break of the day that held until 14 kilometer to go.
“They swallowed up the bonus seconds,” Hosking said, “and we put everything into the final sprint.”
The fluo yellow-orange train once again set to work. If Hosking was able to beat D’Hoore and Wild on the line, she’d take the stage win and the overall.
“I couldn’t come over either of them in the end,” commented a disappointed Hosking, who would end up in third place, behind winner D’Hoore, who took her second stage win in the race wearing the leader’s jersey, and Wild.
The best team
Hosking wanted to take more from the Tour of Chongming Island, but she is thankful for her team and is satisfied that she could practice the lead-out with her new team throughout the race.
“I truly believe I had the best team here. I just wasn’t the fastest sprinter on the day,” she said.
“So often riders who frequent the podium forget what it’s like to actually stand up there and don’t savour the moment,” said Hosking. “But most of them wouldn’t be there without their team. I was really happy to share the podium with the girls and I think to walk away with best team is a really nice reward for all their hard work the last three days. And, very importantly, we had the opportunity to practice our lead-out train multiple times ahead of the Giro Rosa.”
“In the end I didn’t have much to be nervous about because I was pleasantly surprised with how my form held up after the break from European racing,” Hosking said about her own performance. “I think I definitely did miss that little bit extra that racing in Europe gives you and maybe that was something I just had to give up to strike more of the balance I wanted to this year.”
“But if you look at it from the positive side of things, I came away with two stage podiums, third overall on the same time as Wild and the points jersey and I was missing that ‘little bit’. It bodes really well for the second part of the season.”