Every sinew, shred of muscle fiber, every ounce of force available pushed into the pedals like your entire life depends upon it. The result of the last 134km of poker on wheels – the World Champion stripes and pride for 365 days lie on the other side of a white line. There isn’t time to feel the heart rate quicken or breath growing raspy. The only focus is on the line and reaching it first. A sprint finish is a thrill to watch, but for a rider it’s an art and on Saturday Chloe Hosking will attempt to act out the perfect conclusion at the UCI Road World Championships in Doha.
This year there were two giant peaks in the professional road cycling calendar: the Olympics in Rio and the World Championships in Qatar. The two prestigious races couldn’t be held on more dissimilar courses. Rio’s road race was a ride for the mountain queens, whilst the World Championships on Saturday is a sprinter’s paradise.
“I knew the course was going to be one that suited me, so it’s been on my radar for a long time”
Whilst the glow of the Olympics attracted most riders to chase selection, Australian Chloe Hosking decided to put her eggs in the basket of Doha – a course that will suit her natural abilities. Speaking just a week before the goal race, she told me: “I’ve known the Worlds would be in Qatar for the past three to four years. Obviously there were never going to be any massive hills. I knew the course was going to be one that suited me, so it’s been on my radar for a long time. The goal has always been to be in top shape for this Worlds.”
She’s prepared well with a confidence inspiring season that saw her win stage three of La Route de France, stage four of the Tour of Qatar, stage two and the overall of the Tour of Chongming Island, stage three of the Giro Rosa and La Course in Paris. The win at La Course probably carried the highest profile, and the fast and furious finish shared similarities with what we’ll expect in Qatar (the Tour of Qatar of course even more so, of course). But it was the Giro win that Hosking holds as her proudest moment of the 2016 season so far – she says: “La Course was of course a fantastic event – but it’s quite a short race. If I really think about it my proudest win was probably the Giro. The stage was 120km long, it was a real road race. I’m really, really proud of my achievement there.”
With a long-term goal at Qatar, I ask if the impending race and her own build to form for that target has contributed to her success this year. She tells me: “This year I have had some great results, partly that’s just because I’m older and getting better as a rider. But knowing the Worlds were coming and that it was a major goal for me has made me more focused and determined, and more disciplined with my training. It’s nice to see all of that pay off in my results.”
“Yesterday I did one easy hour – training in the bathroom with the heaters on full gas”
Hosking is now well into her taper period for what will no doubt be a hot and humid 134.5km game of tactics. We’ve already seen images and videos of riders suffering in the heat at the Team Time Trial, and no one is expecting a dramatic shift in conditions in the coming days.
She says: “Yesterday I did one easy hour – training in the bathroom with the heaters on full gas. Tomorrow is my last long ride before the road race. I’m mainly resting, I’m tapering and have been all week. I’m alternating one day off, one day on and also trying to eat well, stretching – all the things you know you should do but sometimes don’t. The last three weeks have been all about trying to keep myself as fresh as possible.”