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Chloe Hosking: Getting COVID-19 felt like being ‘hit by a bus’

Chloe Hosking returned to winning ways at the Tour of Norway after nearly six months off racing due to catching COVID, but says she's still far from her best.

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Chloe Hosking’s 2021 season was going well until she got a call to say she’d caught COVID-19.

Despite Trek-Segafredo’s efforts to keep its two teams separate and Hosking’s own caution, she picked up coronavirus ahead of Gent-Wevelgem when a member of the Trek-Segafredo men’s team contracted the virus. She rode the one-day race, but she could feel something was wrong already.

The news forced Hosking to put a temporary halt on her season, a period of time that lasted far longer than she and the team had initially anticipated.

Also read: COVID-19, homesickness and doubts: Chloe Hosking puts it all behind her to take first win in 11 months

“I was mainly just super tired, really tired. I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. And I was just like sleeping like 12 hours waking up, and then being tired two hours later,” Hosking told VeloNews in a call Thursday. “I did my 10-day quarantine, and I really just slept the whole time.”

“I had a mild head cold and headache and stuff like this. But it’s not like I ever needed to contemplate being hospitalized or anything. But what ended up happening was, yeah, the sack around my heart got inflamed.”

After hoping to emulate other riders by taking a brief hiatus to recover from COVID-19 before making her return to racing, Hosking suddenly found herself in a state of limbo. She didn’t feel particularly sick, but she wasn’t allowed to train, or she could risk getting more ill.

Being told not to do what she was paid to do and just “take it easy” left her feeling a sense of purposelessness, and her family being so far away only compounded it.

“We sort of developed a very rough plan with the team doctor, which was basically stripped all intensity out and I could really just ride my bike,” she said. “The key thing was I couldn’t get sick, I couldn’t get tired. I needed to protect my heart. So, I had two months of not much just riding and the hardest part was not having a plan not having something to work towards.

“I’m in Europe to ride my bike and my purpose was gone. I was alone, I wasn’t with my family and my husband. So, all of a sudden that was just gone and I was just here. On top of that, I never felt super sick. When you’ve got a normal injury, a broken leg, or whatever, you can sort of see the progress.

“You can start progressing, but I couldn’t see anything. I also didn’t feel anything. So, it was sort of like, am I actually sick? That was the mentally hard thing to tell myself. I had to go easy, but then not really having any evidence to support that. So, I just felt super lazy. I felt like I was just swanning around. And then you get into this cycle of self-judgment.”

Managing expectations

After being diagnosed with COVID, Hosking had initially hoped to be racing again by the end of spring, but the heart sac inflammation put paid to that. It became a waiting game for the Australian and even in late July she was unsure when she’d be able to return to competition.

In the end, her call up to race the Ladies Tour of Norway came less than a week before the race was due to depart. A terrible travel day couldn’t dampen Hosking’s joy at being able to put on a race number again.

“I had a horrific travel day on the Tuesday. I was traveling for like, 12 hours. I should have been halfway to Australia by that time but I didn’t even care. I was so happy to be like traveling to a race,” Hosking said.

After being forced to reign in her training program so much over the summer, Hosking didn’t know what to expect when she rolled up in Norway. While most of her competitors having some decent racing miles in their legs, she had been unable to incorporate any intensity and feared she’d be out of the back of the bunch rather than contesting wins.

The race started with her getting dropped in the final 20k of the opening stage but she kept improving as the days ticked on. By the final stage, she had the legs to get herself into a winning position and she pulled it off but she knows she still has a way to go.

“Obviously, I’m super satisfied but I’m trying to, like not let it get to my head,” Hosking said. “I feel like it was a bit of instant gratification, which is not the reality in sport. I had gone into the race very much with the mindset that I was going to suck and it was going to be really tough. I had this like, worst-case scenario that I’d be dropped every stage and struggle to make time cuts.

“I guess I didn’t have as big a dip in my form as I thought I would. I was probably going in with a bit of a protectionist mentality, which was just going with no expectations. It is a really big result, but I just have to keep it in perspective. I know that I’m not at the level that I really want to be yet, which is fine, because I had so much time off.

“It’s about not getting distracted and keeping to that consistent, committed approach, looking towards the end of the season, where I think I still have a lot of good opportunities to win some more big bike races.”

So, just how far does Hosking feel she is away from her best?

“Far,” Hosking laughed. “Maybe I get there by the worlds. We’ll see.”