By Chloe Hosking
In 2009 I started my first Giro; note I did not say I finished my first Giro. Indeed, a huge 6 kilograms heavier than I am now, with a fraction of the base kilometers I now have in my legs and at least 99% less race experience I realise that I wasn’t anywhere near ready.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing.
But I was 18, had come to Euro to race and the national team wanted me. I was so excited, it was – and still is – the biggest tour on the women’s calendar and I was being given the opportunity to race it. And just to add the cherry-on-top my family would be there to cheer me on.
But after a few podiums and top ten finishes in smaller Dutch and Belgian races it didn’t take long for me to realise that Italian racing is very different and for my delusions of grandeur to disappear as I struggled to even finish the stages let alone get noticed.
However, upon signing with HTC at the end of the 2009 season it would appear that I did at least attract some attention. On training camp in 2010 when I pulled a banana out of my back pocket on one of our many five hour rides I couldn’t help but hear a chuckle.
Ina and Judith were joking about how every stage of the 2009 Giro I’d had a big banana hanging out of my back pocket (it’s true I’m addicted to bananas, I probably average four a day); they even entertained the possibility that it had been the same banana for the whole 10 day tour. Apparently, on the then Columbia-HTC squad I’d become known as ‘the girl with the banana in her pocket’.
From memory there wasn’t one stage I finished with the front bunch and in the end my first Giro ended in tears at the beginning of the seventh stage.
The stage started climbing from kilometer zero and it didn’t take long for me to filter through the peloton. I was dropped almost immediately and while I tried to hang on to the ‘grupetto’ my chubby legs just wouldn’t let me. After the seven-or-so-kilometer climb crested it was just me, the sag wagon, an ambulance and ginormous open highways.
I didn’t know what to do, but with 120km ahead of me to ride alone I had very few choices.
Crying with disappointment I dismounted my bike and got into the sole follow car behind me. The driver, a lovely Italian man who didn’t speak a word of English, did well to console me.
I was distraught and so disappointed in myself. My family had come all the way from Australia and I couldn’t even finish the race. While I did manage to halt the water works momentarily they were quick to start up again when we drove past my sister waiting eagerly on the side of the road for me to pass so as the cheer me on.
It was definitely an experience, while not enjoyable, that made me stronger as a bike rider and opened my eyes to just what exactly is required in this sport which can be so ruthless.
While I’ve done well to avoid the race for the last two years in 2012 I think I’m ready for the challenge. And I’m sure that’s exactly what it will be. Reduced to nines days this year rather than the usual 10 the race will start in the very south of Italy in Napoli and race all the way north the Bergamo, just near Milan.
It’s funny, I remember gushing after one stage to my parents in 2009 – where I’d been once again dropped horrifically early and had to bomb down the decent and re-join the gruppetto – about how Ina-Yoko Teutenberg had addressed me by name to ask if I needed any water; “Oh my god Mum! She knows my name!”. Now in 2012 I’ll be racing along side Ina, getting her water and hopefully helping her to a few stages wins along the way.
Follow the whole Specialized lululemon team throughout our nine day Giro at our website: velociosports.com and also on Strava where you can view all the courses and terrain we race over.