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Cycling is booming in Australia and there is no greater evidence of this than the success of the relatively new Australian professional teams, Orica-GreenEDGE(men) and Orica-AIS (women).
While the much-publicised success of the men at the Tour de France has grabbed most of the headlines in 2013, the women have also had a stellar year and have finished the season as the top-ranked International Cycling Union (UCI) team.
Orica-AIS contracted Emma Johansson also took out the UCI number-one ranking for female riders, a feat that teammate Melissa Hoskins says is well-deserved.
“It’s awesome for the team to finish in the top spot but for Emma to top the ranking individually is a credit to her,” she said.
“All year she was one-hundred per cent committed to every race regardless of if we were riding for her or another team mate.
“Above all she was consistent and this proves that. She is such a good friend and a pleasure to work with so I’m glad she will be staying on with the team.”
Hoskins is a product of the Western Australian cycling system and has risen quickly to become a star of the road and the track.
She came to the sport relatively late after being identified by the Western Australia Institute of Sport (WAIS) talent identification program as a 15-year-old.
Ms Hoskins had not had any previous experience with competitive cycling before the WAIS testing, with the extent of her adventures on a bike limited to riding around her backyard.
“I got picked for the kayaking squad and the cycling squad [as a result of the WAIS tests],” said Hoskins.
“I decided to pick cycling because I had a little bit of an interest in it from watching the Tour de France, so I picked it up and ran with it,” she said.
“I loved it. I started off on the track and I felt right at home.”
The choice to pursue cycling as a career has definitely paid off, with Ms Hoskins gaining her professional contract with Orica-AIS and selection for the Australian track cycling team for the 2012 London Olympics.
She says her selection for the team pursuit in London, her pet event, is the highlight of her short career so far, especially as it was somewhat unexpected.
The Australian team finished fourth in that event, a result that clearly is disappointing for the Kalamunda local, but one that did not detract from the overall experience of her first Olympic Games.
“It was definitely a different experience compared to all the other events that I’d done,” she said.
“The pressure [of the Olympics] was a lot more and I guess two years-out I wasn’t in the running and I was considered an underdog, so for me it was a pretty big achievement.
“I guess I’m in a slightly different position coming into the next Olympics (Rio de Janiero, 2016), but at the same time you’re never just given a walk-up start.”
For Ms Hoskins, her competitive career began at club level with the Northern Districts Cycling Club (NDCC).
Any rider hoping to be considered for representative selection in Australia at any level must be a member of a local club in order to hold a domestic racing license.
Ms Hoskins credits her experiences racing for NDCC as essential to honing her skills as both a professional rider and national representative.
She sees the club culture as essential for any rider looking to make it in the sport, especially to the level of international competition.
“It’s good having club’s that provide races that we can race and learn and, I guess, sort of start with the baby steps of what it is like to race,” said Hoskins.
“A lot of the time we race against men which makes the women that much stronger and a lot of my credit is to that, being able to race in the state with the men in the criterion series.
“When you race in Europe, you take a lot of that knowledge from state races into those races.”
With the European season over for another year, Ms Hoskins has now begun training for the upcoming track season – training that, at times, can be pretty mundane.
“I’ve just started a building-block, really, which involves pretty much more road kilometres than anything else,” she said.
“Your first week is normally pretty mundane and slow, longer kilometres, and then you sort of build up the intensity going to the track series.
“For the track season, you’ve got to have that intensity, but it’s a slow process [to build that up].
“It doesn’t happen in two weeks, which is the most frustrating thing.”
First stop on the track racing calendar is the World Cup event to be held at Aguascalientes in Mexico from December 5-7.
Aguascalientes is 1880 metres above sea level, so the Australian team will travel to Mexico a month before competition to allow them time to adjust to local conditions.
Ms Hoskins is already conditioning her body by spending ten hours a day in an altitude tent, preparation that can be boring but may prove vital for success on the track, the discipline that is closest to her heart.
“The road for me is a huge development thing for my track,” she said.
“After a track season I really enjoy going and just riding the road because after a five months, you’re ready just to ride the road.
“But at the end of the day, the track is where my heart lies.”
With so much success in such a short time, Ms Hoskins is constantly reassessing her goals.
“Up until last year I did [have a specific set of goals] and after that I reassessed,” she said.
“The next major goal in the next year or two is the Commonwealth games, it’s a box that I haven’t ticked yet and I’m hoping to next year.”
“After that, there’s the World Titles, which you always want to win and I haven’t won a senior one of those yet.”
“I guess then I look forward to Rio and trying to right the wrongs that happened last year, but at the moment the biggest goal is just getting back to good fitness.”