Peloton Watch
  World Champion and dual Olympian Melissa Hoskins announces retirement  
  May 3rd 2017  
  Melissa Hoskins (far right) after winning 2015 team pursuit world title. Photo: PA Images  
  World Champion and dual Olympian Melissa Hoskins has announced her retirement from professional cycling at 26, as one of Australia's most successful female track cyclists after nearly a decade at the top of the sport.

Hoskins formed an integral part of Australia's women's team pursuit squad winning elite and junior world titles. One of just four riders to hold the honour and one of just two to have held the elite and junior world record in the event.

Best known for her exploits in the team pursuit her palmares incudes 31 medals on the track across World, Oceania and Australian Championships including 10 gold over an eight year career. With a world championship silver medal in the scratch race, Australian points race title and Oceania omnium gold among her successes in bunch races.

Hoskins also tasted success on the road during three years with what is now known as Orica-Scott. With her achievements including the Under 23 Australian Criterium title, Tour of Chongming Island, mountains jersey at the Women's Tour, two Bay Crits titles and three consecutive medals in the team time trial at the Road World Championships.

After being talent spotted by the West Australian Institute of Sport Hoskins blasted on to the world stage in 2009 setting a junior world record on route to the team pursuit world title.

Three years later having won numerous Australian and Oceania titles, Hoskins made her elite debut at the Track World Championships in Melbourne in 2012. In an Olympic year Hoskins claimed two silver medals, earning her first Olympic selection.

She narrowly missed a medal in London in 2012 and over the next four years Hoskins became a mainstay of the Australian team that consistently won medals on the world stage. Including a dominant performance in 2015 when they pulled on the rainbow jersey setting a new World Record in the process.

2016 was a turbulent year for Hoskins and with an Olympics fast approaching it was the last thing she has planned. Struck with pneumonia ahead of the Cambridge World Cup in December 2015, Hoskins missed the entire track season. A high-speed crash just days out from Rio put Hoskins' participation in doubt but would ultimately get the last roll of the dice she wanted.

Despite barely able to walk Hoskins pinned on a number for the first time in 18 months helping the team qualify third fastest. While the team would ultimately miss a medal Hoskins is philosophical and proud of what would be her last competition.

The inclusion of the team pursuit to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 gave her thoughts of extending her career but ultimately came to the conclusion the time was right to move on to her next chapter.

Hoskins may have stepped off the bike competitively she has no plans to give up riding completely and with partner Rohan Dennis racing with BMC the sport will remain part of her life.

I remember the story of when you first got on the track scared of the banking but then your mum could never get you off to go home. Back then did it ever cross your mind you would be a junior world champion, world champion, world record holder, dual Olympian and race across the world?

I used to ride my bike around the front yards of the homes in Cagney Way and pretend I was at the Olympics. The same thing on the track. I think deep down, you know if it's the right thing for you. I think one of the best ways I can put it is a quote from Billy Elliot the movie.

What does it feel like when you're dancing?

Billy: Don't know. Sorta feels good. Sorta stiff and that, but once I get going... then I like, forget everything. And... Sorta disappear. Sorta disappear. Like I feel a change in my whole body. And I've got this fire in my body. I'm just there. Flyin' like a bird. Like electricity. Yeah, like electricity.

Riding to me was like dancing to him.

You have to dream big. That 's what makes being a child the best. The world is your oyster. I had the family friends and teachers that encouraged me and believed. That 's all I needed. The fire in the belly and people who supported me. I knew I could do big things.

2016 was a challenging year missing track season with pneumonia and ahead of Rio you hadn't pinned on a number in 18 months then just days out from competition disaster struck with a training crash. Battered and bruised you could hardly walk what went through your mind?

Shit happens.

I also heard my dad in the back of my head and all the quotes he used to say. "Be the little train that could" and "Get up get over it and get on with it."

It wasn't just about me. It was about my team. I was already thinking about tomorrow. About trying to stay positive for the people around me. Doing absolutely everything I could to help them and myself. Once I found out nothing was broken I got a sniff of opportunity. One last roll of the dice with girls. That's all I wanted.

My body over the 18 months had started to hint to me that maybe it was time. Yes I'm only young. I only have one body though. It's my only vehicle in life and it needs to be treated with respect. That, along with other reasons is inevitably why I decided that Rio would be the last time I clipped in competently.

Despite the injuries team lined up and baffled on to finish fifth in Rio. Not quite the gold you came for but in the circumstances must have been incredibly proud of the team?

A career shouldn't be defined by how many medals you won or records you break, but by the journey you take and the people you meet. The person you become. It wasn't gold, far from in fact, but getting on the track was a win. Those girls and Sutto [Gary Sutton], I spent more time with than my own family. We were our own family. I couldn't have been more proud of any of them for the way they handled themselves when the odds were stacked against. I know the person hurting the most still is Sutto, feeling like he let us down but one person isn't the make or break. We are a team and that meant we rode the highs and lows as one unit. That's sport. You win some you lose some.

Spent the four years between London and Rio focused on winning gold in Rio any regrets?

None. Those four years made this decision the hardest and easiest decision to make. I miss the people terribly but I'm so satisfied with what I have done.

You had gone in to Rio thinking it could be your last race hoping to finish on top with gold. Not finishing the way you had hoped and then the team pursuit was added to the 2018 Commonwealth Games did you start to reconsider? Think about extending your career?

I sure did. You have to do it for the right reasons though. Best thing I did was make a list of the pros and cons of going another two years and you can guess which list won. Deep down you know when the time is right.

Ultimately made the decision to retire at 26. How did you come to the decision and was it difficult?

One of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I stepped out of the cycling scene after Rio to mull it all over and while I was away from it all I discovered a whole new life. A whole new me. A happier me. A more relaxed and fun Mel. Not thinking about training tomorrow and what I'm eating and where I will be next week, month or year. Instead living for the moment the here and the now. Getting on a plane and seeing family and friends because I can.

I now ride my bike on the weekends and with Rohan. No power, no speed. No heart rate. I love it again. Just like when I first started. That's the biggest win from this decision. I made it in time to still love riding my bike and the sport.

What do you miss most about being a professional cyclist? Was there a part of you that wished you were lining up in Hong Kong at the World Championships in April?

I watched it and thought I could be there. I missed it. Then as soon as it was over I was like, nope I don't. I thought about it harder and the thing I missed the most was the people. Everyone sharing a common interest and love. A passion.

Understanding the life of a professional athlete is hard for those outside was the hardest part for you and what did you enjoy the most?

Being away from loved ones. Hands down the hardest part. The travel and the people you meet. The challenges you face. Looking back now I'm a richer person for the places I have been and travelled.

Raced at the top of the sport for eight years winning world titles at junior and elite level, setting world records, winning World, Oceania and National titles and representing Australia at Olympics and Commonwealth Games. What does the success you had mean to you? Is there an event, result or memory that stands out for you?

The greatest win was Worlds in 2015. Not because I finally got a senior world title, but because of the group of people I did it with. We were close. We were friends. We wanted it for each other. That was powerful.

But a good career and success are similar; it shouldn't be determined by the colour of a medal or the place you came. The success I had as and individual was rewarding for my dedication, but the success I had within the team, they are the best memories.

Most of your success came on the track but were a highly credentialed rider on the road as well winning Tour of Chongming Island, World Cup podium, world championship medals in the team time trial, Australian criterium titles and Bay Crits wins would you have liked to do more of it?

Yes and no. I had some really good races on the road, which made me think after Rio I would go and race the road for a while. I realised though my heart lies with the track. It's where I was always going to end up and finish. The road was a steppingstone to the success on the track.

One of only four women to win junior and elite TP titles, one of only two to hold junior and elite world records in the TP and six TP national titles in a row probably not something you think about at the time but now nice to look back on stats like that?

I wouldn't know unless someone told me. It's humbling. Looking back on everything I have done and you forget all the little wins along the way. The wins at WA road races and states. Those were the ones that kept the dream alive and wanting more. When you start to think more and more about it. I'm proud. Very proud!

What advice would you give to your younger self or young riders starting out?

Don't sweat the small stuff. If you work hard enough you will get your shot at the big stage.

Eight months since Rio how has life changed for you? What does the next chapter hold?

I've spent more time with my family and Rohan than I had in the last four years. Rohan and I are making a life for ourselves in Europe. We have a puppy and are loving every moment of it. Keeps us busy.

I've done some study but at the moment just enjoying the little things in life and being a good support for Rohan over here in Europe.

As for the next chapter, your guess is as good as mine.

Who would you like to thank?

Special mentions to my family my mum, dad and Sister especially. Always 100% support. Rohan for putting up with the tears and tantrums and craziness while I was a rider. I'm sure there will be more for him to put up with though!

Sutto [Gary Sutton - Australian Women's Track Endurance Coach] - One of the greatest men within the cycling community. He never doubted me or my ability once, even when I was down and out for the count. He always got the best out of me.

Darryl Benson [Former West Australian Institute of Sport Head Coach] - For picking me up as a TID 10 years ago and gave me the time, opportunity and exposure to be on the big stage.

Last but not least. My teammates over the last 10 years. Thanks for making the last decade a memorable one.
 © 2016